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The problem with D-pads and how a rumoured new 360 controller might fix it

For years, Nintendo ownedthe patent (opens in new tab)for the 'cross' directional button. One cross-shaped button, see-sawing on a central pivot, is a design that's been exclusive to Nintendo machines. Sony cleverly got round this problem by using a similar system, but separating the four points with plastic to give the appearance of four separate buttons. Clever.

Above: The NES joypad with its iconic 'cross' design. Cleverly inset to avoid patent infringement on PS3

But as any fighting fan will know, using the DualShock for fireball motions can cause severe blisters. In theory, then, a larger, circular D-pad with a smoother surface should be perfect. Just like the 360 pad's right? Wrong.

Above: Opinions are like D-pads - every controller has one. The 360's D-pad is far from perfect though

Microsoft's D-padis too easily tilted to the sides. If you push on what you believe to be 'down', the elevated circle will almost always tilt left or right as you do, resulting in a diagonal movement instead. So MS has reportedly gone back to the drawing board and come up with a very original idea.

Rotate the D-pad 90 degrees and it will now pop up from its burrow, so it's protruding out from the joypad, more like a stick. Movement should now be that much more exaggerated, so you can fireball all you want with easy rolls, or tap in commands for dragon punches. Sounds great.

Of course, we've had 'fighting pads' before. There's a six-button Street fighter IV controller for 360 already available, and Capcom released a PS2 pad with six buttons to celebrate Street Fighter II's 15th anniversary. Both bore more than a passing resemblance to the Sega Saturn pad, which is probably the best fighting pad of all time. It featured a slightly elevated yet chunky D-pad and six face buttons, yet still had two shoulder buttons to spare.

Above: (clockwise from left) PS2's 6-button pad looks very much likethe Saturn's standard controller. The recent SFIV pad is available right now and aims to be the ultimate fighting pad

Nintendo's very clever 1985 patent expired in 2005, but nobody's raced to implement it into their controllers. Maybe everyone thinks it would be a backward step to revert to what looks like a four-way d-pad, even if it isn't.

At least Microsoft is trying to do rectify the final problem with its superb controller. It's unclear whether thisrumoured 'pop-out pad' would replace the existing pack-in model or be a separate accessory specifically marketed as a fighting fan's pad. As long as it doesn't pop out when you don't want it to, it could be a welcome addition to the family.

What do you think? Does the pop-out pad sound like a good idea? Let us know in the comments

31 Aug, 2010

Source:Joystiq (opens in new tab)

Justin was a GamesRadar staffer for 10 years but is now a freelancer, musician and videographer. He's big on retro, Sega and racing games (especially retro Sega racing games) and currently also writes for Play Magazine,, PC Gamer and TopTenReviews, as well as running his own YouTube channel. Having learned to love all platforms equally after Sega left the hardware industry (sniff), his favourite games include Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams, Zelda BotW, Sea of Thieves, Sega Rally Championship and Treasure Island Dizzy.