The Hills Are Greener: Why Has Google Lost Control of Controllers?

The Hills Are Greener: Why Has Google Lost Control of Controllers?

Aug 19, 2013

If there is one thing that I do not understand, it is how Google could get gamepads so right, and then so wrong.

The thing they did right was exactly what Apple is doing: creating a standard HID protocol that controllers could use. It’s something where any Xbox controller can be used by an Android device. And anyone could make a contorller that could be supported by games.

Yet, there are still many alternate APIs in place and the Android gamepad market is still a mess. MOGA supports HID on one controller but they also are pushing their own API. Green Throttle’s off pushing multiplayer-focused games. There’s others out there too.

So where did Google go wrong? Simple. They didn’t do enough to push their own controller API that’s built-in.


Good luck trying to find HID-controller-compatible games on Google Play. Heck, good luck knowing that you could just plug an Xbox controller into your Android device. It’s a somewhat-undocumented feature. Well, that and the whole USB host functionality through micro-USB ports is a bit of a mystery too. But Bluetooth gamepads? That problem should be solved. Not so fast, my friend. Because everyone’s looking out for themselves, the push has been for companies to make their own controllers instead of adhering to the standard.

Now, Apple’s creating a standard with MFi gamepads, and not making their own, but the big difference is this: their walled garden. Because they can effectively shut down any other protocols, or make discoverability for them a challenge (iCade games on the App Store can’t mention in their descriptions), they can make their MFi protocol the go-to one. As well, they’re specifying particular protocols for how the hardware should work and be laid out. And again, because they have the force of the walled garden behind them, they can ensure that this will be ultimately the only gamepad protocol.

Google can’t necessarily do this in a fair way because there’s already games on the store, and shutting down competitors abruptly because they don’t like them seems like bad poker. But they can do a lot to make their protocol attractive. They can feature HID-enabled games. They could make an interface for Android unconsoles to use. They could make an official Bluetooth controller. Really, they could do anything more than install the protocol that Nvidia helped to develop in Android and leave it out there to flounder. Because Android, despite having a two-year head start with gamepads, is still floundering in that aspect and now Apple’s catching up.

Seriously, they could do anything more than they’ve already done.