|Atari 2600 Controller
The Atari 2600 had one of the first well known digital joysticks to ever be introduced. Long before Nintendo arrived with the Nintendo 64 and made analog sticks mandatory on a controller, Atari experimented with the 2600 joystick. Unfortunately for Atari, and any of those who tried playing with this controller, it was too bulky and difficult for anyone with small hands to hold. In addition to its large base, the joystick was stiff and often didn’t work, and when it did, it was barely useable. The joystick only had eight directions, so in technicality it wasn’t an analog joystick. Lastly with all the problems that plagued the controller, the absence of a pause button only made it worse, when the joystick stopped working, you couldn’t even pause the game.
Atari 5200 Controller
With the Atari 5200, the joystick method of input returned. However it was accompanied by a numeric keypad positioned underneath the joystick. This joystick turned out to be slightly better then its predecessor, by sporting 360 degrees of complete motion, unlike the 2600’s simplistic eight direction joystick. Atari also addressed the complaints of a pause button, and it was included with the 5200. Unfortunately the button placements on the controller were awkward, and lead to frequent hand cramps. There are buttons place in front of the joystick, causing you to have to literally have your hands upside down to press them.
The NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and Famicom (as it was referred to in Japan) had a rectangular shaped controller with a total of four buttons. There were two circle buttons, “A” and “B” along with a Start and Select button. The last feature the controller had been a four way directional D-Pad, which was designed by Gunpei Yokoi, as a superior alternative to the joysticks from Atari. The D-Pad Wiiized the gaming industry forever. It was Nintendo’s way to revitalize the slowly dying gaming industry and put it on its feet again.
SEGA Genesis Controller
With the release of the Sega Genesis, we see controllers start to have curved handles and a more sleek design. The original controllers that were packaged with the Sega Genesis included the typical “A” and “B” buttons that the NES featured, but added on a “C” button. The D-Pad itself was more of else like Nintendo’s design with a few alternations to get around the patent. Sega soon changed the Genesis controller to feature a total of six face buttons to coincide with the release of Street Fighter II: Special Championship Edition. Even to this day some fans consider the six button Genesis controller to be one of the best for fighting games.
The SNES controller added more buttons then the NES controller as games were getting more complex. Nintendo added two new face buttons, the “X” and “Y” along with two shoulder buttons, “L” and “R” for left and right, respectively. The controller itself was curved more to fit into the hands of the player. A new button, the “Turbo” button was added on by Third Party controller manufacturers. It allowed you to do a certain move in a game without repeatedly pressing the button. It spread fast and was definitely a welcomed feature.
The Playstation was Sony’s first attempt into joining the home console market. Originally planned to be an add on to the SNES, it was scrapped by Nintendo as they left their partnership with Sony. Sony on the other hand took the knowledge and technology they had from working with Nintendo and made their Playstation console. The first Playstation controller was very much a mimic of the SNES controller. It had a D-Pad, four face buttons and trigger buttons. The only difference was instead of using alphabetic characters for the button names, Sony changed it to the Square, Triangle, Circle, and X. Nothing was truly different with the controller from its predecessors.
Nintendo 64 Controller
After the sure fire success of both the NES and SNES D-Pad Nintendo could have continued with another version of the D-Pad for its N64 controller. However for 3D games a four way method of control was not sufficient enough. So Nintendo decided to bring the analog stick to offer complete 3D control. However Nintendo themselves were not positive the controller would be a success, so they made sure to add the D-Pad to the left hand side of the controller. With the controller marked the absence of the “X” and “Y” buttons, but the addition of four “C” (Camera) buttons, that were on the right hand side of the controller. The best new button addition could be considered the “Z” trigger. The trigger was placed under the bottom of the controller, making it similar to the position of a trigger on a gun. It proved extremely useful in the First Person Shooter genre. When taking a look at the N64 controller it has three handles. This was done so that if the analog stick did not prove successful, the player could use the outermost handles to control the game using the familiar D-Pad and “A”, “B” buttons. The N64 also marked the first official rumble pack which gave gamers a new sensation when playing games.
Playstation Dual Shock
After Nintendo released the N64, Sony knew that the analog stick would be a mandatory feature for all controllers to have. So they went back to the drawing board and came up with a new version of their controller that added two analog sticks, compared to Nintendo’s one. Mainly the second analog stick was to balance out the controller since there was no good location for just one of them.
The Dreamcast controller shared a resemblance to the 3D controller released late in the Sega Saturn’s lifetime. The controller was rather large, but comfortable to hold. It had a D-Pad, one analog stick, “X”, “Y”, “A”, and “B” buttons. However the true unique feature was the controller’s VMU (Visual Memory Unit). It was essentially a memory card but had an LCD screen that provided information for the player while he was playing. It also could hold mini-games that you could play while not inserted into the Dreamcast controller.
Playstation 2 Dual Shock 2
The Playstation 2 Dual Shock controller was more or less an exact copy of the original Playstation model except with few minor alterations. After the Nintendo 64 introduced a rumble pack peripheral, Sony went ahead and made rumble standard in all of its controllers. The two analog sticks now also feature touch sensitivity. This allowed you to press down on the analog stick to make it perform a different move. Essentially it allowed for two new control options for developers while retaining the same amount of buttons.
Microsoft, after realizing the potential money to be gained from the video game industry released its Xbox home console. The console was the most powerful out of the three, but it was also the largest. The controller had the same problem, for it was pretty large and unwieldy. Soon after Microsoft cut production of their “Duke” controller and released the Xbox controller S which cut down the size and made it much more comfortable. Much like the N64 and Dreamcast the Xbox feature two slots for memory cards and other peripherals. It also had built in rumble and touch sensitive analog sticks like the Playstation 2. Microsoft also added two new buttons, the “White” and “Black” buttons which were barely used in the first batch of Xbox games. One unique feature the controller had was a longer cord, and a break away connector. This feature prevented the console from falling if the cord was pulled, or quickly yanked out.
Nintendo once again tried to change its controller so it helped make playing, and controlling games easier. The controller no longer had the four “C” buttons, but instead a “C” stick which was considered the GameCube’s second analog stick. The controller also feature built in rumble support and the return of the “A”, “B”, “X”, and “Y” buttons. The “Z” button was relocated to the top of the controller next to the “R” trigger. Nintendo also introduced a wireless version of its controller called the Wavebird. The Wavebird allowed players to play up to 20 feet away from the TV. However since wireless controllers required batteries, Nintendo had to cut off the rumble feature to prevent a quick drain of batteries.
Xbox 360 Controller
The Xbox 360 controller is the most recent controller released. It has every button the original Xbox had, except now the “White” and “Black” buttons have become “LB” and “RB” buttons positioned on the shoulders of the controller. The controller also comes in wireless and wired formats, however unlike the Wavebird the wireless format does feature rumble integration, although there is an option to remove the rumble. Perhaps the most unique feature of the Xbox 360 controller is the “Menu” button. It is positioned right in the center of the controller and can bring up the Xbox Menu when pressed. This is used monitor your Xbox Live friends list, settings, and other features. The “Menu” button, when held down for over 5 seconds will allow you to turn off or turn on your system. Around the Menu button are four small lights positioned in a circle. Each light is marked “1”, “2”, “3”, or “4”. This light glows in its respective number slot to tell you which player you are when you have multiple controllers connected to your Xbox 360.
Playstation 3 Controller
The Playstation 3 controller is once again nearly identical to its predecessor. The handles have been lengthened to give the player a more ergonomic feel. Sony also said up to seven controllers can be connected to the Playstation 3 using Bluetooth wireless. The controller design was cancelled after numerous complaints were made about its shape and design. Sony ultimately resorted to using a third installment of the dual shock controller.
Nintendo has made controller features that have set the standard for controllers that follow it. D-Pad, Analog, Rumble, Wireless all have been created by Nintendo and then used by others. This time Nintendo wants to shift the way the controller is viewed. The Wii controller is shaped unlike any controller before it; its design is in fact a close resemblance to a TV remote. The controller has an “A” and “B” button along with a trigger button placed underneath the controller like the N64 had. However Nintendo had something else up its sleeve. The controller will be able to operate in 3D space. Imagine the precise control of a computer mouse, but in thin air. Just by moving the controller, you can shift your view in the game. Later came the “Nunchuck”. This features an analog stick as well as another trigger button. The controller is also wireless and you can identify which controller you have by looking at the display at the bottom. It shares a striking similarity to the Xbox 360 controller’s circular controller lights. You can also power the system on and off using the controller’s power button.
Evolution of Controllers
taken from “Evolution of Controllers” by Sud Koushik
Submitted by Nate Danger Geist,
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
What is YOUR favorite controller?