Joypad evolution- Design patterns and innovations in gaming interface design

Whilst playing my Super Nintendo the other day I noticed there were a lot of similarities between it's controller and the latest xbox 360 controller.

I wondered how these interfaces, that so many people use, have developed over time. So I did a bit of research and created an infographic that illustrates the key design changes and innovation

Joypad Evolution diagram

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Designing this infographic showed an interesting contrast between Sony and Nintendo's design methods.

Nintendo's revolutions

Nintendo powerglove and virtua boy controller

Nintendo's controller history shows them trying out new designs and pushing the boundaries of what a controller can do. But this has mixed results.

Controllers like the Powerglove (Which was produced by Mattel for the Nes) and the virtual boy were flops. But other innovations from Nintendo were a huge success . Of course there is the popular ‘Wiimote’ (2006) but more importantly the ‘Game and watch’ in 1982. This brought us the d-pad which has been used on every game controller since.

Nintendo game and watch and Wiimote

Playstation's evolution

Playstation on the other hand started with a controller that worked well and added small changes to the design over time.

Playstation joypads

The benefit of this is that there is low risk of new controllers being unsuccessful. Plus when a new console comes out you are removing a learning curve for your users. They will already know how to use it if they are familiar with the previous one, so they can just pick up and play.

So if your redesigning an interface should you use evolution or revolution?

Nintendo’s successful innovations were not developed for innovations sake, they came out of constraints. The d-pad was designed because a conventional joystick would not fit on a handheld clamshell device that needed to fold. The Wii mote was designed because Nintendo were in a loosing battle in an arms race of hardcore gaming machines. They needed to re-think gaming as a whole, which included how games are controlled.

This shows that innovation in interface design can be a great success, but you should only use it if its absolutely necessary.

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Steve has spent the last 8 years at cxpartners trying to write the perfect biography for the website. Has a medium cat