Rants, Raves & Views

The Evolution Of The Video Game Controller

By Alex Morrison

 

Ever wonder about the origins of that device you use to mow down enemies, save princesses or score goals? We break it down from the beginning.

Magnavox Odysssey 100 (1972)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

This analog controller was for the first commercial video game console for the home, the Magnavox Odyssey 100. One dial controlled horizontal movement, while the other was used for vertical movement. Try playing Fifa with that today.

Atari Home Pong Console (1975)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

This take-home version of Pong was launched by Sears in 1975 and allowed two players to play the legendary paddle game. Twisting the knob would move the paddle up and down. This also spawned a Magnavox lawsuit. 

Fairchild Channel F (1976)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

These controllers were revolutionary at the time, featuring a thumb stick/cap that could be pushed in eight different directions, pushed down on to fire, and even pulled up to perform another function. The cap could also be rotated, fulfilling the same role as previous controllers. 

Atari 2600 (1977)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

Ah, something more familiar. The widely successful 2600 came bundled with two joystick controllers and two dial controllers for paddle or driving games. Why don't all consoles come with two controllers anymore?

Nintendo Entertainment System (1983)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

This controller set the standard for many generations to come. While the US was experiencing the 'video game crash', Japan was seeing the launch of one of the most iconic consoles in video game history. The design was borrowed from Nintendo's handheld Game & Watch device.

Sega Genesis (1988)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

The late 80's saw the console war being fought be fewer and fewer players, and there were even fewer controller designs. This was one of the first controllers to actually implement ergonomics into the design. A six button controller later came out for Street Fighter junkies. 

Nintendo Power Glove (1989)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

Mattel created the Power Glove for Nintendo, forever changing Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!

Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1990)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

The new controller brought in a rounded design, as well as the standard of having four buttons underneath your right thumb. Shoulder buttons were also introduced for the fingers and forever changed the way controllers were to be designed. 

Sega Activator (1993)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

Motion controllers have been around for longer than you think. The hugely unsuccessful Sega Activator was supposed to be placed on the floor in front of your TV, and used infrared beams to track your movement. It was inaccurate and costly, and was subsequently discontinued. 

Sony PlayStation (1994)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

Sony introduced to us the iconic triangle, square, circle and cross with this beautiful design. Released in the same year as the Sega Saturn, Sony's controller made Sega's six button controller look prehistoric. 

Apple Bandai Pippin (1995)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

This curved design failed to catch on, but was oddly beautiful. Featuring the standard d-pad and four buttons, the controller also featured a scroll-ball in the middle. Apple's console soon died due to the outrageous pricing of $599. 

Nintendo 64 (1996)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

This was a radical new design when it first came out, and people either loved it or hated it. The controller seemed to incorporate every previous controller design theme, featuring a d-pad, thumb and shoulder buttons, a trigger and a joystick. Phew.

Sony PlayStation Dualshock (1997)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Just add to it a little. Joysticks were brought in for this second edition controller, which also featured a rumble pack. This design shaped many future controllers, not just Sony's.

Sega Dreamcast (1998)

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

This controller, personally, felt really comfortable in the hand and it's a shame the Dreamcast's life was cut short due to a poor Japanese launch. It featured two dock connectors for various accessories, and introduced the double trigger, as opposed to shoulder buttons. 

Nintendo Gamecube (2001)

IMAGE: Nintendo

IMAGE: Nintendo

Nintendo was always trying to do something different, and in this they did. The regular four buttons on the right received a new layout and the left thumbstick was placed directly under the thumb, where designers thought it to be better positioned. Also, it was nice to see a controller that didn't come in grey.

Microsoft's 'Fat' Xbox (2001)

IMAGE: Microsoft

IMAGE: Microsoft

Sure it was comfortable, but my God, it was just so big. Once a new design, known as Controller S, came out in Japan, this soon became obsolete by 2002.

Nintendo Wiimote and Nunchuck (2006)

IMAGE: Nintendo

IMAGE: Nintendo

Nintendo threw out the rule book on this one and went with a design that captured the hearts of many gamers. Nintendo allowed players to interact uniquely with their games, making the Wii console widely successful. All of the essentials were still there, joystick, d-pad, buttons and a trigger.

Microsoft Xbox 360 (2005)

IMAGE: Microsoft

IMAGE: Microsoft

This is personally my favorite controller of all time. It feels great in the hand, and essentially perfected what Sony started with the Dualshock. It was also extremely durable, unless of course you tend to get a little agro when your gaming. 

Microsoft Kinect (2010)

IMAGE: Microsoft

IMAGE: Microsoft

This is the fastest selling consumer electronics device of all time, and was a great life-extender for the Xbox. It wanted to capture some of the Wii's motion gaming experience and continues to be used by many gamers today. The device has implications outside of gaming, being used in theaters and bomb disposal units. 

Nintendo Wii U Gamepad (2012)

IMAGE: Nintendo

IMAGE: Nintendo

Although the Wii U hasn't bettered its ancestor in sales, it did bring a feature to the controller never seen before in recent game consoles - a second screen. Being able to play games while watch TV is nothing short of a miracle, though there aren't as many amazing games as everyone hoped.

Microsoft Xbox One (2013)

IMAGE: Microsoft

IMAGE: Microsoft

Microsoft didn't do anything too radical with the new design, and rightly so. Instead of changing the design, they tweaked it to perform and feel better than the last controller, upgrading the rumble feature and including rumble triggers. Microsoft spent a whopping $100 million for research and development for the controller.

Sony PlayStation Dualshock4 (2013)

IMAGE: PlayStation

IMAGE: PlayStation

Sony elongated the handles and made the controller fit better in the hand. It was also made to be sturdier and now features a capacitive touch pad, which could be great for certain platform games. Gone are the days of 'select' and 'start'. Now it's all about 'share' and 'options'.

Feel like we've left anything out? Let us know in the comments!

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