May 25, 2022

Our favourite official gaming peripheral fails (seventh gen to now)

Sometimes a plan doesn’t come together. So check out our favourite official gaming peripheral fails (Seventh Gen to Now)

Welcome fellow tat hoarders to our favourite official gaming peripheral fails seventh gen to now! As you eye the release of yet another COD instalment you may not feel it, but the gaming industry is pretty darned innovative. Forking out lots of money on a console or PC is a one off purchase after all and big companies want to keep those fat dollar bills rolling in. So they try and bring out different hardware to encourage loyalty and hope to hit on the next big thing. Sometimes this pays off handsomely. Sometimes, not so much.

So strap yourselves in for a jaunt down memory lane as we give you a list of some of our favourite pieces of failed gaming hardware. Before we kick off though, let’s set our ground rules. Firstly, this is just our opinion and is based on hardware that we have owned and used. These are official peripherals supported by the platform holder. By failed, we don’t necessarily mean bad. We mean it was a piece of kit that just didn’t set the world alight or died a bit of a death. Some of these on the list are still used by us here at Any Button Gaming regularly. There also isn’t any particular order, other than getting us getting a chance to talk about some unique bits of gaming history.

PlayStation TV (PS Vita TV)

We aren’t going to get into failed consoles per se in this list, but this 2014 oddity somewhat straddles the line between a companion piece for the handheld PlayStation Vita and a console in its own right. The device is a little TV set top box that is essentially a PlayStation Vita without screen or touch controls. It could be controlled, sort of, with a DualShock 3 or 4 controller. So, in theory, gamers could get a PS Vita system on their big TV at a cheaper cost point.

As an idea, it sort of made sense, and the then CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, Andrew House, outlined that its main purpose was to compete in China where not much gaming penetration had been made. A way to play Vita games on a TV that could really show off the beauty of Vita games on an HD device? Count us in.

Awww it’s so cuuuute!

Except, well, it really couldn’t. While the DS3 and DS4 controllers could simulate some of the features of the Vita controls, it still left a significant number of PS Vita titles unplayable. Fancied a bit of Uncharted: Golden Abyss? Nope, the game won’t boot because it needs motion and back panel touch support. It also ran into the same issues as the Vita itself – expensive proprietary memory cards and a lack of enticing software or apps. Imagine a set top box that couldn’t even support Netflix?

So tiny… so pointless?

Given this, it quickly got a price reduction after it launched in the West in 2015, retailing for as low as $60. It was quietly canned by Sony in 2016. All of which make this a real shame. The device is flawed, sure, but a great modding community has made most Vita games playable now. Not only that but it is a great way to play the Vita’s PS1 and PSP library too. We still have ours hooked up to this day, modded with custom wallpapers and a heck of a lot of games.

Steam Controller

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that we have added this PC peripheral to the list of failed hardware, even though it didn’t exactly fail sales wise. The Steam Controller was designed and release by Valve in 2016. Valve, the pioneers of the PC storefront Steam, wanted to make a controller that would be versatile enough to handle most PC games – including those that used Mouse controls.

As such, it had one analogue stick but two touch pads with built in haptic feedback. With configurable buttons and rear triggers to help add more controls, it was also fully gyroscopic. The idea, like a PC, users could configure it how they liked. In reality, the controller never took off. The touch panels made for a poor right analogue stick replacement on games that needed it, and the configuration needed was per game and could be quite touchy. It never felt as good as a mouse and it wasn’t as good as a standard controller.

Throw in a chunky and rather cheap feeling design and you have another piece of failed hardware. It DID sell over a million devices and had good support from Valve but ultimately, it was put out to pasture in 2019 with a fire sale of remaining stock.

A sound philosophy

Was it a mad decision for Valve to release such a controller? As a standalone controller, the answer is probably yes. The thing is, the Steam Controller was never meant to JUST be a controller. It was supposed to be the go to device for people to play PC games away from their desk. It was designed to work with the Steam Link or Steam Machines (a console form factor PC gaming device). Ultimately, it was for a suite of products cantered around Steam OS. In that context, having a versatile controller made far more sense.

Sort of makes sense with the Steam Link?

Alas, it was not to be, in this lifetime at least. There’s still a dedicated community out there and our Editor in Chief Darren swears by his. In the end though, the greatest legacy of the Steam Controller was the lessons learnt in the build of the Steam Deck.

Circle Pad Pro

We have a pretty big soft spot here for the Nintendo 3DS. It never really set the world alight in the same was as its earlier papa, the DS, but it ended up selling a respectable 68 million units and had a great library of titles. The system had some teething issues when it launched in 2011 and one was its set of controls.

You see, it only had one analogue input, the Circle pad on the left hand side. Most games in a 3D environment needed a second stick. Nintendo quickly came up a very Nintendo solution to the problem. Let’s release a peripheral that you can buy that gives the player a right hand Circle Pad, new trigger buttons with a ZL and ZR plus a second right handed trigger.

Look at the state of that

Ultimately, you didn’t NEED the peripheral to play an 3DS game. Not only that but games had to officially support the device. In total, 32 games officially supported the peripheral and it did mean that controls in some games were a lot easier. We’d say that Resident Evil: Revelations and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate were near essential to get the best out of the game.

A very Nintendo solution

Still, there were some inherent issues with the Circle Pad Pro. Firstly, is the concept – i.e., please pay more for slightly better controls on some games. Secondly, it took the rather compact and small OG 3DS and made it a chonky beast with a completely different layout style. It was also available in black only, despite the 3DS having many different colours. Lastly, it was rumoured it also took an additional 5% CPU overhead to support. A toughie when you don’t have much to play with in the first place.

Ultimately, Nintendo killed this off themselves when the recognised the error of their ways in the ‘New’ 3DS revisions that had the shoulder buttons and right ‘nub’ stick on the devices themselves. Plus, despite being bundled in with games like Kid Icarus: Uprising, you never really saw the device being played this way in promotional material. Ah Nintendo, always an odd solution for a problem you introduced!

VR AIM Controller

This author was an early adopter of the PS4 PSVR hardware. Day one in fact. Yet it took until May 2017 for possibly the best experience to come out on the device and that needed a new peripheral. The Aim controller is an odd looking controller that tries to replicate a two handed weapon in Virtual Reality. It was released and promoted for the VR FPS Farpoint. In real life it looks like an odd medical instrument with a balloon attached to the end. In the Farpoint, it transformed into multiple weapons that felt real and could be aimed accurately. Hence the name we guess?

As a VR peripheral, it was instantly far better than the ageing Move Controllers. It still had the problems of rear tracking being a no-no but it was solid and had analogue sticks for movement. It turned Farpoint from a meh to OMG experience. We played through the campaign a couple of times. Then we pretty much never touched the device again.

Sure it looks silly…

The Aim controller was well made and worked well but it needed developer support and in the end, that amounted to 18 PSVR games. It worked really well in some of these – the popular Firewall Zero Hour multiplayer shooter was possibly the high point, alongside a patch for Borderlands 2 VR that supported it. In other cases though, like Doom VFR, it was an afterthought that was pushed into it.

Which is really part of the problem with releasing a niche peripheral for what became a niche device. At approx. $70 at launch with a game, it wasn’t the most expensive thing to come out of Sony. It was, however, still expensive when you had already invested nearly $400 in a VR headset (not to mention the PS4 to use it).

The Aim controller was never going to be a huge seller and we don’t think that was Sony’s intent with it. It just wanted to experiment within the VR space and we aren’t blaming it for not supporting further. It is just a shame that a peripheral that gave us the best sensation of shooting we’ve had in VR (and we include Alyx in that bold statement) is going to be put to rest with the headset that birthed it.

Nintendo Labo

This… well this had to be here didn’t it? Nintendo’s innovation knows no bounds and nor does its ability to take risks. In this case, producing multiple sets of buildable sets for its pioneering Switch Console out of… cardboard. We aren’t going to deny, the ingenuity of these sets are something else. Building a working piano, a mecha style robot suit, a fishing rod, a vehicle. It even tried a type of stereoscopic 3D to give a VR ‘feel’ to a small selection of games that supported it.

It is all very impressive, using the versatility of the Switch and its Joycons to do some fun things with some fun mini games. The thing is though.. it’s cardboard. It’s for kids. My kids would have wrecked it in nano seconds. It wasn’t cheap and yet the joy is in the building and once done… well, bound for the recycling it would become.

We actually think it is pretty neat that Nintendo produced something actually recyclable and relatively inexpensive as a companion piece to the successful Switch. However, it was still too expensive to justify its cost on something that was really a one and done kind of toy set. I guess where some people think outside the box, Nintendo thinks of the box itself? Who knows?

Microsoft Xbox 360 HD DVD Player

This is pushing the terminology for ‘modern’ we know (is the seventh gen retro yet?). Still, we have a soft spot for the 360 HD DVD player because not only did it fail, the whole technology it is based on failed. It really marks one of this ‘what if’ moments in technology. You see, back in the mid 2000’s, there was a brief and relatively boring war on HD disc formats. We won’t go into too many details but what is important is that in 2006 two HD disc formats for movies became available. HD DVD an Blu Ray.

This also coincided with the start of the seventh generation of gaming consoles. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 had launched in November 2005 and had eschewed any multimedia HD playback for movies etc. to keep price down. Arguably, they were right to do so. When the more expensive PS3 released in 2006 (and the west in 2007), it had a built in Blu Ray player and offered quite a few promotions of the format.

In 2006, HD was relatively new but it was clear it would become the future of TV technology. Except, the technology was expensive. Both standalone HD DVD and Blu Ray Players were very expensive. Sony, who had supported Blu Ray with other manufacturers like Panasonic and Phillips, included it with the PS3 console to help support the format. This was the same approach taken with DVD with the PS2. Not wanting to miss out, Microsoft threw its lot with the HD DVD by releasing a 360 HD DVD Player accessory

Blu Ray Wins – KO

This player, themed around the design of the 360, was, again, cheaper than a standalone HD DVD Player. The war was gonna hot up. Except it never really did. HD DVD quickly died a death, with aggressive promotion from the likes of Sony and more adoption by movie studios who liked the piracy DRM attached to the format. By 2008, the HD DVD format was dead and Blu Rays were ready to take the world by, well, a slight rain swell. Because streaming was just round the corner…

Still, what might have been right? It’s weird to think why MS threw their lot in with the format other than for competition purposes.

Wii Speak

It boggles many a gamers minds to think that the Wii, released at the same time as the powerful HD orientated PS3 and 360, won that particular console generation. Appealing to more than just the ‘hardcore’ gamer market, many traditional non gamers bought into the innovative little device. Your Granny might even have had one. Some loved it, some hated it, but you can’t deny that it came with an AWFUL lot of shovel ware and a lot of pointless accessories. The majority of these accessories were made by third parties as an attempt to cash in on the Wii’s success. Nintendo themselves had great luck with the Wii Motion plus, as well as the fitness Balance Board. The same can’t be said of 2008’s Wii Speak accessory.

To put it basically, it was a USB microphone. According to Nintendo it allowed voice chat to be conducted with the whole room as opposed to just one speaker. Imagine a conference room mic if you will. It was claimed that it could filter out game and non-voice noise to allow chat across compatible titles or the Wii Speak Channel that was released. We mean, it kinda worked. The issue, like so many peripherals was the point for it. In the end only 13 titles actually supported the device and to use online with others, they of course needed the Wii Speak. In Europe, it did come bundled with Animal Crossing: City Folk but that couldn’t help make this seem a must buy.

Technically compatible with the Wii U, this device died a quick death and is practically unusable since 2014 when the Wii online services closed up shop. On the plus side, you could shout down your family on Jeopardy. So… there was that?

Our favourite official gaming peripheral failures!

So that concludes our favourite ‘failed’ official gaming peripherals list. Did you have anything you wanted to add? Do you have any of the above? Ever considered eBay? Let us know below!


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