Well, this week brought the long, long-awaited arrival of official Made For iPhone game controllers, and it was sort of a mixed bag of emotions. Perhaps it’s our own fault for building up the anticipation in our heads between when controllers were officially announced at WWDC in June and now, or perhaps it’s simply that these things are far too new to really be able to judge their long-term impact. Either way, I’d say that MFi game controllers arrived with a whimper rather than a bang.
The first two controllers to market are the MOGA Ace Power and Logitech’s Powershell, both available this week. Both controllers offer optional charging of your device while they’re connected, but each represent one of the two different styles of controllers which Apple is allowing into their MFi program. The Logitech Powershell represents the first style of controller, which features a d-pad but no analog sticks and only two shoulder buttons on top in addition to its four face buttons.
The Moga Ace Power represents the “extended" style of MFi controller. It features everything that the Powershell does but adds dual-analog sticks and extra triggers in addition to the top shoulder buttons, bringing the total number of control inputs on the top of the controller to four, like a PlayStation or Xbox controller.
We received a Moga Ace Power controller and put it through its paces, or rather, as much as we could at this early point in MFi controller history. What we found was that for the games that were made for traditional platforms with physical controllers, like Bastion, the addition of the Moga controller really added to the experience. An original iOS game made from scratch for the touchscreen, like Oceanhorn, didn’t really feel any better or worse with physical controls.
Unfortunately, since most developers haven’t had actual controller hardware in their hands prior to the units actually releasing, many have simply implemented the API into their games and hoped for the best. What that means is that some games that claim to feature MFi controller support technically do, but not in an ideal way as the button layouts or certain functions like the analog sticks don’t work quite as intended.
We are awaiting getting a Logitech Powershell unit in our hands, but after spending a significant amount of time with the Moga Ace Power, we’re left somewhat unsure of whether or not to recommend it. Like I said, at this point in time there aren’t quite enough games that support the controller properly to make its 99-dollar price tag seem worth it. No doubt that many more games will feature great support for controllers, but right now the pickings are pretty slim. Also, the build quality of the Moga Ace Power leaves a lot to be desired, and its flimsy feel doesn’t seem to line up with something that costs a hundred bucks.
The flip side to all this is that Apple mandates how these controllers must perform and be designed, so even moving forward, all new controllers that are released will adhere to one of the two different styles. That means that if you do go out and spring for either the Powershell or Ace Power, they should work as intended pretty much forever, save for a drastic physical change in iOS devices that would cause them not to fit inside the controller housing or something. If you can part with the money, being among the early adopters of one of these controllers wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, and I’m definitely finding myself curious enough that I might end up picking up one of them myself.
We talk about the controllers at length on our podcast this week, so be sure to listen to that for even more, but right now I’m wondering if any of you out there will be picking up either of these controllers now that they’re available? If not, are you just waiting for more models to release or more games to be supported, or are you not interested in controllers period? Let us know what you think in the comments below.