After years of complaints from disabled gamers about the limitations of the PlayStation5’s DualSense controller, Sony is taking its first formal steps to increase control accessibility on its newest console. The company says Project Leonardo, announced Wednesday night at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, was designed “with key contributions from accessibility experts, community members, and game developers.” The upcoming control solution aims to let players with disabilities “play games more easily, more comfortably, and for longer periods,” according to Sony’s announcement.
The Project Leonardo device as shown consists of a single arcade-style analog joystick and a control ring circled with eight large, white input plates and a massive circular input surface in the center. Those buttons can all be customized to any standard input or combination of inputs, and the device itself can lie flat on a surface without needing to be actively held.
Project Leonardo will come with a number of swappable stick caps, buttons, and labels for customization, as well as a support to adjust the distance between the stick and buttons. Players will be able to use up to two Project Leonardo controllers and/or mix and match them with a DualSense controller as a single input, letting a friend or family member assist cooperatively with the secondary device. Players will also be able to connect a variety of existing external accessibility accessories through four standard 3.5 mm AUX ports.
“The greatest part about the new PlayStation controller is it’s designed from the ground up to be not standard,” AbleGamers Senior Director of Development Steve Spohn said in a promotional video alongside the announcement.
Sony’s announcement comes over four years after the launch of Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller, which features a strikingly different design with two large circular black buttons. Despite that long lag, Sony says Project Leonardo is still “currently in development,” with no word of a potential release window or price point.
Still, the promise of an official PS5 accessibility controller in the future should be welcome news to many players. Krissie A., who can’t use a DualSense for extended periods without excessive hand pain, told Ars last year, “I’ve played on Sony consoles since the original PlayStation, [and] to be excluded from a console due to my disability is a bit of a kick in the teeth, and, to be honest, quite unacceptable in 2022.”