Sony files patent for touchscreen PlayStation 4 controller

PlayStation 4 Controller gets an upgrade

Earlier this month, it was reported that Sony filed a patent for what appears to be an updated version of the PlayStation 4 controller in mid-October. The new model looks identical to the current PS4 controller aside from one key difference: the DualShock 4’s touchpad has been replaced with a new touchscreen.

While the console gaming industry has introduced controllers with built-in screens in the past to mixed results, the new PS4 controllers could be a worthwhile innovation. The most obvious application for the screen would be a display for in-game data, like a life meter, map or inventory.

It could also be used to provide specialized in-game updates, à la the DualShock 4’s LED. For instance, it is easy to imagine the touchscreen being used as a smartphone proxy in the next “Grand Theft Auto” game. Or, perhaps as a hacking toolkit in the next iteration of “Watch Dogs.”

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A Preview of the PlayStation 5?

Though the patent application makes it clear that it is an updated filing for existing hardware, the new controller design might be an indicator of Sony’s plans for the PlayStation 5. In early October, Kenichiro Yoshida, president and CEO of Sony, confirmed that the electronics giant was working on the next generation of gaming hardware.

Since the release of the first PlayStation in 1994, Sony has released a new version of the console about every six years. As of this February, the PS4 is now five years old so the release of a new PlayStation in 2019 or 2020 would be on trend.

Thus far, concrete information about the PS5 has been hard to come by. A February update for a 2015 patent filing suggested that Sony is developing backward compatibility software for the PlayStation. However, no model was specified and Sony has made no announcement that the oft-demanded feature has been made.

Can Sony Thrive in the Mobile Gaming Era?

With more than 81.2 million units sold, the PlayStation 4 is undeniably the system of the eighth generation of home video game consoles. But the reality is, the console gaming market isn’t as strong as it used to be. The PS4’s nearest competitor, Microsoft’s Xbox One, has only shipped 39.1 million units since its release in 2013. And Nintendo’s Wii U, launched in 2012, was a flop that has already been discontinued.

Though a number of factors have contributed to the console’s market decline since the halcyon days of the 1990s and 2000s, the rise of mobile gaming plays a big role. Now accounting for 51 percent of the total global games market, mobile gaming is forecasted to reach 59 percent market share by 2021. And that eight percent will likely come from the flagging console sector.