The Moga Pro game controller for Android devices aims to take mobile gaming to the next level. The Pro brings a more traditional-controller feel with its dual analog sticks and rubber like grip when compared to its predecessor.
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The current era of mobile gaming is dominated by smartphones and tablets. Every up and coming game developer with half a brain is trying to crack the iOS and Android markets. So too are the classic publishers: EA, Bandai, you name it.
For console-bred gamers this has been a slow motion nightmare.
Let me explain: I had the worst Pac-Man experience of my life the other day while attempting to play the arcade classic with touch controls. I’m including in this all the times I was bullied at the arcade, lost quarters to broken machines, or discovered I was playing a knock-off that was glitchy.
When a game requires a joystick, virtual versions just don’t cut it for me. The same is true for tilt based controls for racers and space sims. They seem to sell but I have zero interest in them whatsoever. This means that entire classes of console style games have been cut right out of my mobile gaming experience. I suspect I’m not alone here.
Which is where Power A’s MOGA comes in.
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One of the dominant, and actually positive, themes of this year’s E3 was the evolution of gaming well beyond the traditional console borders. Even gaming peripheral maker Power A– whose engineering acumen is usually focused on building controllers for the professional gamer set– is getting in on the action.
Their new system, the MOGA, is a device shaped like a traditional gaming controller. A piece of plastic in the middle of the controller flips up and allows for a phone to be cradled inside horizontally. That cradle is adjustable, and can accommodate even large devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note with a firm grip. The controls synch over bluetooth, and once a phone is paired with the MOGA subsequent play sessions are a snap.
With a phone inside the grip, the MOGA feels like a grown up version of the Nintendo DS. The ergonomics of the MOGA reflect the best of modern controller design, so much so that thoughts of a “one controller future” began to creep through my head as divisional V.P. of product development and marketing John Moore walked me through a demo of the MOGA’s features.
Moore showed me a tennis game with the controller synched to the phone. The combined devices felt right in my hand in terms of weight and my hands rested as comfortably on the controls as they do on that of an XBox 360 controller. The game was incredibly responsive, and Power A is quite proud of the middleware tools they’ve built for helping developers convert their touch based games to control inputs. Moore said they’ve whittled down a process that used to take weeks considerably.
“Sega was one of our first partners that come on board,” said Moore. “I think their first game took them a couple of days, I think it was Virtua Tennis. The second game they did took just a couple of hours.”
This, along with a free app Power A is introducing called “Pivot” which will corral MOGA capable games into a single launch interface, is an important tool for the company. The mobile phone controller market is one that is beginning to pick up heat. Competitors like the Duo line and Nyko are all chomping at the bit to become the dominant force in the hybrid market.
One big challenge, naturally, is the fragmentation of the Android marketplace. Moore told me that the MOGA will support Android devices running version 2.3 and higher of the OS. Power A is also confronting the colossal number of Android devices head on.
“We’re testing, painstakingly, every single device with all the games that we have to make sure they work.”
A device like the MOGA could spell the end of the traditional handheld market, so I asked Moore– a games industry veteran who worked at Nintendo during the Wii and DS launches– if the MOGA was a threat to the console makers’ portable efforts.
“I don’t know if I necessarily see this as a threat or as a competitor. I think consumers vote with their wallets, as one of my marketing mentors used to tell me. People have pre-determined that they like playing games on mobile devices. They also like playng games on Vita, they also like playing games on 3DS.”
Moore sees the current trend as a broadening of the market.
“Really good games, really good content will sell.”
Power A has both the MOGA, which folds up nicely and fits slimly in a pant pocket, and a more traditionally sized controller aimed at the tablet market– the MOGA Pro– on track for a wide release this year. While the device is launching on the Android platform, Moore responded to my inquiry as to whether the MOGA is destined for iOS and Windows Phone devices by letting me know that Power A is out to own this product space.
With the power of phones and tablets rivaling that of consoles, the battle to own the portable controller space just might be the first real skirmish in the next console war.
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There’s a kind of poetry to the layout of E3. Mega-publishers like EA and Capcom are front and center, and the platform holders positioned strategically at the center of their halls. Off to the side, on the periphery, are the peripherals and accessory manufacturers.
Making controllers and cases exciting isn’t an easy task, but it’s one that Power A has built a business on for over 15 years. I sat down with John Moore, the company’s VP of Product Development & Marketing, who demoed the company’s new gear. You don’t think you need or want some of this stuff until you see it up close and get it in your hands.
I’ve never been a fan of the Playstation controller- a long held grudge that stretches back to the PS1 days- so it was a revelation when Moore put the prototype Batarang controller for the PS3 — that will be released in conjunction with Batman: Arkham City — in front of me. It’s simply the most comfortable controller for a Sony machine I’ve ever held. Pure bonus? It’s styled so that it’s function buttons (start, etc.) form the Bat symbol on the face.
The company makes a line of mini-controllers targeted at gamers with smaller hands, and those who like less bulk. The shrunk down Wii-mote I got to play with has a rubberized surface and reminded me most of my Apple remote in terms of weight. About 100 times more comfortable than the Wiimote that Nintendo packs in.
A lot of what Power A makes can be categorized as “gamer lifestyle” accessories: cleverly crafted styluses for touchscreens, cases for portable systems. For the consummate Pokemon fan, there’s a Nintendo DS case that shaped like the legendary Pokedex from the game’s lore.
My eyes alighted on a Star Wars themed case: Han Solo trapped in carbonite. Until that moment I wasn’t fully sold on the idea of getting a Nintendo 3DS, I’m up to my eyeballs in iOS games when I want a portable gaming experience. The Han Solo case hit my magic fanboy button. Suddenly I wanted a 3DS just to justify owning that beautiful case. Crazy? Yes. That’s part of what it means to be a gamer.
Who knows… maybe I’ll just get the case and stuff it full of USB sticks and other doodads.
As I was leaving their booth Moore and his PR rep told me that Power A would be making cases for Activision’s Skylanders, a game I hadn’t paid much attention to yet. The pair encouraged me to go check it out. What I would find was the realization of a long imagined dream, and the return of a favorite character from console generations past… [To Be Continued In Skylanders!]
POWER A Batarang Controller for PS3
Zelda 25th Anniversary Case
Han Solo Case
Star Wars Cases
Pro Pack Mini Plus Controller Set – Black
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