News of the controller, which it has dubbed Project Leonardo for the time being, was announced by Sony at the CES 2023 tech show in Las Vegas on Wednesday alongside an update for the upcoming VR2 headset and a trailer for its new Gran Turismo film.
This new controller is roughly circular in shape and features a joystick and several configurable sticks and caps that can be changed around to suit the individual gamer’s playstyle. It is designed to lie flat and can be secured to platforms like a tripod; there will also be button mapping and controller profiles available for players.
According to Sony, Project Leonardo is the result of multiple conversations with disability experts and organisations like AbleGamers and SpecialEffect, which work to promote accessibility within the gaming industry, and Stack Up, which uses video games as therapy for military veterans.
It has been designed “to remove barriers to gaming and help players with disabilities play more easily, more comfortably and for longer periods”. The controller can be used by itself and can also be paired with PlayStation’s regular DualSense controller or a second Project Leonardo controller so other players can join in.
How does it compare with the Xbox?
News of a more accessible controller has been a long time coming for Sony, which tends to lag behind Xbox when it comes to controller design.
In 2018, Microsoft released its first Adaptive controller, which was designed to improve accessibility for players – to huge acclaim from across the industry. The Adaptive controller is flat and features a d-pad and two programmable buttons but, like PlayStation’s new offering, it is fully customisable, can save three customised player profiles and can accomodate extra buttons and inputs.
And there’s one big drawback for PlayStation: at the moment, it appears that the controller will only be available to those with a PS5 console.
Why has it taken Sony so long to create a controller like this?
Though PlayStation has arguably been lagging behind in the field of accessible hardware, software accessibility has improved massively in the past few years, and in all fairness, PlayStation has gone above and beyond to bring that accessibility to players.
New games like The Last of Us: Part II, God of War: Ragnarok and Horizon: Forbidden West feature scores of customisable features aimed at making gaming easier for a range of players. These include audio cues, high-contrast options and text-to-speech.
Why has it taken Sony so long to create something like this? In a Wired interview, PlayStation’s president and CEO Jim Ryan said that the controller had been years in the making – which implies a lot of designing and playtesting.
“Project Leonardo is a product we’ve been developing for years, with the goal of making something that is truly unique and caters to a wide range of players with different physical needs,” he said.
When it is coming out?
Currently, there’s no news on when the new Project Leonardo controller will be hitting shelves or its price tag.