Sony is set to release a new PlayStation controller in December, which features large circular buttons and a side-mounted joystick, aimed at enhancing the gaming experience for people with disabilities. This move comes after the gaming industry faced mounting pressure to address accessibility issues, with other competitors introducing similar products in recent years.
Renowned gamer Jeremy Lecerf, known as Gyzmo, expressed his admiration for the new controller, stating, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see able-bodied people using it.” Lecerf, who specializes in video games and advocates for disability inclusion, tested the innovative device in London at Sony’s invitation. He himself deals with myopathy and serves as an ambassador for the French association HandiGamer, which supports disabled gamers.
Lecerf praised the thoughtful design of the controller, highlighting Sony’s commitment to making it accessible to a wide range of individuals with disabilities. He welcomed the industry’s growing emphasis on accessibility, noting that more and more video game publishers are recognizing the importance of inclusivity.
According to a 2021 report by the UK disability equality charity Scope, approximately two-thirds of disabled gamers encounter obstacles when playing video games, and 40% have purchased games they couldn’t enjoy due to poor accessibility. Major studios, publishers, and manufacturers are now focusing on addressing these issues, influenced by both ethical and financial considerations.
For Lecerf, video games have played a crucial role in facilitating a more normal and social life despite his disability. He described them as “an extremely inclusive tool that opens you up to the world.”
Alvin Daniel, Senior Technical Program Manager at PlayStation, explained that the commitment to accessibility extends beyond PlayStation, emphasizing the industry-wide trend. Their goal is for the controller to adapt to the player, recognizing that disabilities vary greatly among individuals.
The new controller offers versatility, as it can be placed on a table or attached to a stand in various orientations. Magnetic caps allow users to modify the shape of each button, making them easier to press or grasp, and users can assign functions to these buttons.
Melanie Eilert, a German gamer and accessibility consultant who has spinal muscular atrophy, shared her experience with the controller, noting that it felt a bit large and the buttons were somewhat stiff to press. However, she pointed out that external buttons can be attached, which is especially beneficial for individuals with specific needs.
Eilert, who can only use her right hand for gaming, emphasized the importance of devices like these, allowing her to resume playing after a 15-year hiatus caused by her disability. She explained that there are various accessories developed by third-party manufacturers that cater to the unique requirements of players, such as those activated by mouth movements or breathing.
The new PlayStation controller will be available starting December 6 at a recommended retail price of 89.99 euros in Europe and $89.99 in the US, a price point comparable to existing traditional models. The project to develop this controller began at Sony in 2018 and underwent extensive testing and collaboration with experts and disability advocacy groups on three continents before reaching its final design.