GDC 13: MOGA — The Low-Cost Solution to Physical Mobile Gaming

Let’s stop the mindless worship for a second and be honest: touchscreen gaming stinks. Sure, there are games that excel on the platform, like Super Hexagon, Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja, but the majority of titles would play better with physical controls. Even though tablets and smartphones have dominated the market for five years, we’re finally seeing the emergence of solutions for this aggravating gamer problem. One is the Wikipad, a purpose-built tablet that includes an external game controller. Moga, however, allows you to use any phone Android OS 2.3 or higher (the majority of smartphones in use) via Bluetooth.

MOGA-PRO-Gameplay

Last October, Mobile Moga was released to give gamers the first taste of physical controls from the company. Retailing at $49.99, it was a solid piece of hardware at a pretty reasonable price point. Many games saw marked improvements with the device and its slim size allowed it to fit in the tightest of spots. One issue it had, however, was a lack of “real” controls. It had tiny buttons and analog sliders and even though they felt fine with most games, it still left the gaming experience decidedly “mobile”. The company’s latest product, Moga Pro, is attempting to remedy that with full gamepad controls.

Backed by Power A, notable for their Xbox 360 controllers, Moga Pro feels like something that would be released for said console. With full face buttons, two analog sticks and triggers, it feels like a console experience in your hands. Phones slip right in and not only did it easily hold the Samsung Galaxy III we demoed with it, but had no issue swapping out my Droid Bionic at a moment’s notice. It changes how some games are played (like Dead Trigger) for the better and makes others actually playable. The included Pac-Man, for instance, becomes more than an annoying “…I’ll just play it on Xbox 360 or arcade” experience and is actually fun. Of course, we still need a fast version of Ms. Pac-Man for it to become a wholly legitimate, but I digress. Shooters and arcade games see the most improvement, with games like R-Type becoming competitive.

MOGA-PRO-Group

Due out in the next month, we only had a few problems with Moga and they were mainly with the software. The MOGA Pivot app could use some refining, as it failed to recognize two MOGA-enabled games we already had installed and wouldn’t launch Sonic CD with the peripheral’s controls functioning. The other is the current lack of games. While there are over fifty from top publishers that are perfect candidates for the Moga treatment, that’s just a drop in the bucket considering there are hundreds of thousands of mobile games. We’re not too concerned, however, as if if the adoption rate is high, this will likely be remedied. At its low price point, anybody remotely interested in it should consider picking it up; it’s a great device as it stands and the price of admission is worth future potential alone. After all, it’s nice to finally be able to play an FPS on the go and not want to throw your cell phone against a brick wall.