Taking control of your own technology

The Case of the Pirate Gamepad


I made some software (which will be explained in a future post) and used my trusty Argos third-party PS3 style gamepad to control it.

On the way to open sourcing it, I thought I had better try it with a an official Sony PS3 gamepad, and I could always do with another gamepad for when playing computer with the sprog.

We play a lot of open source games like SuperTuxKart and Frogatto which are two of our favourites. To be honest we play almost every game made available through Debian’s Apt.

So not really thinking too heavily about it, I popped onto a leading auction website, typed in PS3 gamepad, saw that the first result cost less than £13 including postage, and just bought it and moved on. Total time spent was about a minute.

Later I thought it was a bit cheap but ignored the thought on the basis that the PS3 is ten years old and has been long replaced by the PS4. The controller that game was the one above. In the following box.


Initial impressions were that it was a little light and the D-pad was different than I remember. However, it is probably been 5 years since I touched an official PS3 gamepad and maybe they made production improvements to make it lighter or I didn’t really remember right.

However, as soon as I plugged it in, and typed dmesg, the controller itself confessed to its real identity.:

usb 4-2: new full-speed USB device number 24 using uhci_hcd
usb 4-2: New USB device found, idVendor=054c, idProduct=0268
usb 4-2: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=0
usb 4-2: Product: PS(R) Gamepad
usb 4-2: Manufacturer: Gasia Co.,Ltd
input: Gasia Co.,Ltd PS(R) Gamepad as /devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:1d.0/usb4/4-2/4-2:1.0/0003:054C:0268.0010/input/input41
sony 0003:054C:0268.0010: input,hiddev0,hidraw3: USB HID v1.11 Joystick [Gasia Co.,Ltd PS(R) Gamepad] on usb-0000:00:1d.0-2/input0

A Gasia Co.,Ltd PS(R) Gamepad, what is that you may ask? Well so did I. It should look like this:

usb 4-2: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=0
usb 4-2: Product: PLAYSTATION(R)3 Controller
usb 4-2: Manufacturer: Sony
sony 0003:054C:0268.0008: Fixing up Sony Sixaxis report descriptor
input: Sony PLAYSTATION(R)3 Controller as /devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:13.2/usb4/4-2/4-2:1.0/input/input18
sony 0003:054C:0268.0008: input,hiddev0,hidraw0: USB HID v1.11 Joystick [Sony PLAYSTATION(R)3 Controller] on usb-0000:00:13.2-2/input0

The controller was totally fake!

So it didn’t help me generalise my software. Also these controllers contain a Lithium battery so I am not comfortable putting this counterfeit device in my child’s hands. If they are so far beyond the legal system that they do not need to care about the trademarks of Sony, how much do they care about electrical safety? Or chemical safety?

So I emailed my findings to the seller and they gave me an immediate refund and didn’t need to send the controller back. A counterfeiter with great customer service! Bizarre.

It is amazing the level of detail they went to. It is itself an interesting cultural artefact; a Chinese made plastic product pretending to be a different Chinese made plastic product. It is interesting philosophical discussion about if you use the same design, make it in the same place and maybe even use the exact same parts, what does genuine actually mean?

And what the heck is the markup on the official Sony controller if another company can make an almost exact replica for a less than a third of the price?

It is shame that people feel the need to be dishonest. A third party PS3 controller does not need to hide its true nature. I love my Argos one which has some useful extra features.

Surely selling the controller as what it is would be simpler than having to sneak around and recreate accounts constantly on the auction site?

If the manufacturer had said, “this is a PS3 compatible gamepad and it is three times cheaper”, then it could find its own market. While you are at it, put in a higher capacity battery and better bluetooth aerial than Sony’s controller and win on both price and quality.

As for me, I bought an official wired Xbox 360 controller from Argos. I actually prefer the shape ergonomically and it is more reliably detected by Linux and is much cheaper than the PS3 gamepad.