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It’s 2018, and we’re long removed from the Super Nintendo‘s prime days of the early ’90s. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have an awesome new controller for the classic console.
Benj Edwards is a journalist that focuses on tech history. He’s the editor of Vintage Computing and host of The Culture of Tech podcast, and he’s also appeared on the popular retro gaming podcast Retronauts. But his love of retro technology isn’t limited to writing and podcasts. He also makes machines of his own, specifically custom joysticks like the one pictured above for the SNES.
This controller, called the BX-110 Super NES, is compatible with original SNES consoles. Edwards buys the parts in bulk and puts each one together himself. He then sells them through PayPal, charging $100 plus shipping. The next batch of sticks will be going out in January.
I love the way his sticks look. They’re simple while retaining the color scheme of the SNES. It looks heavy and sturdy, just the way this kind of controller should feel.
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You can watch Edwards use the stick below.
Playing Mega Man X with the BX-110 pic.twitter.com/XcGJUsxm4K
— Benj Edwards (@benjedwards) October 17, 2018
Edwards’ project isn’t limited to the SNES. He also makes sticks for the NES.
I'm taking pre-orders for a large run of BX-90 joysticks for NES
Price is $95 (incl. free shipping to US) until Oct 20. Delivery in Dec or Jan
— Benj Edwards (@benjedwards) October 16, 2018
Sega fans aren’t left out, either. He has a stick for the Genesis.
TODAY ONLY – Free US priority mail shipping on orders of the BX-95 — a top-notch Sega Genesis stick using genuine Sanwa arcade parts, weighted body, screwed-in rubber feet
Type in $100 and add a "BX-95" note
Every stick is built to order pic.twitter.com/AFgoQZOIFz
— Benj Edwards (@benjedwards) October 16, 2018
Edwards first dabbled with making custom sticks in 2016, when he made one for the Atari 800 for his brother as a Christmas present.
“Just this year, I was thinking about ways I could make money while having fun, and I thought people might enjoy the same thing,” Edwards told GamesBeat. “Each stick uses genuine Sanwa arcade parts (joystick assembly and buttons), and I weight them with steel weights and add screwed-in rubber feet for a great feel.”
Buying those parts can be expensive, Benj notes. That’s why he’s trying to buy them in bulk now, to help make the investment in parts and time for profitable. So far, he has hand-built 62 joysticks. Demand is now increasing so much that he has to slow down production until he can build them more efficiently. For example, right now he hand-paints each button. That process will be cheaper and more efficient if Sanwa can send him the buttons painted in bulk.
Preorders are the key for his success. They can help him gauge interest in his products, which give him the info he needs to buy the parts he needs in bulk at reduced prices.
“I just hope I can get enough people preordering so I can keep this thing going,” Edwards told GamesBeat. “The more people preorder, the more I can lower the costs of my joysticks in the future so more people can enjoy them.”
If he gets 50 preorders for the BX-110 Super NES, he’ll be able to comfortably make more of the joysticks without having to seek crowdfunding on a site like Kickstarter (Something Edwards has thought about but would like to avoid). Considering how awesome his controllers looks, I’m hopeful (and confident) that he’ll reach that milestone.
The RetroBeat is a weekly column that looks at gaming’s past, diving into classics, new retro titles, or looking at how old favorites — and their design techniques — inspire today’s market and experiences. If you have any retro-themed projects or scoops you’d like to send my way, please contact me.
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