While we anticipate hearing more about the PS5 price, there's good reason to think the DualSense controller could be more expensive than your average controller.
We're awaiting Sony's next PlayStation 5 Showcase event, where we hope we might finally hear word about the PS5 price and release date. But the console isn't the only piece of new hardware Sony is releasing this holiday season, and there's reason to think that its main accessory could heft a healthy price tag of its own.
Though much has been made of game prices remaining largely static in defiance of external forces like inflation, the price for extra controllers has actually been creeping upwards. Controllers were once lower-priced than games. A controller MSRP matching game prices at $60 is actually a relatively recent phenomenon. Nintendo has taken it even further, offering individual Joy-Con controllers individually for $50, or bundled as pairs for $80. Its Pro Controller is also higher than the norm, at $70.
Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft have both found their own ways to increase income from accessories. Microsoft offers custom controller colors through its Design Lab, and the pricey Elite controller that comes with special features. Sony hasn't created its own equivalent of the Elite controller, but it does offer a back paddle attachment.
The increased emphasis on accessories has had a big impact on games industry profits. As NPD has been reporting record-breaking sales numbers for hardware and software in light of the pandemic, the accessories segment has been keeping pace with year-over-year growth. In the most recent August NPD report, for example, hardware and software each saw a 37% YOY increase, while accessories grew by 42%.
But it's not just the bottom line driving the rising cost of controllers. The accessories themselves are becoming more advanced. Nintendo's Joy-Con each have an accelerometer and gyroscope packed into the small form factor, and the right Joy-Con has an infrared depth sensor as well. The Xbox Elite controller sports swappable stick plates and paddles, customizable switches, and it's weighted for comfort. That's not to say the cost of components itself is sky-high, but like in the consoles themselves, the R&D cost of creating the latest and greatest accessories is reflected in the price.
Which brings us to the DualSense. Sony has made a point of promoting its whizbang new features like haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Those two features in particular are said to work in concert with each other, offering a greater degree of subtlety than mere rumble feedback and creating new gameplay opportunities like letting you feel the tension of drawing back a bow. PS5 developers have already revealed some of their big ideas for how this will be used, from a subtle Spider-sense in Spider-Man: Miles Morales to different trigger effects in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
In fact, the DualSense has taken center-stage so far on Sony's PlayStation 5 pitch. Its very first PS5 ad focused not on the pure hardware power of the new console but on the sensations and level of immersion enabled by the DualSense. And unlike Xbox, which is blurring the line between generations and allowing you to bring your old controllers over to Xbox Series X and Series S, Sony has already announced that PS5 games are DualSense-only. It's clear that Sony believes it has a real game-changer on its hands, so to speak, so it's leading with that.
This ties into how Sony is presenting the PlayStation 5 so far as a whole: a premium next-generation console that represents a clean break from the prior one. Many expect this to mean it will come with a premium price tag, which would also likely mean an equally luxury-priced controller.
But it's also very possible that Sony comes in with a lower-than-expected PS5 price--perhaps feeling cross-pressure from the Xbox's value-oriented approach. In that instance the DualSense could still carry a high price tag, helping to offset the lower profit margins of the PS5 hardware itself. It's not uncommon for hardware manufacturers to sell the public on a lower-priced initial investment and offer optional accessories at a markup.
The least likely possibility is a high-priced console and cheap controllers. From the technology it packs to the business considerations, it just doesn't make sense for the DualSense to be priced at $60. We may know more for certain very soon, but as you plan your purchasing decisions, consider how many extra controllers you need and be ready to set aside more money than you would have in the past.
For more details check out our PS5 pre-order guide.