A photo of what appears to be Sony's revamped DualShock controller has hit the web, just days before the company is expected to take the wraps off its next-gen console.
Destructoid first posted the photo (above) late last week. It later updated to say that sources confirmed the authenticity of the photo, but warned that it might be an early prototype.
"It does look like a touch screen has been worked into the middle of the controller," Destructoid wrote. "What's that thing on the top? Also, get a load of those analog sticks. They look like belly buttons. Gross!"
Kotaku also cited an industry source that said that the controller in question is real, but may not represent the final product. Meanwhile, IGN dissected the PlayStation 4 accessory, pointing to adjusted shoulder buttons, a possible share button, a new D-pad, front-facing speakers, new analog sticks, and the much-talked-about touch pad, similar to the one on the PS Vita.
A similar version popped up in the GameTrailers.com forum in late January 2011, but received little traction until this week, when various tech and gamer sites picked up on the news.
If the rumours are true, this marks Sony's first major aesthetic controller redesign since the DualShock was announced in 1997, and a move into a new era of gaming.
Sony did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, ComputerAndVideoGames.com reported a month ago that PlayStation had simply scrapped the 16-year-old DualShock controller in favour of a very different PlayStation 4 accessory.
Engineers were "trying to emulate the same user interface philosophies as the PS Vita," the site said, pointing to the touch-screen ability of the handheld PlayStation console.
Gamers holding their breath for more details may not have to wait much longer: Sony is holding a special PlayStation-themed event on 20 February in New York — fuelling speculation that the company is gearing up to unveil its next-generation machine, codenamed "Orbis."