It’s Time for the Game Industry to Adopt a Controller Standard

Jan 12, 2014
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The time has come: the video game industry must finally come together to pick a single standard for game controllers that will work across platforms and easily handle gameplay on any device.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week, a slew of companies showed off their own Steam Machines. That, coupled with the latest-generation consoles, the possibility of the Tegra K1 bringing yet more set-top boxes into the gaming space, and products like Ouya, sitting on store shelves, it becomes all the more apparent that we’re in gaming overload.

As you’ve probably learned from reading my columns here on SlashGear, I’m an unabashed hardcore gamer. I love nothing more than picking up the latest hardware or software, sitting down on my couch, and relaxing with a game. But even now, with three major consoles and the possibility of many others coming my way, I’m worried about the clutter and confusion that will arise by getting my hands on those devices.

As I write this, I’m looking at seven controllers on the floor in front of my television. Those controllers are only used to control the Wii U, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. If we add Ouya, last-generation consoles, and a Steam Machine to the mix, my floor will be covered in controllers.

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If it’s bad enough for me, I can’t imagine the hell developers are possibly going to go through in the coming years. Sure, it’s easy enough to port titles from console to another, but what about mapping controls to the buttons on each product’s controllers? With so much hardware coming to the game industry in the coming months and years, developers will need to be ready to accommodate just about anything. And that means investing boatloads of cash in mapping controls to different pads.

Of course, the industry has in some form dealt with this before. The consoles that don’t get consumer love are ignored by game companies, and those that are successful get the investment. But it’s not just a developer-first model any longer. After all of this advancement in and improvement to the gaming experience, why are we still forced to switch controllers from one device to another?

Unfortunately, I, like all of you, know the answer: money. Game companies can make extra cash on controllers and don’t want to share it. But part of the beauty of mobile gaming on smartphones and tablets is that the controller is, for all intents and purposes, built right in. And for those of us who play mobile titles, we don’t need to worry about switching controllers to play different games.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think we’ve come far enough to allow for a standard game controller in the industry. Sure, it might hurt the hardware makers initially, but it’s a sign of a grown-up industry, a sign that something better should be on the way. And right now, it is. I just don’t want to juggle multiple controllers to enjoy it.

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