In Japan, the O button has functioned as the confirm/yes button, and the X button to cancel/go back, since the very first PlayStation. That will change starting next generation with the PlayStation 5. Across the globe, the X button will always be used to confirm on the PS5, even in Japan.
Sony Interactive Entertainment explained the decision to unify the function is to avoid user confusion about the usage of the X and O buttons. The PS4 introduced the option to switch the X and O buttons’ functions in one of its late firmware updates last year. However, Japanese games would often still stick to the O-to-confirm/X-to-cancel layout for its games.
Meanwhile, a lot of times the Japanese release of western games would use the opposite. Sony simply wants to have buttons’ functions be consistent across the system UI to the games themselves.
In Japan, the X-cross mark is viewed as representing “no” or “wrong,” while the O-circle mark carries the meaning of “yes” or “correct.” This setup consistently appears throughout every day life, from grading marks on homework and tests at school to signage and forms elsewhere.
However, in western countries, the X is also used and recognized as a checkmark. X is used to fill in checkboxes on forms and so on. The meaning O has in Japan does not exist as strongly in countries in Europe and America, as well.
Additionally, on its controllers, Nintendo has often had the A button (used to confirm) on the right side of the face buttons, and the B button (used to cancel) to the left of and/or lower than the A button.
Japanese gamers have spent years with their X and O buttons functioning the way they do. Who’s to say allowing their functions to flip back to the old way can’t be included on the firmware software side for PS5 in the future? The PS4 allowed switching via an update, and having the option would be nice for users. But for now, Sony wants to have the consistency globally.
While the change will be potentially annoying in Japan, Americans and Europeans have been able to switch just fine between layouts with Nintendo consoles’ controllers over the year.
I have messed up at times when switching to a Nintendo console from a PlayStation or Xbox (or playing Japanese versions of games). But after a little while, I get used to it. It’s Sony’s hope that Japanese gamers will to.