Rumbling controllers, a feature Sony introduced in its
original PlayStation – later standard issue with all PlayStation 2s – suddenly
disappeared on the PlayStation 3. The reason for that was Sony’s legal battle
with Immersion over the patent rights to force feedback controllers. Immersion
eventually won over
the courts, forcing Sony to ditch vibration from its SIXAXIS PS3
Understandably, Sony’s public stance was to downplay the
importance of rumble in its controllers. Phil Harrison, president of SCE
to rumble as not a next-generation feature, while Kaz Hirai, then-president
and CEO of SCEA, said
that it would have been difficult to incorporate both vibration and motion
sensing technologies into the SIXAXIS.
Then everything changed when Sony and Immersion settled their legal
differences and entered into a licensing agreement that would allow the use
of force feedback technology in Sony controller products. Following the
announcement between the two companies, SCEA’s Jack Tretton said in an interview
that the company was open to changing the SIXAXIS controller.
According to a report on Innerbits,
Sony sources are saying that the company has been working on new controller
prototypes for several months. One challenge currently facing a possibly new
controller is the issue of battery life. The current lithium-ion cell inside
the SIXAXIS was never designed to have to power both the Bluetooth wireless as
well as a set of rumble motors.
Technical issues aside, Sony may also be trying to solve the
matter of how to present a revised controller to consumers, especially to those
who have already purchased a PlayStation 3 and additional controllers.
Several game developers have expressed their longing
for the rumble feature, even if that means giving up motion sensing. When
asked about the motion sensing on the SIXAXIS, Pete Hines of Bethesda Softworks
said, “I think that its value depends upon the game. It didn't make sense on Oblivion but I'm sure there are some games
it does make sense on. To be honest I would rather have the rumble instead of
the SIXAXIS motion stuff.”
Guy Wilday, head of Sega Racing Studio, said, “Tilt
control's not difficult to do… Fundamentally, though, the whole tilt control
thing is rubbish. It's no compensation for [the lack of] rumble.”
It’s still currently unknown when or how Sony plans to roll
out its new controllers, though it might be before the release of God of War 3. SCEA Santa Monica studios
game director Cory Barlog said
to a crowd at the 2007 Games Developer Conference that the next-generation God
of War on PS3 will be in 1080p with motion and vibration support.