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What is Haptic Feedback? The vibration technology explained

Game developers aim to make their titles more immersive each year, adding features such as ray tracing, higher resolutions and Haptic Feedback to create more impactful experiences for gamers.

You may come across the term haptic feedback before, as the technology gains more traction with game consoles and external hardware.

If you want to learn more about haptic feedback and how it can elevate your gaming experiences, as well as what hardware utilises it, make sure to keep on reading.

What is haptic feedback?

Haptic feedback is not just used in the world of gaming, although the term has become synonymous with the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller. 

Haptic feedback is also referred to as vibration feedback. When you get a text or a call on your mobile phone, the vibration you feel is a form of haptic feedback. 

However, the feedback we get during gaming is a little more complex than the rumble from a text message, as haptic feedback has varied intensities of vibration depending on the scenario, unlike a mobile phone. 

PS5 DualSense
Image Credit (Sony)

Haptic feedback offers more impact when it’s trying to simulate what it would feel like to interact with something in real life. For example, the haptic feedback in a controller may feel more subtle or more delicate if your character is running around in the rain, but feel more intense when firing a gun in an FFS title.

Overall, haptic feedback is an easy way of communicating different feelings and sensations to the user through varying levels of rumbles and vibrations, with the aim of creating a more immersive experience. 

How does haptic feedback impact gaming?

As we’ve mentioned, haptic feedback is designed to better communicate to a user how it feels to be in a particular environment. With this aim in mind, it can be said that haptic feedback in the gaming world is meant to better immerse the player into their game.

This can be done in a multitude of ways. The DualSense PS5 controller uses its adaptive triggers and rumble to relay how it feels to be standing near an explosion or running through a post-apocalyptic world as a small cat in Stray. 

While some games aim to improve how immersive they are via graphical improvements, such as ray tracing or a 4K resolution, haptic feedback gives users instant and direct communication.

It’s important to note that while some controllers and hardware do support haptic feedback, the game itself also needs to support the technology. Certain games on the PS5 do not include haptics as part of the gameplay, meaning that you won’t be able to experience it in every title you play on that console.

Which devices use haptic feedback?

While the PS5 DualSense controller is one of the best examples of haptic feedback on the market, the technology has been around long before the latest Sony console, implemented across a wide array of devices.

The DualSense controller features adaptive triggers and haptic feedback within the controller to communicate with the player during supported games. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is a fantastic example of this, as the controller has feedback for every gun and secondary functions on the adaptive triggers.

Microsoft introduced haptic feedback when it launched the Xbox One, the controllers featuring impulse triggers. This helped to create a better in-game directionality and made the supported games feel more immersive. However, it can be said that the DualSense controller stands head and shoulders above the Xbox controller in terms of implementation.

Neon Joy-Con
Image Credit (Nintendo)

The Xbox Series X and Series S debuted with the same controllers from the previous consoles, with no upgrades in sight at the current time of writing. It’s safe to say that Microsoft has not yet reached its full potential when it comes to vibration technology.

While Nintendo has never actually used the term haptic feedback, the Nintendo Switch controllers implement the feature very well in the Joy-Con controllers. The company coined the term Rumble HD, and it is best implemented in the game 1-2 Switch.

This game encourages players to use the motion controllers and haptic feedback to complete simple missions, like counting how many balls are hidden inside a box. Nintendo has not used the technology in the same way Sony has, but it can add an extra level of immersion depending on the game.

Razer HyperSense headset with RGB lighting
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Companies that are not dedicated to making console hardware have also thrown their hats into the haptic feedback ring. The main selling point of the Razer Kraken V3 HyperSense Headset is haptic technology; it picks up on key sound cues in games and music and replicates the sensations through vibrations in the earcups.

This means the headset will rumble and vibrate during a game to enhance your experience, meaning that every gunshot, explosion or beat drop will be emphasised via haptics, creating a much more immersive experience than a regular headset. The technology works so well this headset even made it onto our Best Gaming Headset roundup, proving how much haptic feedback can impact your gaming experience.

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