Console interface text size

Text size in console games can be a huge issue for visually impaired individuals. The ideal situation would be options that allow for larger text or icons to make the interface more accessible to gamers. So, how are the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3 treating text size? All of the following images were taken off my home 32 inch television sitting at the sofa that is 8 feet away from the screen.

The console that does the best is the Wii.

Wii interface screen

The buttons/icons are large and the images are clear. When hovering over an icon the name of the channel or game selected shows up in large font under the box.  Even without the words, the boxes themselves show an image of the channel or game that the button represents making it easier to quickly find the buttons on screen. In this example “Chocobo’s Dungeon” is visible  in large font under the selected box. On my TV this font shows up as 3/4 inch tall per letter.

I would rate the Xbox360 as second best.

Xbox 360 Interface image (main screen)

Xbox 360 Interface image (main screen)

Xbox 360 interface screen after hitting guide button

Xbox 360 interface screen after hitting guide button

On the main dashboard of the Xbox360 interface there are large boxes that have a clear visual representation of what they do.  The game selection box has a picture of the game currently in the disc drive, in the case of this photo it is MagnaCarta 2.  The text size that displays “Play MagnaCarta2″ shows up as 1/2 inch tall letters on my screen. When pressing the Guide button on the center of the controller a second menu pops up. This menu is shown in the second photo.  While there are no pictorial representations of the commands you select the text here also measures at 1/2 inch tall per letter on my television.

In last place I put the Playstation 3. In fact, this console’s interface can be a problem for gamers with minor visual impairments.

Playstation 3 interface

Playstation 3 interface

While there is an option to change the text font style I cannot find an  option to increase the font size. This is a problem as the text size is small compared to the other systems described here. When I measure the text size on my screen it is 3/8 inch tall. That was the smallest font size of the three systems.

For many people the difference between 3/4 inch text (Wii), 1/2 inch text (the Xbox360), and 3/8 inch text (the PS3) on a 32 inch television from 8 feet away is inconsequential. My significant other has no problem clearly reading each of these interfaces. But for people with some visual impairments, such as myself, these sizes can become a problem. I can see the Wii interface with no problem. The Xbox 360 takes some focusing but is readable. But, with the lack of a larger font option on the PS3 I cannot sit at the sofa and see that text. It becomes slightly too blurry for me to read from that distance.

So what can console makers do? One great example is the use of visual cues other than text to indicate selection. The Wii interface does that beautifully by showing a picture of the game or channel in each box. But what is lacking in all these systems in an option to increase the text size. Not everyone needs the larger text, but it would be a great option to increase accessibility for visually impaired players.  The inclusion of this option would help many players.

13 thoughts on “Console interface text size”

  1. While the default UI in 360 might be nice, plenty of games assume that players are using HD televisions already, and thus it’s sometimes hard to read ingame text or subtitles. PS3′s menu system seems to be made with that same assumption.

    1. I will be discussing the in game text sizes in another post soon :-)

      But, certainly, it is disappointing when even the menus of the consoles do not have an option to enlarge the text. It is difficult for people with standard definition TVs and anyone with visual impairments.

    2. I remember playing many pleasant hours of Perfect Dark with a color-blind friend; we’d make sure to alter our characters to have alien heads on human bodies, so he could tell at a glance who was on which side.

  2. This topic makes me think about interface accessibility. It is, for sure, another problem but… I’m wondering if there is any “blind color mode” on any of these three consoles? I’ve never checked that!

    1. I did not notice that option for the console interfaces but I do know that it is a problem in many games. Notably both Peggle and World of Warcraft have color blind options for their interfaces/games.

  3. Imagine these interfaces on a standard definition TV! There were many 360 games there were essentially unplayable because of the font choices, until I upgraded to a HDTV.

    This was more about clarity than size, but upping the size would have fixed the clarity problems.

    You can see how fonts have gotten smaller over time by looking at older games, games where there was no doubt it was going on “standard definition”, and possibly even a smaller diagonal. The fonts there are much larger than the ones on a typical AAA intended for HD release.

    1. The small text sizes in games is WHY I initially saved money for a larger HDTV. On my 21″ standard definition television I could not read the text in Xenosaga Episode 3. But now I am having text size issues even with my larger 32″ HDTV. No matter which type of television we are discussing an option to increase text size would be very welcome.

  4. I think the PS3 has an SD-output mode that greatly changes the display scale onscreen. Definitely does in the storefront, I forget how much it impacts the scrollbar menu.

    1. I lied, I know it has one now that I think about it. On a global market the ratio of SD to HD tvs is heavily skewed toward SD, so the PS3 supports multiple output resolutions and ratios. Check out the Display Settings option in the Settings menu. :)

    2. If I understand correctly, you are saying you can force the PS3 to think it is connected to a standard definition TV. It strikes me as a roundabout way to increase text size by just lowering the resolution of my system. Having an HD television set means that gamers should be able to play their games in higher definition.

      My vote goes for an option to simply increase text size overall, for either the SD or HDTV users.

      1. Correct – I’m not saying text increases aren’t a nice (and smart) feature, I’m just saying it can bandaid the problem. :)

  5. THIS. This was something that bothered me about my new PS3, and I have a 42″ screen. While we’re on the subject, the text on content descriptors for DVD/Blu-Ray is WAY too small. You need an electron microscope most of the time.

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