Controllers (Part One): The Contenders

I’ve been putting off writing a piece on the MLG MadCatz announcement because I felt like I had too much to say.  After spending a couple weeks digesting it, I feel like I am finally ready to say what needs to be said.  However, it is a bit much for one blog post so I’m going to split it into three parts:

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  1. The Contenders
  2. The Expectations
  3. An Open Letter to MLG

As a bit of a precursor, I should reveal that I thoroughly investigated developing and manufacturing a competitive controller earlier this year.  I examined the current controller very closely and learned the ins and outs of how everything works.  I had a long list of improvements which I’ll touch upon in the second part of this series.  Then I looked into how much it would cost me as an individual to launch this the way I intended and I realized that I didn’t quite have enough funds to make it happen.  About a month later Razer revealed the Onza, and shortly after we heard word from other companies that they were working on it as well.

The Razer Onza

arCtiC already wrote covering this controller before, so I’ll just do a quick overview of the features:

  • Adjustable Tension Sticks
  • 2 Mappable Buttons
  • Rapid Fire Button
  • Hyper Responsive Buttons
  • Improved D-Pad

It is worth noting that this is the only controller which seems to be into testing phase and will probably be the first controller to launch as a result.  That said, I don’t know of any players who have gotten their hands on it to give some impressions.  I hope I’m wrong on this and things are just staying hush hush, but I’d love to see more community involvement out of Razer.

MadCatz

This marks the end of the pretty pictures, as the following three companies haven’t actually shown us anything yet.  Supposedly they were on site at Columbus and I can only assume they got some ideas and opinions from pro gamers, but I haven’t heard anything indicating a prototype is floating around.

K.L. gives MadCatz a lot of flak and I’ve continually been reminding him that MadCatz is a company that is trying to change its image.  I do agree they are sending a mixed message between things like the highly regarded Street Fighter IV FightStick (above) and the new, ugly Call of Duty: Black Ops controller (below).

Since we haven’t actually seen anything from them yet, I’ll focus on the pros and cons MadCatz has in making a competition-grade controller.

Pros

  • Only company with experience making controllers.
  • Partnership with MLG will provide quality feedback from pro players.
  • Solid company financially, lots of resources.
  • Experience working with pros to develop the FightStick, which was a huge success.

Cons

  • 10+ years experience making crappy controllers.
  • Strong stigma to overcome for mass adoption.
  • Has less experience developing competition-grade peripherals than other companies entering the console market.

Astro Gaming

All we know about Astro Gaming and their planned entry into the controller market is that they are working on a controller.

Pros

  • Developed a quality headset and mixamp aimed entirely at MLG market utilizing pro feedback.
  • Make beautiful products featuring excellent product design.
  • Have access to pros and are very likely to consult for feedback.

Cons

  • Have never developed a controller.
  • Shortest lifespan and least variation in products compared to other contenders.

SteelSeries

While I am uncertain that SteelSeries have actually announced that they will be releasing a controller, I consider is a given at this point.  Razer is entering the market, and SteelSeries have already started angling some of their headsets towards consoles.  They may end up being last to the party but I think a controller from them would be a given.

Pros

  • Leading PC peripheral maker, lots of experience on the tech end of things.
  • Likely to take advantage of pro feedback for development.
  • Plenty of resources for development and production.
  • Many years of experience releasing competition-grade products with few blemishes on their track record.

Cons

  • Never developed a controller.
  • Hardly any status amongst console players.
  • Likely to be the last to release a product, could be entering a market that has already decided their favorites.

Coming Next: The Expectations

That is all for now.  In the next part I’ll be discussing what I will be looking for in a controller while going deep into some of the technical shortcomings of the current controller.




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