Sony’s latest tech is a lot more than just a videogame controller.
When most people want to play a videogame, they pick up their peripherals of choice — controller, keyboard and mouse, VR headset, or phone — and have the luxury of getting right into the game.
But for those who identify as disabled — 26% of the U.S. population, according to the CDC — enjoying a videogame of any kind is a more complex matter.
As any of those folks will tell you, getting major companies to recognize accessibility issues and potentially address them in their products is an uphill battle.
In the past, many disabled gamers cobbled together their own handmade controllers — that is, until Microsoft (MSFT) – Get Free Report debuted its own Adaptive Controller in 2019.
The customizable hardware enabled users to create a setup that worked best for their limitations. Priced at $99.99, the controller was the first of its kind from a major gaming company.
While many third-party controllers already existed, the move felt like a badge of recognition from Microsoft that disabled gamers were finally being heard.
Now Sony (SONY) – Get Free Report has announced that it’s ready to wade into the adaptive controller space with its newest device, just announced at CES 2023.
Meet Sony’s Accessibility Controller
Codenamed Project Leonardo for now, Sony’s accessibility controller kit for PlayStation 5 is meant to be customized to the specific needs of the disabled gamer.
The company consulted with accessibility experts like AbleGamers and charities such as SpecialEffect to learn what disabled users need most to be able to enjoy a game comfortably.
The product can be used as a single controller, paired with a second, or even used in tandem with the DualSense Wireless controller that is typically used with the PlayStation 5 console.
Its analog sticks can also be moved to be as close together or far apart as is comfortable for the user. The buttons can also be mapped and custom profiles can be saved.
Project Leonardo is still in development with no current release date. Sony said during the announcement that at this phase it was still gathering feedback from the disabled community.
Why Controller Accessibility Matters
Videogames can be of special value to the disabled, as the digital worlds can allow some to experience things their bodies cannot do in real life, such as participating in sports events.
“It looks like a huge step up over the Microsoft Accessibility Controller or any of the third-party efforts,” Hayden Scott-Baron, senior game designer for Ustwo, the award-winning studio behind the mobile hit “Monument Valley,” told TheStreet in an interview.
“It supports the same connectors for accessible buttons for devices, and they show a system of connecting joysticks directly to it. Hopefully, third parties can take advantage of that customization side.”
Scott-Baron also says he thinks Sony’s move could have a positive effect on the industry as a whole.
“I think the controller is a huge step forward and will bring gaming together to lots of people and their families,” he says.
“Hopefully the release of an official PlayStation product tells developers to offer more accessibility options in their games. No type of controller can compensate for an unfair timer or illegible text.”