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The image below shows the controllers of the three eighth-generation consoles (Xbox One, PS4, Wii U).

Eighth-gen controllers

As you can see, both the PS4 and Wii U controllers have symmetrical analog sticks, which seems like a very natural design choice. The Xbox controller, however, has non-symmetrical analog sticks.

What is the reasoning behind non-symmetrical analog sticks and are they intended to offer increased usability over their symmetrical counterparts?

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Really this is more an industrial design question than a UX one. – Jimmy Breck-McKye May 25 '13 at 9:38
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The asymmetrical design of the analog sticks is based on ergonomics and the typical use case. The left stick is at the neutral position for your left thumb, while the buttons on the right are at the neutral position for your right thumb. The vast majority of the time, you will be using the left stick and right buttons, so it makes sense that they are positioned for the most comfortable thumb position.

If you were to make the sticks symmetrical, you would have one of your thumbs out of a neutral position for the majority of the time, which is likely to increase fatigue and possibly cause cramping.

I'm not arguing that the xbox controller is necessarily better than the others, just that there is solid reasoning behind the design. Personally I prefer it, but many others disagree.

For the record, Cyborg sells a reversible xbox controller for those that really hate this, so that you can have a symmetrical version.

enter image description here

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I'm not complaining about this answer (it's correct), or JohnGB (who writes good answers), but I don't understand why this answer gets up votes, whereas mine (which says the same thing and more) doesn't receive any at all. – Jimmy Breck-McKye May 25 '13 at 18:59
Great points; I'd never thought of it as a matter of comfort before. I wonder if PlayStation users experience cramping after long sessions of analog stick-heavy gaming, but that would be another question altogether. Thanks. – Vulcan May 25 '13 at 19:15
@JimmyBreck-McKye I had to leave the computer for urgent matters, so I only read John's answer (and upvoted it), and hadn't read (and upvoted) yours until just a few minutes ago. My apologies. – Vulcan May 25 '13 at 19:16
@JimmyBreck-McKye John's answer has a number of features that make it awesome easy to read: a picture (instant bonus), short sentences, short paragraphs, and key words are emphasized. Also, it is more focussed on answering the question without going into secondary information. So yeah, +1's ensue. – Koen Lageveen May 27 '13 at 20:23
@KoenLageveen - I couldn't find a natural split for the paragraphs, I don't add images unless they illustrate anything meaningful and I certainly don't like the habit of randomly formatting words as bold. This community already has serious problems with rewarding obvious answers to easy questions - actively rejecting more complete answers because their detail makes them (marginally) harder to read takes us from bad to worse. – Jimmy Breck-McKye May 28 '13 at 11:19

It's an ergonomics matter. The upper control faces are the fallow areas where the thumbs rest, and the contain the most important controls - controls for movement (which need analogue stick control because of the prevalence of 3D environments) and controls for core player actions (which involve discrete events that map directly to buttons). Meanwhile the lower faces, which require flexing to reach, can be used for less important, less common actions like refiguring camera angles (which demands fine analogue controls) and an unknown set of tertiary actions that might be movements but might instead be commands, both of which are served by digital direction buttons.

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