By Jared Newman | Friday, February 19, 2010 at 1:41 pm
Sony calls this device the “Universal Game Controller,” so there’s no question as to what purpose it would serve. The patent describes an LCD touch screen device that communicates with several consoles at once through a wireless receiver. Instead of physical buttons, there are virtual ones, displayed on the touch screen in context with whatever console you’re playing at the moment.
Sony only specifies the consoles by brand — Playstation, Nintendo and Xbox — but says it would be backwards compatible to emulate controllers that are no longer available.
I’m skeptical. The patent doesn’t mention motion controls or accelerometers at all, a glaring omission as Sony and Microsoft develop their own motion controls to catch up with Nintendo’s Wii. All three consoles will use different methods for interpreting gestures anyway, so a universal motion controller would be futile.
Technical obstacles abound as well. Sure, the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 accept USB controller input, so you could plug in a universal receiver that way, but connecting the Wii and older consoles would be a challenge, if not impossible, without special adapters.
Also, I can’t imagine Nintendo and Microsoft would appreciate Sony jacking into their consoles with its own controller. That seems like a Palm Pre-iTunes situation waiting to happen.
Logistics aside, a universal controller based on a virtual button pad isn’t ideal for consoles that weren’t designed around it. I’d much rather see Sony release a version of its existing Playstation 3 controller that played nicely with other consoles. Even PC compatibility would be nice; in that regard, Microsoft’s wired Xbox 360 controller is already more universal.