Google is finally considering adding controller rumble support to Android
Google has reignited hopes of support for rumble-enabled controllers in Android, many months after the issue was first raised on the Google Issue Tracker. In the early days of Android, interest in gaming with the platform was expected to be limited mostly to “casual” titles played on handsets, and so the idea of enabling controllers capable of vibrating seemed superfluous.
Fast forward to 2020, and we have Android TV, most notably the NVIDIA SHIELD console, as well as large gaming phones like the ROG Phone 3 and tablets like the Galaxy Tab S7, able to play more sophisticated titles, on bigger screens, with separate controllers. However, an API for generating vibrations on external devices like connected controllers has never been added. Rather, some game developers, like the team behind the Dolphin Emulator, have resorted to vibrating your entire device to emulate controller rumble — which obviously doesn’t make sense for Android TV.
When this issue was first pointed out to Google in March of 2019, it took a year before the issue was closed, citing shifts in work priority. (To be fair, this was in April when there was a lot of uncertainty around the shift to work-from-home due to COVID-19.) But users didn’t give up, with one opening up a new Issue Tracker report in July to request the feature, leading to another volley of supportive messages from fellow Android gamers.
Finally, yesterday, a Googler left the following message: “Thanks for the feedback. The feature will be considered for a future release.“
With Google taking a renewed interest in Android TV, alongside the launch of its cloud-based gaming service Stadia, it makes sense that this time the request has fallen on more receptive ears. Stadia controllers have supported rumble from Day One, so the company clearly sees it as a necessary feature for gaming.
Although there’s no formal acknowledgment that we’ll all soon be ready to rumble, the team has acknowledged the feedback from gamers. Even if it manages to be added in time for the Android 12 release, there’s no guarantee it will be backported into earlier versions, so the vast majority of us will remain with unrumbled controllers for a while yet.
Featured image: the ASUS ROG Phone 3 attached to an Xbox One Controller via the ROG Clip