When the PlayStation 4 was announced back in February of last year — and fully unveiled at E3 four months later — there was very little that gamers had to complain about. The system itself was sleek, the specs were impressive, and Sony's stance as a "Gamers First" console was well received by the media and consumers alike. If there was one feature of the PS4 that drew criticism, it was the light bar on the top of the DualShock 4 controller. There were concerns about the battery life of the controller being drastically reduced due to the light, and whether or not its reflection off of some television panels would be a distraction. While eventually the light bar was viewed by many as nothing more than a reminder that PlayStation Move was still a thing, Dave over at FlamingToast Decals saw it was an opportunity; one that he couldn't pass up. Enter the light bar decals for the DualShock 4. We caught up with Dave for a little Q & A to get his thoughts on his recent success, and his opinion on next-gen gaming thus far.
Short Pause (SP): It's obvious by the amount of tweets utilizing the hashtag #DS4Decals that your product has taken the PlayStation 4 community by storm. When did you come up with the idea for your decals? Did it occur to you when it was announced that the Dualshock 4 would have a light bar that this would be a really cool idea, or was it once you were able to get your hands on the controller itself that the gears started turning?
Dave: I had ordered a DualShock 4 from Amazon in early November because they were shipping them prior to the console launch. My intention was to get a jumpstart on creating a template for a DS4 controller skin. I had been selling DualShock 3 controller skins that featured a faux black carbon fiber texture and those were very popular. The complex curves of the DS4 made creating a controller skin challenging and after several mock-ups, I wasn’t really happy with the direction it was going. In addition, there were many companies gearing up to sell DS4 controller skins and I decided to abandon the project. Fast forwarding several weeks after the U.S. launch of the PS4, the response to the new console was very positive, but one of the biggest criticisms was the DS4 light bar. My initial reaction was to just create a solid blackout decal to cover the light bar completely. It wasn’t until after I had run a few tests to get the shape of the decal properly sized, that I realized there was more that could be done than just completely block out the light. I started with some simpler shapes and then increased the complexity of the cutout designs to offer customized symbols and names. Personalization was the key feature that I think so many were interested in.
SP: Do you work on the decals alone, or do you have a team assisting you? Without giving away all your secrets, can you provide us with a little insight into how this process works?
Dave: Yes, I have been producing the decals on my own, but have some help with the order processing and shipping. I have tried to streamline the ordering process by offering standardized font choices and decal styles. Once an order is received, the decals are designed using the template I created and produced on vinyl cutting equipment. The decals go through a finishing process and after a quick spot check to make sure there are no imperfections, they’re packaged up to be sent out that day.
SP: How were you able to market your product so efficiently? How are you continuing to muster up a large degree of interest in your product? For a while there, seemingly every time I logged into Twitter there were comments and pictures of your decals!
Dave: My marketing efforts have effectively been achieved solely through social media and through word-of-mouth. I was lucky enough to get some early exposure on various gaming news sites, but it wasn’t until being featured on IGN.com that it really started to take off. I’ve been very active on Twitter and I’ve really enjoyed connecting with so many other gamers. It has been incredibly rewarding to get feedback about the decals or to see pictures posted of their customized controllers.
SP: What has it been like managing all of your free time and other engagements since the launch of your product? Take us through a typical day at FlamingToast Decals.
Dave: Time management has been my biggest challenge. The response has been so positive and so many are interested in customizing their controllers, that for many weeks I was pushed past capacity. I sent out hundreds of emails explaining the situation and thanking everyone for their patience while I process the orders. While some were understandably frustrated about the delay, no one was more so than me. I have since taken the necessary steps to eliminate the extended production times by upgrading my equipment. The biggest benefit of this upgrade is that the production process has changed from a cut vinyl which had it’s limitations to a printed process. By transitioning to printed vinyl, it allows for photographic images to be used and one of the most requested features has also been integrated. The decals are now reusable. The older method using cut vinyl was a single use only.
SP: What have you enjoyed most about this exciting experience? How does it feel knowing you've given gamers a very unique way to express themselves?
Dave: Reading some of the feedback, seeing the photos shared, and connecting one-on-one with so many fellow gamers has really been the icing on the cake. Twitter has been an unbelievable way to stay in contact with people, get opinions on new designs in the works, or just do a random decal giveaway. I’ve been known to throw out an impromptu trivia question, usually very late at night, and award a few free decals. It still amazes me, no matter what time of day, an answer will be given within seconds of posting a question. Making friends along the way has to be one of the most exciting benefits.
I have been asked to make so many unique decal designs and I could not be happier about offering that service. Initially, I think the general consensus was that the light bar was a nuisance, but now it’s become a canvas for self-expression, really only limited by your imagination.
SP: Lastly, it's obvious that you are a gamer as well, so we would like to know what you've been playing lately? What next-gen game has impressed you the most so far, and are there any upcoming games that you're really excited for? What's your favorite game of all-time?
Dave: Yes. I am definitely a hardcore gamer, although in recent weeks I haven’t had a lot of time to play. inFAMOUS: Second Son has to be the most impressive next-gen game I’ve played to date. I’ve only had time to play a few hours since its release, but it just looks amazing. I think the game that I’m most looking forward to is Destiny. I cannot wait to get my hands on that one. The Division is another that I’m really anxious to learn more about.
Now this last question you’ve asked might be the hardest of them all to answer. My favorite game of all-time. Favorite developer of all time would be so much easier. Naughty Dog, without a doubt. It seems too easy to just say The Last of Us. While I did really love that game, and look forward to buying it again on the PS4… I think my number one has got to be Uncharted 2. I think it might be the only game I’ve ever beaten, that after I was finished, I immediately started another playthrough.
Thanks to Dave for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions. I'm very pleased with my decals, and I know a few other satisfied customers who have placed orders since I've raved about mine. Despite the upcoming patch that will allow gamers to dim the light bar to their liking, I won't be doing so, not only because I haven't encountered any battery-life issues with my DualShock 4, but mainly because I've grown fond of seeing my PSN ID lit up on my controller
It's important to know that these decals can be reused more than once, and there is no residue left on the light bar itself when peeling them off. I decided to test the light bar out in a session of The Playroom on the PlayStation 4 to make sure the decal didn't hamper the experience. Even with all of the lights on in the room, the PlayStation camera was able to track my controller without any issues whatsoever. If you're interested in adding some personality to your DualShock 4's light bar, please visit their website www.FlamingToast.com to check out all the custom patterns you can choose from, and be sure to follow them on Twitter @ToastyStickers.