Directional pad. Buttons. Does there exist a superior paradigm?
The new hardware generation is here, and we are using the same controller concept that has remained in use since I started playing video games as a kid.
The key to this whole question is what kind of interface do you really need to propel a character or camera view through space? Is there a better method than D-Pad Right?
Today the Directional Pad has been relegated to another set of buttons. Usually used for quick spells, items, grenades, weapon swap, etc.
Although we now use an analog thumb stick as standard, it is still a Directional Pad with more directions.
The D-Pad is eternal. It will never die. We will always demand some form of physical interface with a directional pad to indicate movement though 3D space. There is no better conceptual form than the D-Pad.
It is a symbolic representation of the 2 dimensional plane, as is the analog stick. This is fundamental to the origin of video games as 2 dimensional representation was the original method of drawing graphics in real time.
With 3D spatial game worlds, the analog stick filled in the needed extra directions but it still represents a 2 dimensional plane.
There is no way to make a device interface that is a representation of 3D space. Not a tactile interface that you can hold. No, a sphere wouldn't do it nor would wand. Notice the Move controller had a little D-Pad accessory which was also a total piece of shit and was utilized in zero games.
There is little iteration that can be done on the directional pad because it is not an invention, it is an idea. It is an idea expressed through symbolism, the cross. The D-pad in fact can be used in a prototypical manner as a symbol to communicate an idea in the same way a letter in the alphabet along with other letters can form a word. This is seen all the time in fighting games in how they communicate moves and combos.
Finally consider that there is no better controller than the Dual Shock and the Xbox one also sucks.