Hold up, was that a PS5 controller in the Apple Vision Pro reveal?

Apple Vision Pro reveal trailer screengrab of someone playing an NBA game with a Sony DualSense controller
(Image credit: Apple)

A few days have passed now since the reveal of Apple Vision Pro, the company's long-awaited – and heavily speculated – mixed reality headset. It's fair to say that this new device has taken the VR scene by storm, finally giving a mainstream spotlight to this type of technology. After all, when Apple says that something is the "future of computing" there's an air of prophesy about it, so that tends to garner some traction. 

As someone who covers the best VR headsets for a living, I have plenty of thoughts on Vision Pro - for one, it's packed with some incredible innovations and exciting prospects for the market. On the other hand, that price makes it entirely unattainable for most buyers, and in truth, there wasn't a single use-case shown in that reveal that we haven't seen from these devices before. In typical Apple fashion, it's arrived late to the party and given things a shinier coat of paint.

Like any platform, Apple Vision Pro will live and die on the content that's made for it. While you can argue the iSnorkel is a new form of computing that makes all content AR and VR compatible, I'm not convinced turning 2D content into mixed reality is enough to ship admittedly expensive units. Just look at how clunky the Meta Quest Pro's adoption of mixed reality has been - Metaverse included or not. So just like any other gaming device: the answer might just lie in third-party support. 

Apple Vision Pro user holding a DualSense

(Image credit: Apple)

This brings me to the thing that perhaps confused me most of all about that viral Vision Pro reveal video. About a third of the way through, when talking about the different entertainment that can be accessed on Vision Pro, a short clip was shown wherein someone plays games on the headset via a linked-up DualSense, the controller designed for the PlayStation 5.

The video makes clear that you can link up any wireless gamepad (which basically means any of the best PC controllers) to Vision Pro in order to play games. But with the pantheon of modern video game controllers to choose from, why did Apple choose to include the PlayStation 5 controller?

Apple, when it comes to gaming, is a less-than-ideal ecosystem. Only a handful of games on Steam are Mac compatible, and most folks don't buy Macs with their central intent being to play games as they would on the best gaming PCs. But with the VR gaming market being so established in the PC space already, as well as in Meta's storefronts, Apple may need to open up its OS doors somehow if it really wants to make gaming an integral part of this new platform. 

Yes, there is the option of developers porting existing games, and yes, this is mainly a mixed-reality computing device, not a gaming-specific headset. On the flip side, Apple wouldn't have included a section about gaming in its reveal if that wasn't a segment of its goals with Vision Pro.

Sony DualSense controller on wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

But again, I have to ask - why a PS5 controller? The obvious answer is that the alternative is an Xbox gamepad, and Xbox is owned by Microsoft - Apple's nemesis. But isn't Sony a competitor in the VR market? PlayStation, just a few months ago, launched its second VR platform, PSVR 2. Do they really want to be a contributor to Apple stealing its VR hype already? As I've just touched on, Vision Pro isn't geared just toward gaming, whereas PSVR 2 is. But even so, in the VR space, there aren't that many rival devices, so surely Apple and PlayStation view one another as bitter rivals in this arena, not allies?

I'm also curious about what went on behind the scenes to make that DualSense cameo happen. Surely Apple would have asked Sony for permission? Surely PlayStation would have had to say "yes" to its controller's inclusion? It's not as though PlayStation needs more screen time, it's currently hammering Xbox from pillar to post when it comes to hardware sales. Would Apple and Sony really gang up just to take a cheap jab at Microsoft?

Apple Vision Pro user smiling while playing games

(Image credit: Apple)

More importantly, how far might the two companies go against their common enemy? Is there potentially something more to that DualSense appearance than a quick jab? Could we maybe be on the verge of some sort of PlayStation 5/Apple device alliance when it comes to games?

The answer is most likely an unequivocal no. Both companies are traditionally very protective of their IPs and their ecosystems, so I for one would be extremely surprised to see that alliance take shape. Conversely, it isn't impossible - PlayStation has been moving more of its exclusive games onto PC lately, albeit without Mac OS support. With Microsoft's Game Pass being such a multiplatform competitor at this point, maybe opening up PS5 exclusives to Apple devices is something Sony is interested in to capture the hearts of more gamers.

There are so many questions that linger unanswered when it comes to Apple Vision Pro. One thing's for certain though; if Apple wants to entice people who play games to buy a Vision Pro, then they need games, and PlayStation does have a fair few of those.

Want a different controller for your gaming activities? Have a look at the best PS5 controllers, the best Xbox Series X controllers, and the best joysticks.

Duncan Robertson
Hardware Editor

Ever since playing Journey at the age of 15, I’ve been desperate to cover video games for a living. After graduating from Edinburgh Napier University with a degree in Journalism, I contributed to the Scottish Games Network and completed an Editorial Internship over at Expert Reviews. Besides that, I’ve been managing my own YouTube channel and Podcast for the last 7 years. It’s been a long road, but all that experience somehow landed me a dream job covering gaming hardware. I’m a self-confessing PlayStation fanboy, but my experience covering the larger business and developer side of the whole industry has given me a strong knowledge of all platforms. When I’m not testing out every peripheral I can get my hands on, I’m probably either playing tennis or dissecting game design for an upcoming video essay. Now, I better stop myself here before I get talking about my favourite games like HUNT: Showdown, Dishonored, and Towerfall Ascension. Location: UK Remote