A couple of months ago, when the DualShock 4 Back Button Attachment was announced, I was skeptical. Would the gaming market really want a $30 plastic controller attachment with a costly OLED screen that adds two extra buttons?
Turns out, yes. And it sold out almost immediately.
Now the stock situation isn’t just dire… it’s nonexistent. I haven’t seen a single shipment even hit shelves in my local stores, let alone any restocks. I imagine that the seemingly small initial shipment was entirely pre-ordered. Best Buy has stocked a few sets of open-box returned units online, but over on Amazon it’s a crazy land of price gouging for the few third-party vendors who managed to snag one.
This $30 add-on is now going for around $90, an absurd price that no one should pay. I’m desperately curious as to whether the attachment turned out to be worth the money…but not so desperate as to pay three times its actual price.
The Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 had similar shipment issues at launch, but since it was an update of a proven product, Microsoft probably had a good idea of how many units would sell. In contrast, the Back Button Attachment feels more like a shot in the dark, with its awkward name and lack of marketing. In grand Sony fashion, it was announced shortly before its release with no fanfare, and now that it’s a wild success, there have been precisely zero updates.
I thought perhaps the PS5 reveal would show a new controller with similar back button functionality, either built-in or through the same attachment, but Sony has quiet about their new console’s form factor. They don’t really need to show their hand yet, since the PS4 just crossed an astronomical 109 million unit installed base (see page 8 here).
If even one tenth of that audience wants a back button attachment, that’s an easy 10 million units sold right there. It took Microsoft nearly a year to ship their millionth unit of the first Elite Controller, but that’s also a more expensive and complex product, even taking into account the OLED screen.
With current manufacturing challenges due to the Coronavirus and other supply chain concerns, and the pressure mounting for the new consoles to make a big splash and meet aggressive demand this fall, I’m worried that Sony will quietly forget about their controller attachment, especially if it isn’t also designed for the PS5. They may just be content that the first shipment sold out, and call it good.
After all, once the manufacturing pipeline is back to full speed, won’t they want to spend all their money and energy on building PS5's?
I hope I’m wrong, because I recently dove back in and bought a new PS4 Pro so I could play Final Fantasy VII Remake. My last PS4 Pro killed itself with a rare internal firmware chip bug that often costs users money to repair even if their system is technically still under warranty. Hilariously, my system was such a new SKU (a non-bundled version of the quieter-running Red Dead 2 variant) that Sony didn’t have the serial number in their system yet when I went to see if I could somehow get a warranty repair.
Putting all that behind me, I now find myself desperately curious about Sony’s OLED screen and button attachment, with no easy way to buy one for a reasonable price. $30 was already the top price I’d be willing to pay for such an attachment. I hope to bring you a review of it some day if I can get my hands on one.
I’d love to be wrong about Sony’s manufacturing focus shifting away from their surprise-hit new peripheral, and I hope that Sony will give their massive fan base some news soon about the PS5. Maybe the attachment will be compatible with the new system and come in a whole array of fun colors …or maybe it’ll be a weird experiment in selling small OLED panels that never gets restocked. It’s a coin flip at this point, and I’m eager to see the outcome.