Sony's DualSense controller is too good not to get an official PC driver

Sony Dualsense
(Image credit: Sony)

Over the last few months, the most talked-about features of the new consoles were their super-fast SSDs and ray tracing capabilities. Those things are exciting, but once you get your hands on a PlayStation 5, it's hard to think about either as much as its new controller. The DualSense is as good as everyone says—the combination of its haptic motors and microphone do more to make you feel connected to a game you're playing than ray traced lighting ever could. Its adaptive triggers are just as good. They're killer features, and it will be a huge missed opportunity if Sony doesn't release an official Windows driver to let PC gamers take advantage of them. 

We liked the DualShock 4 a lot, and even recommended it as the best controller for PC for years. That was in spite of the fact that Sony never released a PC driver, meaning you had to use a tool like DS4Windows to configure the controller. More recently, Steam's built-in controller configurator has made it much easier to use just about any PC controller in a ton of games that would otherwise only work well with an Xbox gamepad.

When it comes to plug-and-play support, Microsoft still has a huge leg up on PC.

It's a no-brainer that Microsoft would have easy controller support in Windows, but there's no reason Sony shouldn't, too. It did release a Bluetooth adapter for the PS4 controller in 2016, enabling support for its headphone jack and touchpad. But that only worked with its PS Now streaming service until the PC community came to the rescue with an updated version of DS4Windows. Without that tool, the DualShock 4 could only work as a generic controller using the outdated DirectInput driver. For a lot of games, that was fine—and the DualShock 4's touchpad wasn't really a big selling point, anyway.

The DualSense is a different story. The adaptive triggers can dramatically change how it feels to pull a bow string or throw a punch, requiring real, convincing force to push down. It's not just a haptic motor pulsing under your finger. It's real resistance. I can't wait to see how well racing and action games take advantage of them.

The haptics and microphone feel a bit more gimmicky, but dammit, it's a good gimmick. In Spider-Man: Miles Morales, I loved how the controller subtly pulsed to replicate the clacking of the New York subway, and feeling little pitter-patters as Miles tapped on a keyboard. The controller speaker uses sound effects in time with the haptics to reinforce footsteps and punches and other effects that really add to immersion.

I don't know how many game developers outside Sony's first party studios will fully take advantage of these features, but the best way to encourage everyone to take advantage of them seems obvious: Make the DualSense work on PC, too.

A PC driver would tap into millions more players, which is a great bonus for developers like Ubisoft who put their games on every platform. It's one thing to go the extra mile to make a game really shine on the PS5, but to make it shine for PS5 and PC players? Easy sell. More developers embracing the adaptive triggers and haptics would also reinforce the PlayStation as the "default" console to program for (or, at least, the DualSense the default controller).

With a fully featured PC driver, Sony could also sell more DualSense controllers to PC gamers who don't even own PS5s, luring them away from decade-old wired Xbox 360 controllers. It's an opportunity to sell more hardware and make their own console look better, too. 

Regardless of what Sony does, it will still be possible to use a DualSense on PC. It's already possible, in fact, as a generic DirectInput controller, or through Steam's controller mapper. But using it like that, you miss out on the adaptive triggers and the haptics and everything else special it offers. Maybe the PC community will unlock those on PC in a tool like DS4Windows, but this time around that's not going to be good enough—without official support, PC developers won't be confident enough to fully make use of the DualSense in their games.

With Sony even starting to port some of its own games to PC, a DualSense driver is a clear slam dunk waiting to happen. All Sony has to do is pick up the ball.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).