The Moga mobile game controllers for smartphones and tablets are expanding beyond Android and headed to Kindle Fire and Windows Phone, the device's developer announced today.
At GDC, we caught up with J.J. Richards, Moga's divisional vice president, to get our hands on several implementations of the devices and its accompanying software, including the Kindle Fire, and were able to see it running on a Windows Phone.
Richards admitted that Moga's position as a hardware add-on is a bit of a tough sell.
"You go up to a person on the street and say, 'Hey! You want a controller for your mobile phone?'"
Richards characterized the man on the street's response by snoring.
The company believes it can change that perception if it can get devices paired with quality games into consumers' hands.
We played with the diminutive original Moga Pocket Controller, which launched last year, and the Moga Pro Controller, which is console controller-sized and bears more than a passing resemblance to the Xbox 360 controller. The latter is available now for pre-order and expected to ship in mid-April.
Moga is a tough sell, and the company behind the controllers knows it.
The devices function through a marriage of hardware and software called Pivot, which Moga uses to mitigate Android devices' inherent fragmentation. The software eases the potential burden on consumers who need to pair the Bluetooth devices with their smartphones and tablets. The app's built-in storefront also links to a growing list of Moga-compatible games. That list currently includes dozens of developers.
The demo we played featured a free-to-play first-person shooter called Dead Trigger by Madfinger Games. It had all the hallmarks of a modern first-person shooter: wave-based rounds, multiple maps and zombies. We played the same game on a Samsung Galaxy phone, the substantial Samsung Galaxy Note and a Kindle Fire. Particularly with the full-sized Pro, the controls were intuitive and free of lag. The moment-to-moment gameplay felt natural. Dead Trigger's implementation — which Moga provides to developers with a free software development kit or as a plugin for the Unity engine — felt just like playing on a console.
For all the devices Moga does support, there's an omission in its expanding compatibility list that is difficult to ignore: Moga controllers don't work with iOS devices.
Richards was cautious about his response when asked about Apple, but he made it clear that Moga would be more than willing to enter the popular mobile gaming ecosystem if that becomes possible.
"There are people doing things related to iOS without iOS's blessing," he said. "We are not going to ever approach a platform like that. We work with Google on Android. We work with Amazon on Kindle. We work with Microsoft on Windows Phone 8. We work with Nokia, we work with the phone manufacturers [like] HTC. We work with the developers. We work directly with those companies.
"When and if Apple embraces controllers, we'll be there."
It's impossible to tell whether solid implementation will translate into the controller line's success. And Richards' sleeping consumer impression indicates that the people behind Moga know that, too.
To have a shot at success, Moga's developers believe they have to convince three groups of their product's viability: developers, manufacturers and consumers. The company's presence at GDC and the Kindle Fire and Windows Phone announcements are geared toward developers.
"This is a starting gun for developers," Richards said. "They can go do this now, [because] we're giving them the tools to go do it."
Its presence on the PAX East show floor was aimed at the consumer. Retail is the third strategy. That's how Moga thinks it can convince convince consumers to adopt its products.
To get it into the public's hands, Moga devices will be available at retailers like Best Buy, Walmart and Amazon as well through cell phone carriers AT&T, Verizon and more in the coming months. Having playable versions of the devices puts them in people's hands.
The combination of a solid controller and games that convince consumers that there's a reason to strap their smartphone into a controller rather than slide their thumbs across glass is what Moga hopes will convince consumers to bring the devices from the stores to their homes.