Categories: world

Japanese PS4 can now use X to choose, but why didn't they already?

The standout feature of PS4's latest firmware update was Remote Play for iOS devices, but buried in changelog was another seemingly minor addition: from version 6.50 in the PS4 console firmware, you can reshape the console's "enter" button from "O" to "X" in Japanese consoles. If you're a PS4 owner living outside Japan, you've probably never considered which button is the default confirmation button on the console. In the West, we use the X button to confirm, and the O button handles closing and cancellation tasks. But Japan has the opposite convention, creating a less than surprisingly annoying inconvenience to all non-Japanese owners of Japanese PS4s. I first encountered this phenomenon when I tried to play "Metal Gear Solid 2: Freedom Zone" Version 6.50 in the console firmware update finally fixes this annoying so that owners of Japanese PS4s can manually decide how to have two buttons for to work within the system menus. But the more interesting part of this story is why Japan and the rest of the world stopped beating opposite control systems for one of the most fundamental parts of a console's functionality in the first place. I first encountered this phenomenon when I tried to play Metal Gear Solid 2: Freedom Zone on PS2. The game was the second I ever owned for my PS2, which was my first console. I loaded the console up, popped the disc into the drive, pressed the "Start" button to move from the title screen to the main menu…

The standout feature of PS4’s latest firmware update was Remote Play for iOS devices, but buried in changelog was another seemingly minor addition: from version 6.50 in the PS4 console firmware, you can reshape the console’s “enter” button from “O” to “X” in Japanese consoles.

If you’re a PS4 owner living outside Japan, you’ve probably never considered which button is the default confirmation button on the console. In the West, we use the X button to confirm, and the O button handles closing and cancellation tasks. But Japan has the opposite convention, creating a less than surprisingly annoying inconvenience to all non-Japanese owners of Japanese PS4s.

Version 6.50 in the console firmware update finally fixes this annoying so that owners of Japanese PS4s can manually decide how to have two buttons for to work within the system menus. But the more interesting part of this story is why Japan and the rest of the world stopped beating opposite control systems for one of the most fundamental parts of a console’s functionality in the first place.

I first encountered this phenomenon when I tried to play Metal Gear Solid 2: Freedom Zone on PS2. The game was the second I ever owned for my PS2, which was my first console. I loaded the console up, popped the disc into the drive, pressed the “Start” button to move from the title screen to the main menu and then tried to start a new game.

To my intense surprise, the game immediately kicked me back to the title screen. I blinked, confused about what had happened and tried to do the same again. I was kicked out once more. And again. And again. Eventually – and I promise I don’t do this – I actually went back to the store where I bought the game and replaced it with a new copy. I literally thought my disc was defective.

Obviously, everything that happened was that I pressed the button we usually think of in the west as the confirmation button (X) in a Japanese game that used the opposite (O). I was kicked back to the game title screen because I continuously pressed the Cancel button.

It is not just the series Metal Gear Solid that used the Japanese control chart in their western editions. Many Japanese games have over the years used O instead of X for their confirmation button, including entries in Final Fantasy Dragon Quest and Enders Zone Final Fantasy series. But over the years, many have since switched to using X in their Western editions (sometimes controversial, as with Metal Gear Solid ‘s fourth post).

Version 6.50 of PS4’s software completely fix this problem. Many games have their controls hard-coded, so if you use X or O to confirm you come down to the region where your games were produced instead of the console.

However, what the new software does allows you to change which button is used to select in the console’s system menus, which means that if you play a Western game on a Japanese PS4, you do not need to switch between two different control systems.

Until all developers start using the same control scheme for all PlayStation games, the problem will not go. But what is less clear is how exactly this difference came in the first place. There is very little crucial evidence out there, but there are some different theories.


The NES controller was the first of Nintendo’s consoles to place the primary button on the right. Picture: Nintendo

The first is that they are derived from the differences that cut up between Sega and Nintendo’s consoles back in the 1980s and 90s. Nintendo’s first console, NES, had its confirmation button on the right (A) and its interrupt button on the left (B) when it was released in 1983. But when Sega released the Master System in 1985, the opposite layout, with its primary “1” button on the left and The “2” button to the right.

This does not explain how Sony’s PlayStation managed to use both, despite having the same controller design worldwide. Why would PlayStation developers follow the Sega leadership in some parts of the world and Nintendo’s in others?

The original PlayStation control was very different from the Sega and Nintendo controls that had come before it. Rather than using letters or numbers that had a clearly defined order, Sony used its four now-iconic forms instead, which meant that the developers in theory had more choice over how they arranged their controls.

Then there may have been a case of cultural differences between Japan and the West that determined which symbol was meaningful to use as a confirmation button and which was sensible as interrupt button.

In Japan, the O button did most of it as a confirmation button. The cross shape “X” is known as “batsu” in Japanese and it has similar connotations as in the west – no one wants a lot of Xs on their test results – but the “maru” circle shape has a similar meaning to the marking in western culture. For example, game programs show a circle when a participant gets a response right.


Sega’s Master System established the company’s congress to order the buttons from left to right. Image: Evan Amos / Wikimedia Commons

O do not have the same positive connotations in the West. So when it came to choosing a controller’s confirmation button, there was no cultural choice. In his absence, a theory is that developers settled on X because it looks like a target (for example, “X marks the location”), while the cultural neutral O can be used as a cancellation. Alternatively, they could only have used the X button because of the placement, which is central and easier to hover over while pressing other buttons.

Whatever the reason, the exercise seemed to hold onto Western developers, and it was further enforced when Microsoft released the original Xbox with its A button placed in the same location as the X button on Sony’s console.

Sony has been pleased with every handed console generation to allow its Japanese software to work in a way and for the Western software to function as another. Although we are not closer to training exactly where these differences came from, at least PS4’s system software can now accommodate both styles – at least Japanese hardware.

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Faela