April 4, 2012

The Popularity of Playing PC Games with the Xbox 360 Controller

While I don't have any exact figures, I'm sure the shear number of various versions of the Xbox 360 controller (Microsoft, Afterglow, MadCatz, etc.) that have been sold is staggering. To some of you, it may seem like a silly question to ask "Why?" but with many people being fiercely loyal to their Playstation based gamepad style I believe it is worth exploring further.

The symmetrical shape and joystick/button distribution of the PS3 style controller would seem to me to be a logical choice to supplant the Xbox 360 controller's throne, but it has not done so. I own both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, so I have had exposure to both styles of controller in gameplay, yet despite its somewhat awkward right joystick location, I prefer the Xbox 360 controller to the PS3 gamepad. The Xbox controller tends to be heavier, a little bulkier, and was designed with ergonomics in mind (i.e. to better fit the natural position of the hand). While "heavier" and "bulkier" are not always considered to be good qualities, in this case I want to feel like I can hold onto that thing as tight as possible and make the sudden forceful movements I'm going to need to make in the heat of a FPS match without worrying that I'm going to break my controller (these things are expensive!).

The prominent position of the PS3 controllers' D-Pad is another aspect to consider. More and more frequently the joysticks on a gamepad are being used as the primary means for movement and aim; up, down, left, and right just don't quite cut it anymore. Long gone are the days of 2D sidescrolling games like Super Mario Brothers, where a D-Pad is really all you needed. The evolution of 3D free-movement gamestyles is much more well-suited to playing with a joystick over a D-Pad. While I still much prefer the Playstation's D-Pad with individual buttons to the saucer-like cheap feeling D-Pad of the Xbox controller, its use is much less frequent and is, thus, an afterthought in my preference for the Xbox 360 gamepad.

The most obvious, and previously unmentioned, possibility for the overwhelming popularity of the Xbox 360 controller over the PS3 gamepad for PC gaming is as simple as a lack of easy to use, reliable drivers for the PS3 controller on Windows based operating systems. It would only make sense that Microsoft based products are designed to be "friendly" with one another. The only option we know of for playing PC games with a PS3 controller (when it is not natively supported by the game) is through a driver made by MotionInJoy which, when used in Xbox 360 compatibility mode, can be used in conjunction with Joystix Pro to play all your favorite games on a PC with a Playstation 3 controller. The problem, however, is the controller doesn't work straight out of the box and isn't plug-n-play friendly, that is naturally going to decrease the number of people who are going to play PC games with a PS3 controller.

If you have thoughts on why the Xbox 360 controller has such a large presence in PC gaming, let us know!

Thanks for reading!

Clayton "Vapor" Mayo
Joystix Pro

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