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What happened to DualSense's back buttons?

This week brought the long-awaited reveal of the DualSense, Sony's new controller for the PlayStation 5. While the design of the controller has caused a bit of a stir on social media, there's one very important thing that seems to be missing. What happened to the buttons that were supposedly on the back of the DualSense?

We actually saw a patent for a PlayStation 5 controller toward the end of last year that seems to be pretty much in line with the DualSense design. We even saw a later patent that featured multiple back buttons, yet not one made it onto the DualSense. What gives?

Inverse's Danny Paez actually has a fairly convincing theory regarding the missing back buttons. The reason that Sony may have skipped the back buttons most likely had to do with pricing concerns.

When you take a good look at the console controller market, it's easy to see that more buttons means a higher price point. Gamers will pay up for that "pro" experience. For instance, the Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 for Xbox One will run you a cool $179.99, and that controller notably features those sweet, sweet back paddles.

Granted, that controller also has a few other features that set it apart from the competition, including different presets that allow gamers to switch up their button mapping and voice commands. Still, the general idea is that the DualSense is already loaded with so many features. Making an even more intricate controller would mean driving up the price of the PlayStation 5.

"It would be a safer bet for Sony to release a more affordable, basic controller first, and later launching a pricer, rear-paddle variant for hardcore gamers craving those extra buttons," Paez wrote. "The announcement of the paddle-less DualSense is likely a pricing strategy from Sony."

As we reported previously, there are major concerns regarding the overall price of the PlayStation 5. Sony is spending a ton of money manufacturing its new console, and it's feared the PS5 would have to retail at around $470-$500 to even come close to making a profit. Maybe Sony just doesn't want to put even more of a strain on consumer wallets. After all, the PS3 initially suffered in sales when it launched at at a significantly higher price than the Xbox 360.

Fans on Twitter also have a few theories regarding the new controller's lack of back buttons.

One user seems to think that the back buttons were axed out of fear that the extra buttons make the controller too large to hold comfortably. As this person says, "With all the extra features they jammed in the controller that made it chonky, maybe it made it tougher to fit extra buttons? Would be nice to have more customization given the size."

However, there are at least a few fans who think Sony has deliberately hidden part of the controller from us. One fan mentions, "They were careful not to show us the back of the PS5 controller. They weren't quite ready to reveal the back buttons and explain their functionality."

This is an interesting theory, to be sure. If you take a look at the publicity photos released for the DualSense controller, it's kind of hard to ignore that we only see it from the front and from the side, albeit positioned in a way that makes it impossible to see the rear of the controller. Still, it wouldn't make a ton of sense for Sony to hype up the announcement of a new controller and then only show us about 75% of what it could do, would it?

It's also worth noting that an attachment is available for the current generation's DualShock 4 that gives it back button functionality. In fact, the PS4 Back Button Attachment dropped only recently, which kind of made some people think that Sony was getting folks ready for the imminent arrival of a PS5 controller with similar functionality. The DualShock 4 Back Button Attachment also features different presets that allow players to map the back buttons to their preferred functions, somewhat similar to Microsoft's Elite Wireless Controller Series 2. Since it's a bit of a cumbersome peripheral and not its own standalone controller, however, the Back Button Attachment only retails for around $29.99, significantly less than the Elite controller. 

In other words, if the DualSense indeed lacks any back buttons, there's a chance that Sony could be considering releasing a second Attachment-style accessory. This would be a way to please DualSense users who want those extra buttons while cutting back somewhat on those rumored system costs. After all, if the system does indeed end up costing around $500, gamers may not be quite as hyped for a controller that runs them around a third of that price.

Then again, Sony could be planning to release a second pro-style controller for the PlayStation 5. We'll be sure to keep an eye out on any updates on that front.