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This company wants to help you finish all of those unloved iPhone games

"We just want to help people play the games they bought." Kim Rom, Steel Series

Kim Rom knows all about your secret shame.

He knows about the forgotten games that pepper the desktop of your iPhone or iPad, or that are perhaps tucked away in hidden folders on a second screen. He knows about the barren GameCenter scores and missing achievements. The wasted money. He knows and he thinks he has a solution.

Sitting at a tiny metal table outside Manhattan's landmark Shake Shack, Rom reaches into a bag resting on the ground next to him and pulls out a diminutive controller.

He lays it on the table between us and beams.

"I think we nailed it," he said. "I'm really, really excited about this."

Rom, chief marketing officer at Steel Series, knows that a lot of people are like him when it comes to gaming on phones and tablets.

"I typically buy some game and then I sit through the intro and I think it's amazing my phone can play games like this, like GTA," he said, "but then i don't play them because the control sucks."

The solution, he says, is this controller, a gadget that feels familiar but can slip inside your pocket when you're not using it.

The Free controller, which sells for $79.99, is the result of two years of development, all spurred by his personal pet peeve: rarely completing games on his iPhone or iPad because they look pretty but are annoying to actually play.

"One of the benefits of working at a company where you build things you would use is that you sometimes get to do things for yourself," he said. "I'd noticed that my behavioral patterns have changed. I used to always travel with my Nintendo DS and PSP, but I don't do that anymore, I don't even know where they are anymore."

Instead Rom, a man who spends an alarming number of days on the road, relies on his iPhone and iPad to pass the time.

"I probably have 150 travel days a year, which is a sad lonely existence," he said. "Instead of crying myself to sleep at night, I play on my MAME emulator."

But then he realized that he was playing less games, and it wasn't because there weren't any out there for the Apple devices capturing his interest; it was because he couldn't put up with the touchscreen controls.

"We just want to help people play the games they bought."

The solution was the Free. Resting in my hands, it feels small, but effective, certainly more comfortable then playing a more traditional game by tapping or swiping a piece of glass. The Free features a familiar collection of inputs: a directional pad on the left of the controller and a diamond of four buttons on the right sit above two agile, but surprisingly short thumbsticks.

Rom explains that their designers went to great lengths to find a sweet spot between height and performance for the Free's thumbsticks. The issue they were trying to solve was making sure that those sticks wouldn't get in the way when your slipping the controller into your pocket or in a bag. While the controller uses bluetooth to connect to PC, Mac, tablet or phone, it's chief design is for mobile.

"Is this a better controller for your PC than the Xbox 360 controller? No, I don't think so," he said. "I really like my Xbox controller. Would I want to travel with it though? Absolutely not."

The biggest challenge the Free faces is the same one other iOS controller face: Apple.

The company still stubbornly refuses to official support controllers, leaving it up to peripheral makers and game designers to figure out their own systems to support games.

The Free is riding on the back of the iCade software, which is currently supported by about 130 games. Rom says he's becoming an evangelist for another company's software in hopes that they can get more games, bigger triple A titles likeGrand Theft Auto III: 10th Anniversary Edition, to support their controller.

"We need to get 500 of these to development houses," he said. "We want to create a standard, that is better for the entire industry.

"We just want to help people play the games they bought."

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