The control knob has been one of the peripherals that has evolved the most over the years. I still remember the first one I had in my hands, was that of an Atari 2600, a simple and a little rough control knob that today has been totally obsolete, but that at the time was more than enough to enjoy the games of said console.
We have just read something very important that I think deserves us to stop for a second to analyze it, and that is that the evolution of the console control knob has been deeply linked to the complexity of their games. With the Atari 2600 we had a very simple catalog of games that we could control without problems with a «stick» and a button, a panorama that was gradually changing and that led us to experience incredible advances.
After the control of the Atari 2600 came the hands of the Nintendo NES, very small and completely rectangular, uncomfortable at first, but you just got used to it. I liked the command of the Master System II much more, who was the next to fall into my hands, and I hallucinated with the Mega Drive, both for ergonomics and for the presence of three buttons. Three buttons! Amazing! It may seem like a joke, but at that time (early nineties) those controls impressed many players.
I liked the controls of Super Nintendo less for the ergonomics, it took me a while to get used to them, and the same thing happened to me with the six-button controls on Mega Drive, which also marked a real revolution at the time. I know what you are thinking, that if we freaked out with the jump from two to three buttons how could we not hallucinate with the jump from three to six buttons, and yes, you are right, but it was also an essential jump that took place in 1993, date that coincided with the arrival of games like Street Fighter II to the 16 bits of SEGA.
That six-button control pad avoided having to press the start button to toggle between punches and kicks in Street Fighter II, and it was also essential to comfortably play other titles like Samurai Shodown or Eternal Champions.
The control stick has stalled
I cannot say it more clearly. All my life as a gamer I have tried practically almost all the console controls that have existed from the early eighties until today. I remember that some companies, like Atari, tried to innovate but ended up crashing with terrible designs (the command of the Jaguar was an ordeal), while others like SNK opted for the simple: arcade design and quality, a winning duo that ran to the perfection in the original Neo Geo AES control stick.
The introduction of analog sticks and vibration motors It marked an important turning point in the sector. Nintendo 64 was the great pioneer, although Sony ended up popularizing it with the PS1 DualShock. SEGA made a masterpiece with Dreamcast by incorporating the Visual memory, but the failure of his console prevented him from developing an idea full of possibilities that, to this day, no company has dared to rescue. Too bad.
During the last generations the advances have been little interesting, saving some exceptions. The concept of the control knob se has stalled remarkably, both in terms of ergonomics and advanced functions, a reality that Sony wants to “break” with the DualSense. What we have read so far is promising, but as always it is better to lower expectations in case, in the end, we end up with a disappointment.
Personally I have it quite clear, the control that I liked the most within the generation of «vintage» consoles, that is, previous to the 3D era, was the Neo Geo AES, the original, a masterpiece both by design and by touch and build quality. If I stick to consoles “for mortals”, I choose the three-button Mega Drive for its ergonomics. Within the 3D generation my favorite controller is the one from the first Xbox, but the little one, not the «Duke», both for ergonomics and for the position of the sticks and triggers. Now it’s your turn, we read each other in the comments.