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Mad Catz: VR is driving a huge surge in the sales of flight sticks

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Everyone wants to be in space

Mad Catz, the gaming peripheral company that owns flight stick manufacturer Saitek, creates a wide range of products at a variety of price points, but the Saitek X-52 was the company's biggest hit of last year.

That's a surge that Alex Verrey, Global PR director for Mad Catz, attributes to space games and virtual reality.

"Last year, through most of last year? The HOTAS [Hands-on throttle and stick] system was the best selling product of the company," he told Polygon. "That's because of Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen and the whole VR thing. We literally couldn't make them fast enough."

I wanted to be clear: They think this sales boost is due to VR? "There's no doubt, absolutely I believe that. No doubt," Verrey said. And they're chasing that market aggressively. There is a range of products aimed at Elite Dangerous, and the X-52 model is actually in the game.

"We have the X-52 coded into the game so when you look down you have the full graphical representation [of the controller]," Verrey said. "They've coded it into the game. You can see the controls. We have an exclusive range of Star Citizen hardware hitting later this year, and that's looking super cool. It's taking our HOTAS products and adapting them specifically for Star Citizen."

This all adds up to a big push for flight sticks in VR games. "The surge in VR is absolutely impacting our sales," Verrey said. He said that HTC is using the flight sticks to demo the Vive at CES, and Saitek had Frontier, the developer of Elite Dangerous, at its booth at other shows demoing the game.

What's interesting about this trend is that there are so few Oculus Rift development kits in the wild, compared to standard gaming hardware. But many people with the dev kits are upgrading their systems to include a full flight stick.

"Our partners are flocking to purchase them for development kits," Verrey said. "We're seeing a huge surge in sales. It's great."

Another surprising hit? The Farm Simulator products Saitek released earlier this year. So, of course, Verrey wants the game to come to VR.

farm simulator ces

"They have absolutely proven so ultra-successful for us ... better than I think anybody could have imagined. Wouldn't it be great if they coded that into VR? You can put on your Rift and be on that tractor, and be on that farm. And then we can code the Farm Simulator hardware into the game as well.

"We have this whole community that likes to farm!" Verrey said.