In a historic move, PlayStation 5 swaps X and Circle button use in Japan

Sony has swapped the usage of the X and Circle buttons for the PlayStation 5 user interface in Japan, meaning X is now used to confirm settings, while Circle is used to cancel.

This is, of course, how PlayStation consoles and games have operated in the West for 25 years. But it’s a big shift for Japan, where X has not historically been used to mean “accept”, “X marks the spot”, or “X to Jason”. There, X typically means “cancel” or “quit”, whereas the “O” of Circle means “OK”.

The detail comes from Famitsu, one of several Japanese outlets to get more details on PlayStation 5 over the weekend, and which has now reported a further wrinkle.

Perhaps even more confusingly, the Japanese versions of PS5 games will still use the previous definitions of X and Circle, separate and contradictory to the PS5 hardware itself.

The PS5’s default Circle and X buttons to cancel/select are arranged similar to Nintendo’s A/B buttons.

“Wow, this is big news for UI/UX,” Famitsu editor Kenji Iguchi wrote on Twitter yesterday. “Muscle memory frustration for the nearly 10 million PS users in Japan coming up.

“In Japan, the ‘Circle = Good, OK, Correct’ symbolism has been common knowledge for many decades. When designing the original PlayStation controller, it was likely that the placement of the O/X were hence made to match the Super Famicom’s A/B, and were utilised similarly.

“I expect this will go down VERY badly with Japanese players. Unlearning muscle memory acquired through years of repetition is extremely tough. For the short term, I think JP developers are actually going to face MORE dev burden instead of less due to this…”

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Five weeks away from the console’s launch in Japan – and after many have already paid to receive on one launch day – details are finally beginning to trickle in on Sony’s secretive new console.

Over the weekend, Sony showed several games to Japanese press and YouTubers, though the hands-on oppurtunity also raised new questions – such as, what is PlayStation 5’s mysterious nut?

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