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Looking forward: hardware accessibility

"Disabled gamers just want to enjoy gaming without additional hurdles or more costs."

Welcome to another of our pieces looking forward to 2022. Today: the crucial question of hardware accessibility.

I'm a conscientious objector in the console wars, so don't expect me to drop any bombs. I'm a fan of both Xbox and PlayStation, but the flag of accessibility is essential to plant in no-man's land.

Hardware accessibility is a current issue, especially with the stark disparity between how Xbox and PlayStation deal with it. My points are echoed by many disabled gamers who need a specific controller to enjoy gaming.

The question here is that, without accessible controllers, are game developers wasting their effort designing accessibility settings?

Accessibility settings need to be accessible. Controller backwards compatibility should be a fundamental aspect of new consoles and controllers. The culprit here is the decision by PlayStation to limit players to use only a DualSense controller on the PS5.

My setup has been built around the Dualshock 4 controller and Titan 2 device, so I cannot use the PS5 DualSense controller. The main reasons why are the shape, weight, button placement and grip changes. Minor changes create major barriers.

I'm not suggesting that the DualSense is a terrible controller or that features like haptic feedback and adaptive triggers are pointless. I understand the impact of increasing immersion and the accessibility benefits for deaf or blind gamers.

Cover image for YouTube videoRatchet and Clank Rift Apart Review - RATCHET AND CLANK RIFT APART GAMEPLAY PS5
Ratchet and Clank has wonderful accessibility options - but with the DualSense, some players will not be able to enjoy them.

You do have the choice to deactivate these additional features and for people with muscle weakness or motor disabilities, these would be turned off straight away. Without these features, the DualSense is practically like a PS4 controller, therefore the PS4 controller should be compatible with the PS5.

In comparison, Xbox allows people to transition their setups and use any controller that is compatible with their abilities. Xbox doesn't have a gatekeeper locking you out because you're not on an arbitrary guest list.

I understand from a business perspective why PlayStation is more focused on selling a new console and controller. However, it conflicts with the inclusive philosophy of the fantastic PlayStation accessibility team and developers such as Insomniac, Guerrilla or Naughty Dog. These developers have worked hard to design accessibility settings specifically so that disabled gamers can enjoy their games.

This hardware issue also prevents accessibility consultants from working with PlayStation developers and will ultimately negatively impact gaming accessibility as a whole.

It wasn't always like this. Initially, my setup smoothly transitioned to the PS5, and I happily finished Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Then like an enemy hit by a Topiary Thrower, I was frozen out by a PS5 update which removed the loophole that permitted my setup to work.

Cover image for YouTube videoForza Horizon 5 - the Eurogamer reviewscast
Forza Horizon 5 is another accessibility triumph.

The issue is the communication required between the PS5 and DualSense controller every 10 seconds, which authenticates that a DS5 is in use. In practice, this authentication check means that every 10 seconds the Titan 2 will stop working.

Currently, the only solution is to play using the PlayStation Remote Play app. However, this isn't the ideal solution. Thankfully, the people at ConsoleTuner who created the Titan 2 are working on a fix. It will be some sort of add-on released sometime in 2022, but it requires an additional purchase.

Disabled gamers just want to enjoy gaming without additional hurdles or more costs. Finding the perfect setup is like a Roguelite: it is difficult, takes hours to complete and you will fail multiple times. You're elated to reach the end, but you know this will be a never-ending battle if a platform holder makes your setup obsolete again.

Ultimately, accessibility has to be truthful, and it hurts saying negative things about a console that has given me beautiful memories.