There are a lot of talented game developers who make games for mobile phones. Some of these companies are putting out excellent products but, no matter how good the software is, mobile games are hobbled by the touch-screen interface on Android and iOS phones. “No buttons” usually means “No fun”. Some gadget companies have tried to get around this problem by making stick-on joysticks and thumbpads that clamp onto the phone, but these gimmicks rarely work. The MOGA control pad aims to give mobile games the same degree of control found in a console gamepad and, based on some hands-on play with it at PAX Prime, the MOGA seems to deliver on this aspiration.
The MOGA looks a lot like a small console gamepad with two thunbsticks and the usual array of four buttons for the right thumb. There are two shoulder buttons as well, but no D-Pad. It has a clip that will let gamers attach their smartphone to it, but the MOGA actually uses Bluetooth to wirelessly synch with the device. This means that it can also be used as a wireless controller with a tablet or any device that’s too bulky to be attached directly to the MOGA.
It works with a wide variety of titles that are already on the market, but it only works with games that have been modified by the developer specifically to support the MOGA. The good news is that several very prolific developers are already signed on, and these include some of the studios that have been courting hardcore gamers, like Namco Bandai, Machineworks, and Gameloft. Some more casual developers are signed on too and these include Atari and Sega among others.
At PAX Prime in Seattle, the MOGA had a handful of games ready to play and the MOGA definitely works as promised. For simple casual games like Pac Man the thumbsticks provide a quick and accurate response that can’t be found with the usual “Virtual Stick” on the touchscreen.
More action-oriented games do just as well with the MOGA. Namco Bandai’s WWII aerial combat game Sky Gamblers seems like it would be a nightmare to control with just a touchscreen, but on the MOGA it felt as comfortable as any similar game would with an Xbox controller (Shoulder buttons are pretty much a necessity for any shooting game).
It’s a surprisingly functional device and not a cheap gimmick.
The MOGA is powered by two AAA batteries. Because it communicates with a Bluetooth connection, this means that the batteries only provide 18 hours of play, and the mobile device will also take a hit on battery life because of the need to maintain this wireless connection. That’s an inconvenience but hardcore gamers will most likely find the cost of batteries to be a worthwhile expense for the chance to play phone games with a functional control scheme.
The MOGA comes out later this year; exact date and pricing aren’t available at this time. Sadly, it will only work with Android devices at launch, but an iOS version will arrive sometime thereafter. More information can be found at www.powera.com.