Owners of multiple consoles can attest to the clutter and occasionally annoying battery maintenance that comes with having several different controllers kicking around the house. Televisions, stereos and DVD players can all be programmed to use one remote control, but gamers are stuck with just the one proprietary kind.
Some may not find this to be a problem, but apparently Sony thinks it's enough of one to file a patent for a programmable universal game controller. Dug up by GoRumors, the US patent is for a touchscreen controller that could change button layout depending on what it's connected to. Here's how the patent puts it:
“A game console controller includes a hand-holdable housing and a touch sensitive liquid crystal display (LCD) on the housing. The LCD is caused to present, depending on what type of game console a user has selected, a controller key layout for a first type of game console or a controller key layout for a second type of game console. A key layout includes plural keys selectable by a user to input commands to a game console.”
With all the hubbub about the quality and accuracy of the on-screen touch controls found in many iPhone and iPod Touch games, it's tough to say who would want to experience potentially similar issues on their home consoles. Buttons provide tactile feedback and let you know where your thumbs are, something a flat touchscreen simply doesn't do.
A patent filing doesn't necessarily mean this will ever see the light of day. Still, it's a novel idea, but it's seeming less and less feasible as console makers move towards motion control and further differentiate themselves on how players interact with games; good luck replicating a Wii Remote or Sony's own Arc with that.