Logitech on Wednesday introduced its new PowerShell Controller + Battery, a device that’s designed to turn users’ iPhones into gaming consoles.
Compatible with iPhone 5, iPhone 5s and fifth-generation iPod touch devices running iOS 7, the PowerShell offers analog off-screen controls along with a battery pack for US$99.99. It is now available.
Users simply insert a compatible handset into the device, which provides a familiar game control experience with a left-hand D-pad, right-hand face buttons and shoulder triggers. The device also includes a booster 1500 mAh battery that is designed to increase the battery capacity of the handset.
“We designed this controller to deliver a true console-gaming experience on an iOS 7 mobile device,” said Ehtisham Rabbani, general manager of the Logitech gaming business. “With gaming so pervasive on the mobile platform — our research shows that 87 percent of iPhone and iPod touch users play games on their device — it’s time to revolutionize the experience.”
Addressing a Niche Market
While in use, the PowerShell allows gamers to maintain full access to the handset’s on/off button, volume, camera, speakers, headphone jack and charging port. The controller is compatible with the iOS 7 game controller framework as well, so it will work with a slew of new and popular titles.
It is not the only such device, but the breadth of its appeal remains to be seen.
“This is currently a niche market in our view,” Joost van Dreunen, cofounder of SuperData Research, told TechNewsWorld.
“Certainly there’s a distinct trend toward more complex game play on mobile devices, as the market has started to saturate,” van Dreunen noted. “It looks like hardware companies are trying to catch this wave by offering input devices that extend the game play on mobile.
“It is, however, unlikely that these devices will become a ubiquitous gift during the holiday season,” he predicted, “with the exception perhaps of the more ‘core’ gamers.”
That said, “it could also be very much an impulse buy this holiday season and be a Christmas gift for that gamer in the family,” Wanda Meloni, senior analyst at M2 Research, told TechNewsWorld. “Logitech is a name that people — especially gamers — will recognize, so that helps.”
Research suggests “that there is a small market of hardcore console gamers who play on their iPhones,” Meloni added. “So there is a market, but those numbers are really small and aren’t growing.”
For the Hardcore
Of course, hardcore gamers already have plenty of other devices to choose from.
“Companies keep trying to do this, and when it comes down to it, serious gamers are going to play on the consoles or PC at home or on a dedicated handheld system,” independent video game analyst Billy Pidgeon told TechNewsWorld. “There is already an immersive experience with the Nintendo 3DS or the Sony PlayStation Vita.”
Then, too, there’s the fact that most iPhone games are designed with onscreen controls and use the accelerometer and gyroscope, Pidgeon pointed out.
“The beauty of the iPhone is that it is small, and this makes the device anything but small,” he added.
Splintering Game Development
The bottom line is that it’s not entirely clear who would buy the PowerShell.
“It has a certain geek factor, but beyond that it seems sort of like that ‘airplane magazine’-type device that you are left wondering, ‘who buys this stuff’?” said Meloni.
A similar issue could hamper it on the game-development side. While the PowerShell will work only with the iPhone 5 and 5s, it also isn’t compatible with every iOS game.
“That could splinter game development,” said Pidgeon. “For developers, that isn’t something they’d like to see, because you want to develop for all the handsets — not just something that is dedicated to a specific add-on or piece of hardware.”
In short, “there are a couple of games that might be the exception,” he concluded, “but people aren’t really looking for a hardcore gaming experience with a smartphone.”