Apr 1, 2013
If there was one recurring theme with Android games at Game Developers Conference 2013, it was certainly about controllers. Ouya had its uneviling for the product that will get into Kickstarter backers’ hands. Green Throttle had a presence around the show, demoing its controller to devs, press and to attendees at the Pocket Gamer party, showing off its multiplayer functions. MOGA wanted to go with a professional, highly-playable controller, that they demoed with their Pro controller. Nyko was still around, reminding folks that their HID-compatible gamepad was still being updated. Project Shield, Nvidia’s high-profile controller-with-a-5-inch-screen was a major part of the Nvidia booth. I even saw something else controller-related that will be public on Tuesday. All in all, there was a big market for controllers at GDC, and they were presented in the guise of various goals: to enable console-quality games on Android. To make tablets more versatile. To bring people together. Or possibly, in the most interesting and valid reason initially given to me by MOGA: in order to get people playing games longer, which can definitely be a welcome thing in free-to-play titles.
Yet, I was bothered by the number of proprietary APIs in use – most of the companies I talked to were supporting the built-in HID protocol as well, but Green Throttle did not support it at this moment. HID support can be wacky, but it’s still something that can futureproof and improve the support for controllers, something I was glad to see the MOGA Pro support.
Overall, I think these companies are on the right track. TV gaming is bound to break through eventually in some capacity. Getting gamers to play for longer amounts of time may help drive adoption of some of these controllers. They could be a useful promo gimmick for some as well.
But most importantly, if Apple is introducing a controller as well-connected rumors are indicating, then it’s a game changer. Unless their controller is wildly different from standard ones, there’s still that legitimization of controller-based gaming that will lead more developers to consider controller support, because with iOS still being the lead platform for the overwhelming majority of developers, there hasn’t been much forethought given to games with complex controls. Now not only can they exist on Android alongside iOS, but they can thrive because there will be more support from developers, and possibly even expectation from players, for control support in games that use it.
I am skeptical about any external accessory’s chances for success, at least in mass market terms, but if there’s this much support behind the controller movement, maybe it is time after all.