Did Sony Really Need the Sub-Controller?


Sony Move Mock-up

Did Sony really need the Sub-Controller?

After much speculation about its name, Move was revealed in GDC2010. Sony’s take on the “waggle gaming” which also caters to the hardcore gamers will be a welcome alternative to existing control schemes. Move controller’s high precision and depth tracking allows 1:1 reproduction of controller position and orientation in the virtual space, which can accommodate very interesting applications.

Sony’s primary move controller is as simple as it can get, with few buttons which emphasize motion based game control rather than button-mashing action. But there are some things that you cannot do with so few buttons in hardcore games, and moving in vast virtual spaces requires extra input. Enter the sub-controller, with an analogue stick and two extra “shoulder” buttons.

Here’s where I’m lost, as Sony’s nunchuck sub-controller doesn’t have the advanced position tracking of the main controller, but the main controller lacks the analogue stick that can be vital to orientation in the virtual space. (Imagine playing a fps, left analogue for moving forward, strafe, right analogue for pitch, and turning). For fine targeting, the main controller will probably be awesome. But for coarse turning, as you won’t be able to turn your back to the TV, the games would probably rely on turning by targeting edge off the screen. This is what SOCOM seems to be doing. This, I assure you, will be quite awkward, as any attempt to target an enemy close to the edge of the screen will result in a body turn, and may get quite some time to get used to. This begs the question: Did Sony really need the sub-controller? Would it be *very* inconvenient to add an analogue stick to the main controller? By adding an analogue stick to the main controller, following would have been possible:

  • Buying a second Move controller for your left hand would double as the current sub-controller with full  motion tracking.
  • You would not have to buy a third controller for hardcore games.
  • The second Move controller would instantly allow you to play two player casual games with a friend, while allowing hardcore single player experiences.
  • Buying a 4 move controller set would allow for 2-4 people casual gaming experiences, 2 player hardcore gaming experiences in a split screen, all at once, with less controller clutter, with less confusion (every controller is the same), all without the need of total of 6 controllers for similar setup, but with more features for every game, as your left hand input is tracked much better with the main controller: The sub-controller is patently inferior to the main move controller for motion input.
  • Left hand input would allow gesture based input, while right hand input would be for fine targeting and the analogue on the right would be used for coarse turning.
  • Some games that need a single analogue input could get away with using a single controller in your hand.
  • Players wielding a single controller would have access to the wonders of an analogue control stick.
  • Overall casual gaming experience would be cheaper to get into.
  • Overall hardcore gaming experience would be better, for reasons mentioned above.

The simple Photoshop mock-up of course doesn’t do the concept any justice. I’m sure the designers and engineers at Sony could come up with an elegant and comfortable design for the analogue stick. I believe Sony has missed a great opportunity with the Move controller, rather than the Wii-too approach that is now plastered on top of it, it would have created a great new way to play our hardcore games, had it decided to use an analogue controller on the motion controller.


Written by: Emrah - News Contributor


  1. #1 by JimmyMagnum on March 24th, 2010 [ 83111 Points ]

    it might feel a bit awkward with having the stick on the main one, though, especially since movement of the thumb is easiest done when your hands are in a stationary position, so aiming with the right hand by moving the controller around, and using the stick for macro turns, plus pulling the trigger would prove to be much more complicated than a standard controller where all you have is the stick to move around.

    It’s just something you get used to, though. Call of Duty on the Wii was a bit weird at first, since you turn with the edges, but after the first initial hurdles of getting used to the control scheme, it didn’t matter nearly as much as you moved and everything like it was second nature.

    btw, good job on the first post

  2. #2 by mcloki on March 24th, 2010

    Moving and punching/sword swinging at the same time would be difficult and in many games this is needed. That’s a lot of coordinated effort you’re putting into one device.
    Your controller is accessed by two hands that’s what makes it work. Each Move controller only has one hand using it.

  3. #3 by Emrah on March 24th, 2010 [ 7319 Points ]

    Thanks guys..

    I understand your points indeed, but adding the analogue button doesn’t mean it cannot be used as a sub-controller, as is the current situation. The control scheme could be optional if the right hand turning proves so hard, but I’d be willing to guess it wouldn’t be the case.

    In any case, whatever the role of each hand in any given situation, we’d have to pay less, as the minimum required peripheral currently needed for a single player is 3, whereas according to my suggestion, 2 would be enough. Couple that with a two player scenario, you’d need 6 peripherals to play all your games in tandem, some games would ask for sub-controllers in two players hands, some games would require you to have actual motion controller in your left hand.

    It is just that software houses may refrain from exploring certain setups in local mutliplayer settings, because of this cost.

    Therefore, I’ll be brave to suggest that a full motion detecting controller in left hand with an analogue stick instead of the current sub-controller would have opened up for more gaming and control possibilities, reminding that the tasks “at hand” could still be logically distributed so it is manageable.

  4. #4 by Kris on March 24th, 2010

    While I agree it would have been far better to simply add the analog stick to the normal Move controller, I still wonder if the sub-controller is as base as it seems. Its showing at GDC didn’t have any motion control built in, but we also have to remember that this technology isn’t in our hands yet, which means some things might change. Has it been totally confirmed that the final sku of the sub-controller will have absolutely no motion control in it?

    The reason I ask is because one of the latest PS3 commercials hints at the possibility of motion control in the sub-controller. If you watch the Kevin Butler video where he’s talking about being in the future and what not, and if you keep an extra close eye on the portion where the dude is playing SOCOM, you’ll notice at one point he actually throws his arm as if simulating the motion of throwing a grenade, which his on screen character does.

    The arm he does the motion with is the one holding the sub-controller. Little thing to think about eh ;)

  5. #5 by EdEN on March 24th, 2010 [ 141871 Points ]

    It COULD work… if the Analogue was positioned exactly where the Move main button is. Your thumb would rest over the Analogue. Still, the sub-controller seems weird. Maybe Sony should have copied Nintendo on this as well and designed the sub-controller to be more like the Nunchuk. You know, ergonomic and user friendly.

  6. #6 by Emrah on January 9th, 2011 [ 7319 Points ]

    The following controllers prove that not only dual analogue sticks are feasible, they also show dual wielding allows more possibilities in game immersion:
    http://www.joystiq.com/2011/01/08/razer-hydra-impressions-super-precise-motion-controllers-make-i/

  7. #7 by Tosh on January 9th, 2011 [ 1102 Points ]

    Emrah: This following controllers not only dual analogue sticks are feasible, it also shows dual wielding allows more possibilities in game immersion:
    http://www.joystiq.com/2011/01/08/razer-hydra-impressions-super-precise-motion-controllers-make-i/  

    Very interesting Emrah. I really hope Sixense and Sony come together for something in the future. Perhaps the PS4. Sixense really has some amazing tech.

  8. #8 by Emrah on January 9th, 2011 [ 7319 Points ]

    Urgh, Sorry for the “all your base” English! I edited my comment.. The faulty language can be seen in its glory in Tosh’s quote :)

  9. #9 by Emrah on January 9th, 2011 [ 7319 Points ]

    A very nice video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=iv&annotation_id=annotation_400786&v=EnF5q4NmVLs

    Maybe I should update the article..

  10. #10 by Tosh on January 9th, 2011 [ 1102 Points ]

    Emrah: A very nice video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=iv&annotation_id=annotation_400786&v=EnF5q4NmVLsMaybe I should update the article..  

    Ya, I’d just do a new post Emrah, maybe reference this in your new post. But I think people need to see this. I already have a CES 2011 category set up :)

  11. #11 by Luke on January 10th, 2011 [ 27382 Points ]

    This is for PC only though no?


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