How the Marvel Known as the ‘Share Button’ Came to Be
That simple little Share button on the top-left of the DualShock 4, between the d-pad and the touchpad, completely revolutionized screencapturing and livestreaming for console users. Before this PlayStation marvel, even capturing a screenshot or recording video from a console took some hefty (often pricey) equipment. Upon the release of the PlayStation 4 in 2013, Twitch suddenly had a massive influx of new streamers and social media was flooded with in-game captured pics. The Share button helped birth the idea of a Photo Mode, something most players clamor for with PS4 games. It’s hard to imagine not having such easy sharing/streaming access, when it really wasn’t all that long ago when that was the case.
Strangely enough, the concept behind the Share button did not come from the PlayStation design team, but from a former employee at Sony Santa Monica, Nathan Gary. One of the key designers behind the Share button, Toshi Aoki, explained how the concept was born:
The concept of sharing was really important to the PlayStation 4 console from the start. At that time, a lot of players who were uploading game videos were using capture boards through their PCs, and it required a lot of setup. In that discussion, we had a lot of members of different departments of SCE [now known as SIE], and our game teams like Naughty Dog, Guerrilla Games, Santa Monica Studio … In one of those discussions, Santa Monica had the idea to simply and easily share out gaming content.
Aoki also said that the team had already planned to auto-record the last few minutes of gameplay, similar to what the console does now. However, they wanted something easier to use to instantly share gameplay, and the idea of a button couldn’t have been easier to understand.
While the Sony execs were fine with the Share button, they did worry about adding yet another button to the controller. They already felt that the controller had too many buttons as is, so they took a vote among the game teams to decide which button would be replaced. The Select button, which hasn’t really been properly used since the early NES days, was put on the chopping block.
“I mean, it’s kind of obvious,” Aoki laughed. “The joke is that Start never starts the game, and Select doesn’t select anything.”
The concepts of Start and Select were then fused together for the current Options button.
However, game developers weren’t one hundred percent on board with the idea of easily sharing their content. The game teams didn’t want spoilers leaking early, and so Sony agreed to compromise by allowing devs to determine what parts of the game could be shared. Aoki recalled that many developers didn’t want anything to be shared.
On a system level, it’s really hard for us to understand what the game wants to do, so what we ended up doing was giving game developers the power to select what to block, when to block, or whether to block at all. When we would say we wanted to share everything, some developers would reply with: ‘We don’t want to share! ‘We don’t want to share!’
At the beginning, some teams were really nervous. They’d block the whole recording until you finish the game, and you could only do it on the second playthrough. Of course, that got some negative feedback from the player side. I think the game team now realizes the potential and meaning of having a lot of players sharing the cool content out, and how that represents a positive for the game.
Aoki said they are still learning the best methods for incorporating the sharing feature, especially SharePlay, which allows players to let their friends take over the game for them. While he knows they all still have plenty to learn when it comes to sharing, he emphasized that sharing enriches the game, regardless if the players realize it.
Because of all the content you see on the various social networks, even when you’re playing God of War, you think, ‘oh, I didn’t see that quest, or that enemy, or that scene, or that beautiful waterfall. I’m gonna do that.’ It creates that mode for people to go back and play again, to try to see different paths. It opens up the depth of gameplay and story for people to explore more. Games are becoming more open world, as opposed to just a linear story, and I think sharing has absolutely helped with that.
What are some of your favorite sharing moments you’ve had with games?