{Disarmed} Why the buttons on most controllers are called A, B, X, Y (and why the buttons on the PlayStation are different)

Why the buttons on most controllers are called A, B, X, Y (and why the buttons on the PlayStation are different)

We don't even realize it, but when we play we have already assumed that except in the case of PlayStation, the controllers of other consoles use the A, B, X, Y button scheme . Why do they do it? And why not Sony and its PlayStation?

The truth is that the reasons are not entirely clear and in fact there were old consoles that instead of having buttons "A" and "B" had buttons "1" and "2". Nintendo seems to have been the great promoter of the ABXY scheme: Microsoft copied it on its Xbox, but curiously Sony preferred to go another way that, yes, has become a hallmark of its controls .

How many buttons do we put? The ones we want

The legendary 1983 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was undoubtedly one of the most successful consoles of its time, and with it Nintendo began to define what controllers should be like.

Nes 1 The legendary NES controller was certainly an ode to minimalism.

In addition to the direction buttons and the Select and Start buttons - which have also been maintained with very similar iterations decades later - the engineers and designers of the Japanese company added two action buttons, "A" and "B" , which they defined that generation of video games.

Sega Master System The control for the 1985 Sega Master System had a unique design, of course.

Sega, which released its Master System in October 1985, decided it wasn't going to copy that design entirely. They wanted to be different, so instead of using "A" and "B", they labeled their buttons "1" (which also doubled as the "Start" button) and "2" .

Genesis three Original Sega Mega Drive remote

Things began to get complicated when the Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis in the US) was launched in 1988, which featured a slightly different controller in which there were not two action buttons, but three . Sega decided not to complicate and follow the alphabetical series.

Sega Mega Drive Six Rear control of the Mega Drive with six buttons. Source: Wikipedia.

Those buttons were called "A", "B" and "C", but in Sega they decided that that was not enough and created a new control with three other buttons, which they called "X", "Y" and "Z". Apparently they were trying to follow the scheme of some arcade machines of the time such as 'Street Fighter II'.

Neogeo1 The Neo Geo went its own way in every way, including its controller.

There were those who apparently had no problem with calling the buttons in different ways. The mythical Neo Geo from 1990 used a controller that mimicked that of arcade machines, and on it we found four buttons called "Pad A", "Pad B", "Pad C" and "Pad D" .


But for rare controls, the one on the 1993 Atari Jaguar , which had a very rare numeric keypad at the bottom and three action buttons that he named "A", "B" and "C". At Atari, by the way, they ended up redesigning that controller and adding three more action buttons ("X", "Y", and "Z") and two triggers: people complained that in fighting games the original three buttons didn't they served a lot.

Let's stop the nonsense, Nintendo said: the controllers have to have four action buttons and that's it.

That having six buttons on the front seemed to be too much, and it was Nintendo that ended up imposing an unwritten rule with the launch of the no less legendary Super Nintendo in 1990: the controls of their consoles would have four action buttons, and they would be called "A", "B", "X" and "Y" (they also included the left and right triggers, by the way, cluelessness).

Snes2 The controller of the Super Nintendo (this version with colored buttons was the one that was sold in Japan and Europe) laid the foundations of what would since then be the action buttons on many video game devices.

Why not "A", "B", "C", and "D"? There are several unconfirmed theories. One of them indicates that Nintendo wanted to differentiate the functionalities of the buttons into two different groups.

19 controllers that show how much the way we play video games on consoles has changed In xiaomist.com 19 controllers that show how much the way we play video games on consoles has changed

Another, even more curious, claimed that the problem with those letters is that they sounded too similar in English (especially "B" and "D") , which meant that referring to the buttons with oral instructions could lead to confusion. ("Press B then A". "Wait, did you say B, or D?" Etc).

It may also be that Nintendo also wanted to differentiate itself from its competitor at that time: neither Sony nor Microsoft had shown interest in this segment until then, and Sega was the rival to beat: if they used the "C", Nintendo had no intention of doing so and then also use the "D", it seems.

Nunchuck The Wii was the exception to the norm created by Nintendo itself, but it didn't matter much: it sold like hotcakes, and with good reason.

The truth is that, as we say, it became the de facto standard for many of the controllers that Nintendo used - although the Wii Remote (or "Wiimote") had a different configuration with an "A" button and then two others, "1" and "2" at the bottom .

Dreamcast Sega Dreamcast remote. Source: Wikipedia.

Even Sega adopted that ABXY configuration in its Dreamcast in 1998 - with the Saturn they insisted on the controls with six buttons - and of course Microsoft ended up doing the same in all its Xbox , which in its different controls has followed that same trend and has used the four ABXY buttons.

Xboxsx The Xbox Series X controller continues to maintain the ABXY configuration for the action buttons: the essence is the same, although of course there are some improvements and differences compared to the previous Xbox controllers or the competition.

He has also done it with the Xbox Series S / X controllers, which are basically one more iteration of what we have already seen on the Xbox One. If it works, they say, don't touch it . Or touch it, but leave the buttons as they were.

Sony stands out: they like the four buttons, but not those names

When Sony decided to enter the video game market, it did so with a bet that was unique in everything . The PlayStation marked a milestone and managed to convince the world that not everything had to be Nintendo or Sega in that segment, something that seemed difficult to achieve.

Ps1 2 The original controller for the PlayStation, which would later go a long way. The essence, yes, lasted, and above all those recognizable shapes that identified each button did.

Among its many differential points, at Sony they decided that the remote was also their hallmark. The original PlayStation Controller (which would later become the mythical DualShock) adopted the four action buttons that the Super Nintendo had powered , but Sony did not like giving letter labels to those buttons.

This was told by Teiyu Goto, responsible for the design of the original PlayStation , and who created the iconic buttons of that controller that would eventually become the hallmark of the entire legacy of the PlayStation division.

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Goto explained in an interview with Famitsu in 2010 his reasoning for not using the ABXY scheme :

"Other game companies of the time assigned letters of the alphabet or colors to buttons. We wanted something easy to remember, so we opted for icons or symbols, and immediately afterward I came up with the triangle-circle-X-square combination.
I gave each symbol a meaning and a color. The triangle refers to the point of view; I made it represent one's head or direction and made it green. The square refers to a piece of paper; I made it render menus or documents and made it pink. The circle and the X represent decision making "yes" or "no" and I made them red and blue respectively. People thought those colors were mixed, and I had to reinforce to management that that's what they wanted. "

That, of course, worked. Sony has maintained that same scheme in all its consoles to this day. It has of course done it in the DualSense control of the PS5 , although here the traditional colors that were also already assigned to each of these shapes have been lost . The form may have changed: the substance has not. And the four buttons, either.

The news Why the buttons of most controls are called A, B, X, Y (and why those of the PlayStation are different) was originally published in xiaomist.com by Javier Pastor .

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