During Apple’s event Wednesday, a video presentation showed actors using a wide variety of Apple products. In a brief few seconds, one was waving the new Apple TV remote, which magically loaded a racing game, in the middle of a race (what a horrible feature!), on his high-definition TV screen. The actor quickly spun the remote control horizontally, grabbed it with both hands like a gamepad, and did his best body language impression of “Whoa, bro!”
And I groaned.
Look, the cheesiness of the presentation aside, I don’t want to revisit the Wii controller experience. It’s a safe bet that a lot of fans of play don’t want motion control as their primary input device either.
Given that Apple TV has a Bluetooth sensor, however, it may have more gamepad options than you may think. Given that Apple is Apple, however, I can’t claim that all of these will work nicely with the new Apple TV until I have a unit in hand. On paper, however, some of these controllers may be able to talk to the system.
SteelSeries spent a year collaborating with Apple trying to design the best gamepad solution for the Apple TV. What they wound up producing is the Nimbus, a wireless iOS-friendly controller that is also attempting to be an esports level gamepad. Seeing as I haven’t actually tried a Nimbus to test the esport claim, I wouldn’t start tossing away my wired controllers just yet.
The Nimbus has a modern boomerang mold with four face buttons, two sticks, a D-pad, a Menu button, and set of bumper/trigger buttons on the top. SteelSeries is touting that the product has a “Lightning Connector,” which is a piece of quick-charging technology. Whether it is actually fast enough to be called Lightning, we’ll have to see.
Availability: Although the Nimbus is not an official pack-in for the Apple TV, it will be available for purchase from Apple store locations at the same time as the Apple TV launch, which is late October. Expect to drop about $50.
Before SteelSeries worked out the technology for the Nimbus, it was busy with its Stratus line of wireless Bluetooth controllers. The Stratus comes in two flavors: the regular and the XL. Both versions have the same button layout as the Nimbus, but the mold between the regular and XL Stratus are different. The regular is shaped more like a rectangular block of plastic, with no opening on the bottom center. The XL adopts the boomerang shape that is popular for most modern gamepads.
PlayStation 4 Wireless Controller
Now, this is what I am talking about. You can’t beat the tried-and-true design of a solid Sony controller: two grippy nubs to wrest in my wrist, two sticks sitting just center, the classic face buttons, and the slightly elongated trigger buttons. It’s lightweight and familiar. Hopefully, its Bluetooth functionality can penetrate the fortified walls of the Apple-sphere.
Availability: Retail and online for $60.
You know, why not? It’s Bluetooth, after all. I’m not a fan of motion control wand-waving, but at least Nintendo designed the Wii Remote to be swung around while playing games (especially when Nintendo introduced the wrist strap and protectors). It also has the added benefit of the Nunchuk attachment for two-fisted hand waving.
Availability: The Wii Remote is at some retailers for between $35-$60 and online as well.
The MadCatz C.T.R.L.i is almost an exact replica of the Xbox 360 controller, right down to the alignment of the dual sticks and the shape of the trigger button. The MadCatz C.T.R.L.i Mini is essentially the same thing, just 20 percent smaller. Why would anyone want a smaller controller? My guess, other than having small hands, is the fact that the C.T.R.L.i series of products is specifically designed for the portability of mobile gaming. These controllers contain a special attachment that allows a mobile device to sit just above the gamepad. The fact that the C.T.R.L.i is already compatible with iOS devices makes it an ideal gamepad candidate to run on the Apple TV.
Availability: Both are available through MadCatz store. The standard-size C.T.R.L.i is $60. The Micro C.T.R.L.i is $50.
8Bitdo’s entire product line
Outside of work, I have almost no interest in adopting wireless controllers into my gaming routine. The thing is, as much as I am a wired-gaming snob, I am an even larger retro snob. So 8Bitdo’s entire line of Bluetooth, iOS ready products definitely has my attention. The molds are based off of Nintendo’s classic 8- and 16-bit era gamepads. Of particular interest are the Super NES/Super Famicom dog bone controllers and the NES/Famicom rectangle pads.
Availability: Mostly available online through sources like Amazon, ranging from $35 to $50.
All sorts of mysterious ‘X’ brand stuff
While browsing Amazon, I ran into a couple of mysterious Bluetooth enabled controllers — such as the Sminiker Bluetooth Gamepad and a line of E&A wireless Bluetooth controllers. I can’t find information on the manufacturers, and in general, their designs look a bit sharp and uncomfortable. That’s besides the overall shady vibes of the product titles and in some cases, a lack of customer reviews. I wouldn’t go this route. At least not until someone trustworthy has tested the waters first.
Availability: If you’re brave, you can find these things all over Amazon for about $15.