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It’s Time We Admit The PS5 DualSense Controller Is Utter Garbage

PlayStation 5's DualSense Fails To Maintain High Standards

I’m a PlayStation guy. I’ve owned every major PlayStation console since the original PlayStation, and I was the first person in the UK to pre-order the PlayStation 4, being invited to the launch event as a VIP as a result.

I’m a fan.

We have approximately 1,177 game reviews on Gamers Heroes, 419 of those have been across the PlayStation platforms; the vast majority console share by a long way.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve been using PlayStation controllers for nearly 30 years. I’ve used everything from the stock options that come with buying each console to flashy iterations like the OG crystal and the more recent Starlight Blue.

I have thousands of hours using these products, across generations of consoles, and I can say without a doubt, this generation of controllers manages to be the worst the PlayStation consoles have ever seen.

An image of one of the special Crystal controller designs for the original PlayStation console

This is a conversation I’ve suffered through on X numerous times. Well, conversation is putting it nicely. As with most discussions on that platform, it quickly turns to toxic tribalism and one that sees consumers attacking other consumers through some twisted loyalty to a plastic brand.

So what’s the actual problem?

PS5 Controller Stick Drift & Shoulder Buttons

I am currently on my 6th, 7th, or maybe 8th DualSense controller. I’m not being hyperbolic, I stopped counting after having to replace my 4th, and I’m unsure how many I’ve had since then.

The vast majority have been purchased locally. Due to my work here at Gamers Heroes, if one of the tools I need to make a living begins to show fault, I typically replace it within a couple of days. All of these have been the base PlayStation 5 DualSense controller bar one.

An image showing a person holding the PlayStation 5 DualSense Startlight Blue, an alternative controller design for the PlayStation 5

My most recent purchase was March 2022, when I purchased the DualSense Starlight Blue Wireless Controller from Amazon. As of sometime last month, this controller has now begun to show issues with “stick drift.” This has easily been the most reliable, lasting twice as long as the others.

I’m still not happy with a shelf life of two years, but that’s primarily due to previous Sony console controllers lasting almost the lifespan of the console itself. It’s the high quality expectations Sony had in place for years, that makes this generation so disappointing.

An image showing several controllers, mainly Xbox One control pads, broken, smashed, and ripped to pieces
A Reddit User shares a find of broken controllers

The majority of my other controllers last six to twelve months.

I have had two identical issues with every PS5 DualSense controller I have purchased; faulty shoulder buttons and stick drift.

If you want to understand the causes of stick drift and the impact it has, iFixit did a fantastic video on the launch controller. It discusses all the issues relating to the DualSense and other controllers designed in the same way. They estimate that the analog sticks for the PS5 controller have an operating life of around 400 hours.

This is an old video is based on the original controllers that launched alongside the PlayStation 5, but echos the experience I’ve had with every PlayStation 5 controller I’ve purchased, except for the Starlight version.

If it’s not one of the analog sticks, the R2 button. It gets jammed momentarily or doesn’t recognize a button press at all, or feels sticky with some sort of resistance (not talking about haptic). It makes sense as, typically, it’s one of the more used buttons, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

Opinions From Around The Web
PS5 DualSense Is Garbage
PS5 Controllers Break Ridiculously Easy
Drifting On The PS5 Controller

This is NOT Consumer Fault

An image showing the upgraded PlayStation 5 Dualsense Edge Controller
The $199 upgraded DualSense Edge. Why even risk it?

This is the go-to defense for every X debate on this topic. Not from the manufacturer or the designer, but from other users who are utterly convinced the problem doesn’t exist because they’ve never experienced it themselves. The logic is unquestionable.

I have worked here at Gamers Heroes since its creation in 2010. I am unable to do my job without a PC, a console, and the required gadgets. Controllers are tools of my trade. I treat them as any other tradies treat their most valuable work tools.

They are rarely, if ever, dropped. They are stored safely. Charged and cleaned regularly.

This narrative that those suffering with poor quality controllers are simply mistreating them, is entirely false.

There is plenty of evidence to support a poorly constructed product. A class action lawsuit was filed against Sony by disgruntled players suffering from poor product quality in February of 2021.

This was later dismissed by Turner and its clients, with prejudice, but Sony agreed “to provide a valuable accommodation” in return.

This is a Google Trends graph that shows the increasing popularity of the search term “PS5 Stick Drift” since the PlayStation 5’s launch in November of 2020.

If this was purely a consumer issue, Cheetos covered fingers and Olympic style hurtling of the product, this would be a relatively consistent but flat lined search result, increasing slowly alongside volume sold.

An image showing someone with Cheetos cheese all over their fingers. This is often used as an argument against gamers that complain about product quality, citing "cheeto fingers" as evidence people do not look after their products

According to Statista, Sony sold 7.8 million PlayStation 5 consoles in 2020, 11.5 million in 2021, and 19.1 million in 2022. A report by CenturyLink suggests that 25% of Americans play games for 3–7 hours per week, 25% for 8–12 hours, and 25% 13 hours or more.

On the low end, the 25% that play 3–7 hours a week, average that out at 5, around 260 hours a year. Based on iFixit’s findings of the average controller having around 400 hours of life expectancy, another 30 weeks at 5 hours a day brings it to about that window.

An image showing a family of four having fun, playing video-games together. Used to depict the casual gaming audience in a positive light
If they were playing the Switch, at least one of those children would be crying – Dad, Mario Kart Champion.

That’s around 82 weeks, just over 18 months. And that’s for casual players. During busy windows, I can easily work 18-hour days, with maybe 4–5 hours of that dedicated to writing.

Combine these statistics and that’s 50% of players will outlive the 400 hours life expectancy within 51 weeks.

For people that game 10+ hours a day, you’re barely looking at 9 months of shelf life on a $69.99/£59.99 peripheral.

Other Controllers Stand The Test Of Time

An image of the Astro C40 Controller and its carry case
The beautiful but now defunct PlayStation 4 controller of choice

I have a Switch Pro Controller that I purchased at launch. Unlike my PlayStation 5 hardware, this has been objected to regular interactions with my feral-like children.

It has been dropped, thrown, spilled on, chewed, dribbled over, and it still goes days on end without needing a charge and still performs flawlessly. Stark contrast to the measly 6 hours of battery life on the PS5 DualSense.

My Xbox Series X controller, which has remained untouched by my lovely offspring, has admittedly not seen as much use, but has survived years.

My AstroC40, easily my favorite controller of all time and a bloody sham it’s not supported on PS5, was purchased in 2019, and no issues.

Summary

So what’s the point of all this? It’s okay to love PlayStation and be excited about everything it does, but we don’t need to mindlessly defend its shortcomings. Consumers should be championing consumers, not corporations.

This is a real consumer issue. A $69.99 product with subpar materials. Pretending this doesn’t exist doesn’t make it so. The PlayStation 5 DualSense controller is, in my opinion, the worst first-party controller released since PlayStation’s conception.

Blaine Smith

Blaine Smith, or Smith as he prefers to be called as he doesn't have to repeat it four times before people get it, is one of the original founders of Gamers Heroes. Smith has been playing games for over 30 years, from Rex & 180 on ZX Spectrum to the latest releases on the ninth generation of consoles. RPG's are his go-to genre, with the likes of Final Fantasy, Legend of Legaia, and Elder Scrolls being among his favorites, but he'll play almost anything once (except Dark Souls). You can best reach him on Twitter

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