In a surprise announcement, Sony today unveiled the “Back Button Attachment” for the PlayStation 4’s beloved Dual Shock 4 controller. It costs $30 and it hits the market on January 23, but its purpose is not immediately clear upon first glance, and the name doesn’t do much to help that. A back button? Like on the Xbox 360? Do I need that? Why is it a big weird butt that plugs into the bottom of the controller? Why does it have a screen? What is this thing?
I fully could not comprehend the function or purpose of this device until I watched the below trailer, which reveals its true nature: Those paddles on either side? Those are the buttons, plural, and the screen thing in the middle is used to assign an input of your choice to each paddle. The module has enough memory to save up to three different configurations as profiles and swap between them at will, which is a thoughtful consideration. There’s also a 3.5 mm headphone jack pass-through, so you can keep using your wired headset like normal.
It kinda turns a normal Dual Shock 4 into a budget version of an Xbox Elite controller, or perhaps more aptly, one of those hyper-expensive Vantage 2 PS4 controllers from Scuf. And that’s neat! But maybe name it something that indicates that even a little bit? Back Button Attachment sounds like a Chrome extension, or the Xbox 360’s aforementioned Select Button replacement. Even calling it the Back Buttons Attachment would go a long way towards better communicating what the hell this thing is.
Dual Shock 4 Tactical Paddles, maybe? You could even shorten that down to “Tac-Pads” if you wanted. How about the PlayStation Macro Module, or the Rear Trigger Pack? Why not get a little abstract and call ’em “Expansion Triggers?” That one even has a cool JRPG/Guilty Gear feel to it. There’s a world of options available to you Sony, and all of them are better than Back Button Attachment. Next time call me first, okay?
There are two reasons why Sony might decide to make this thing, which admittedly has a ton of worthwhile accessibility applications, in addition to the standard demographic of “FPS players that want to keep their thumbs on the sticks.” The first reason is that Sony sees other companies like Scuf making money from this audience, and it wants to scoop up the budget-minded portion of that crowd, which is not really being served at the moment.
The other reason, which I’m completely speculating about but bear with me, is that the PlayStation 5 controller might have paddles like this build right the heck on into it. By selling this add-on for the Dual Shock 4, PlayStation owners could bring their existing controllers into the new generation for less than the cost of buying (what will presumably be called) the Dual Shock 5. Baseless conjecture? Absolutely. But I’ve also been around for more console launches than I care to admit, and if there’s one true constant in this universe, it’s that Sony loves adding weird shit to its controllers. The Dual Shock 4 has a dadgum trackpad on in, you think Sony won’t put some paddles back there? I’m just sayin’.