If you’ve ever tried to get a single video game controller to work with your smartphone, tablet, laptop, and TV, you’ve probably come away frustrated. To deal with that, game peripheral maker Mad Catz Interactive has proposed its GameSmart initiative to make it possible to use wireless peripherals across all major platforms.
It’s a big idea and will require a lot of industry support, including integration by the makers of operating systems such as iOS and Android, said Darren Richardson, the president and chief executive of Mad Catz, in an interview with GamesBeat. In the larger picture, the effort could make it easier to play games across your TV, PC, smartphones, and tablets.
Richardson said MadCatz has made good headway with the technology and will announce GameSmart products next week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The technology functions through the latest Bluetooth wireless connection technology, known as Bluetooth Smart. Apple and Samsung already use this technology for connecting devices to their newest smartphones and tablets.
Mad Catz says that GameSmart devices will have simplified setup, longer battery life, and universal compatibility across hardware platforms. If you buy a GameSmart controller, you’ll be able to use it much like you can when you buy a computer mouse, which plugs into any PC and just works. That’s the vision, anyway. But first, Mad Catz needs to gather a consortium of allies together to support the GameSmart initiative. Richardson said the effort is open and not proprietary, so other game peripheral makers could join it if they want.
This tech wouldn’t work with the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, and the Wii U, which don’t use Bluetooth Smart — though this could appear in the upcoming generation of consoles. But Mad Catz said the main platform targets are smartphones, tablets, smart TV’s and cloud based gaming services.
“We are working with chip suppliers, platform owners, and the handset makers to make a much bigger protocol that provides simple connectivity for any device working with any hardware platform,” Richardson said. “The efficient way to do this is through changes in the operating systems.”
With GameSmart, San Diego-based Mad Catz hopes to get around the problem that many game developers and game controller makers are running into now. Right now, if someone makes a controller for a smartphone, the ordinary Bluetooth connection could drain the battery in the peripheral device too quickly. And if someone makes a game to work with a phone and controller, there is no guarantee that the game would work with a different phone or different controller.
“Smart devices have made considerable inroads in delivering all forms of entertainment including games, music, movies, books, and social media,” Richardson said. “Mobile gaming is a vibrant and exciting space and we don’t see controller-based games replacing touch screen games, we expect them to enhance and enlarge the smart device gaming experience to include the living room experience.”
Apple began adding Bluetooth Smart capability with the iPhone 4s model. The iPhone 5, MacBook Pro, iPad, and newest iPod touch are Bluetooth Smart ready. So is the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Motorola Droid RAZR. Richardson said he could not say which other companies he is working with now.
“This is a lot more ambitious than doing a closed microcosm of games that are supported by one hardware platform,” he said.