Over a year ago when I found out about the MFi controller program that would allow manufacturers to create gaming controllers for iOS device, I was a bit excited. But after looking at the offerings, I decided to wait until the quality & price was in parity with other controllers on the market. Now, well over a year later, and I am still waiting.
The least expensive controllers are about $50, but would only sell for $30 if they were made for consoles such as the XBox or Playstation because the quality it still lacking. Of those that come closer to the quality of Xbox & PS3 controllers, their street price is still $20 over the retail of a console controller.
The “reason” manufacturers give when asked about the price gap is the extra expense of a battery and Bluetooth. This is a weak argument considering Sony has had battery packs and wireless in their controllers since the PS3 came out. Bluetooth hardware is at commodity levels now on top of that — I can buy a decent pair of BT headphones with decent audio and a 10 hour battery life for less than $40 today. Pressure sensitive switches are also not cutting edge tech either — again that tech dates back to last decade.
What this boils down to inferior products priced to what the market will bare based on the prestige of the brand. If Apple & manufacturers riding on the coat tails of Apple’s premium brand image think consumers will put up with this sort of thing, they are probably having a rude awakening. While some people will gladly fork over $100 for a decent controller, most will look at the offerings and pass, leaving a majority of the controllers collecting dust on store shelves until put on clearance for a more reasonable price. For those that buy the cheaper controllers, the end result will most likely be disappointment, permanent place in the junk drawer and a black mark on both Apple and the manufacturer.
There is a bit hope on the horizon for reasonably priced quality controllers though. If early news is to be believed, soon a quality controller will only be $80 instead $100. However, this is still much more than an equivalent console controller. The only exception being Mad Catz, who looks to be using this gap as an opportunity to push its C.T.R.L. controller for just under $50 street price. So things are looking up. But, in a majority of the market, the problem remains. Given this problem, I have to conclude that until the quality & price gap is addressed, gaming controllers for iOS will remain a niche product with few but the most devout gamer willing to pay for the pleasure of avoiding blistered finger tips.