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Open letter to Microsoft: Where is that Xbox Live Arcade Joystick?

by: Dan -
More On: Blog
Since the Xbox 360 hit retailer’s shelves in 2005, there has been one peripheral that Microsoft hasn’t addressed in their line of products: An official Microsoft Xbox Live Arcade Joystick.

A couple of third-party accessory makers have provided alternatives (albeit somewhat adequate options), as Mad Catz released their “Officially Licensed” ArcadeSTICK, which came bundled with three XBLA titles for $39.99, and Hori released a compatible arcade “fighting” joystick with Dead or Alive that retailed for around $49.99.

The ArcadeSTICK introduced us to a feature-packed product with lots of buttons and control options, but lacking in overall toughness and heft. While it can do many things utilizing different options (spinner anyone?; analog stick, d-pad AND a joystick), it just feels too light, is awkward to control and doesn’t seem to respond well to the abusive nature that XBLA titles such as Track and Field, Frogger and Ultimate Mortal Kombat place on a device.

The Hori Fighting Stick has the classic button and joystick design in a larger control box, but once again doesn’t have the heft despite being a Hori product. Not to mention, the movement restrictor on the joystick itself is square, not rounded, so you don’t get that true response that we come to expect. The Hori stick seems to be a bit more available now, but for a while it was very hard to find one, even on E-bay. Throw in the $59.99 price, which I find hard to justify based on the overall quality of the product, and it really isn’t that great of an option.

Although both have their flaws (including no wireless capabilities, lack of “heft” and hard to find), they do bring some good qualities to the game (spinner, layout and shape) that make them an ok alternative. However, there are 38 coin-op and console classics currently on XBLA that would benefit from a better product that what these two bring to the table.

Here is my opinion on this directed to Microsoft: If you aren’t going to release a wireless branded joystick, then get someone that will. My suggestion…get with the good folks at X-Arcade, the makers of the infamous Tankstick to put together the ultimate Arcade style peripheral for Microsoft. They are already working on an adapter for the Xbox 360, so why not contract with them to make the official Microsoft branded joystick for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live Arcade? There is money to be made with this product if it is marketed properly. It doesn’t have to be an inexpensive piece-of-crap, nor does it have to be a $199 add-on. It needs to be durable, comfortable and capable of delivering the 20-year-old Arcade experience into 2007.

I remember getting an e-mail survey from Microsoft back in 2006 that had questions that seemed to point toward future product and pricing releases. One question was “How interested would you be in buying an Xbox 360 branded mini-keyboard plug-in device for your controller to make text messaging and chat easier, assuming it would cost between $19-$29?” This obviously foretold the Xbox 360 Messenger kit.

More importantly was another question in that survey that was asked about the image below: “How interested are you in purchasing a wireless joystick like the one pictured, designed for many of the most popular Xbox Live Arcade titles for your Xbox 360 console in the next 12 months, assuming it would cost between $29-$39?” Instead of going with the branded route, this was a question that eventually referred to the officially licensed Mad Catz ArcadeSTICK.

Well, I for one am extremely interested in getting a Microsoft branded wireless joystick for use with Xbox Live Arcade. I know others are as well. A recent poll on XboxAmerica indicated that over 65% of the respondents (78 of 119) would purchase a Microsoft branded Xbox 360 Joystick if given the chance. So let’s get cracking on this Microsoft and make one that has the quality, bulk and feel of a real Arcade joystick. Bundle it with some exclusive games and get it out there for the holidays ….