The PlayStation 3 controller is in at least one way more advanced than the PlayStation 4 controller. The DualShock 3 and of course the SixAxis controller have analogue buttons on UDLR, as well as cross, square, triangle and circle. They could sense different levels of pressure and give an extra level of control in games like Fifa and Gran Turismo. Unfortunately, many developers never really took advantage of this feature and Sony have decided to drop support for it on their new DualShock 4 controller, instead opting for the touch control panel and digital buttons, which we recently found out was originally a touch screen display.
With Sony’s decision to add the touch pad, they wanted to have as much space for it as possible and when they evenly spaced out the cross, square, triangle and circle buttons they realised that they didn’t match the DualShock3. It was only when they began designing the DualShock 4 that they noticed the square and circle buttons are in fact further apart than triangle and cross, something that has now been fixed, making them evenly spaced and saving a tiny bit more horizontal space for the touch panel.
Digital buttons it is then, I can understand why Sony made this choice but personally I thought the old buttons were pretty cool, maybe cost was also factored into this decision, maybe we will never know.
Thank you IGN for providing us with this information.