It was just yesterday that we heard about the Atari Arcade Duo Powered joystick peripheral for the iPad, but it looks as if the folks over at DVICE have already gotten their hands on one and given it a proper review. While yesterday’s info on this interesting add-on was limited to a small promotional shot and a single line of an App Store description, DVICE has unearthed pretty much every unknown about the Atari Arcade joystick. Unfortunately, this also leads way to some facts that make the peripheral sound not quite as cool as we initially thought it might be.
The first thing that was assumed about the Atari Arcade joystick based on its promotional image was that it would work in landscape as well as the portrait position it was shown in. Apparently this isn’t the case, though, as the joystick actually connects to the iPad via the official Apple 30-pin connector. This means that unless some sort of extension type of cable can be provided, there’s no way to use this joystick with a landscape oriented game, aka fighters and side-scrolling beat ‘em ups, aka exactly the types of games that would rule with a joystick. Bummer. Even the rival iCade can support a landscape iPad device, though not in an official, secure fashion.
There’s some cool benefits to having the joystick connect through the 30-pin port though, too. For one, you won't have to worry about batteries, as the joystick is powered by the iPad itself. DVICE seemed to be able to get about 8-10 hours of juice out of their iPad and joystick combination. This is a big improvement over the notoriously battery-draining Bluetooth connection used by the iCade and iControlpad peripherals. This extra battery life isn’t that great of a tradeoff though when you’re forced into using portrait mode only. The Bluetooth connection route is also much simpler for developers to implement into their games too, and can work with multiple peripherals rather than having to cater to a single proprietary device.
And that’s really my biggest issue with the Atari Arcade stick. While I could likely deal with the portrait-only drawback and even the stiffness of the control stick and buttons noted in the DVICE review, it really doesn’t matter anyway if the only game compatible is Atari’s Greatest Hits [Free+IAP]. I guess it’s possible Atari could open up development support for the device, but given the fairly niche appeal of the iCade so far I can’t imagine too many developers who would be keen on putting in the extra work to support an even more potentially limited peripheral.
Be sure to check out the original DVICE review for additional information and a ton more screens. They also note that the Atari Arcade joystick will launch on October 2nd at Target stores, followed by Walmart and Toys ‘R’ Us stores in November. The device will retail for $60. Though I’m kind of disappointed to discover that the Atari Arcade joystick isn’t everything I hoped it could be, I’ll likely still be convinced to pick one up just out of curiosity, and will reserve final judgment until I can actually get my hands the joystick myself.