Up until now I have always chosen a 3DS or Vita over my phone, even if it meant sacrificing portability. Why? Buttons, man. Buttons. While there are a few smartly designed mobile games that don't need buttons, there are still plenty of titles that have tried to replace standard controls with touchscreen emulations. You and I both know how well those work.
At Penny Arcade Expo this past weekend, the MOGA mobile controller solution was shown off to the public for the first time. I gave the device a spin there with several different Android-based phones and tablets and came away impressed. There are a lot of mobile gaming controllers out there, but this one seems to do it better than the rest.
Why MOGA is good:
Buttons and analog pad: These are console-quality (or portable game system-quality) buttons, folks. The four face buttons and shoulder triggers are nice and responsive, and not mushy. The dual analog sticks have good movement, and are faced with rubber-ish pads for solid gripping. I played racing titles and had no issues with slipping.
Hand feel: The backside of the MOGA controller features small extended grips that fit nicely in my hands. Each side holds one battery, so the weight is distributed evenly. I know this looks small, but it really does feel nice.
Some might not dig that it's not flat, but the device is still thin enough to be at least back pocket-able.
Connectivity: The MOGA connects to mobile devices via Bluetooth, which is standard, but what makes this better than other controller solutions is a software suite that does all the heavy lifting. The Pivot app serves as a menu to launch all MOGA-compatible games on your device, setting them so you're good to go from booth with mapped controls. The app also lets you purchase compatible games to add to your library, so you're not stuck searching for compatible titles. You'll never have to fudge with software configurations or mapping as they do all the work for you. This alone makes the MOGA a better controller solution than anything else out there.
Compatibility: They're on this, which is nice to see as this could make or break the device early on. They work directly with game companies to make sure that Big companies like Gameloft, Namco Bandai, Sega, Atari and more are on board, and several more are coming. Power A teased more announcements in the near future during our meeting.
Retention arm: What good is a controller for mobile gaming if you have to hold your phone up? The MOGA has a retention arm that holds phones up and out in front of the controller. It's extendable, and even able to hold the huge Samsung Note. For tablet gaming you'd have to prop your device up somewhere, though.
Compatibility: While Power A is working hard to ensure as many games will work with the MOGA as possible, it's inevitable that some won't be. Let's hope that they have some kind of manual mapping function in place in their software for these instances.
Size: While the MOGA's size and shape are fine for my normal-sized hands, the layout may be a bit cramped for those with bigger hands. Thumbs fall nicely onto the sticks and buttons for me, but they might get lost in meatier palms.
If you have an Android 2.3+ phone or tablet and like to play games, the MOGA controller should be on your radar. This is an elegant solution to the touchscreen control problem, and is perfect for on-the-go gaming with its small size and battery power. It would also be nice to use as a controller for home use on a television. iOS compatibility would also be nice.
Power A tells us that MOGA will be priced roughly in line with the cost of a console game controller. Look for an official price and date later this month or early next.