Though most smartphone games are designed to take advantage of touch screen controls, many gamers are constantly on the lookout for any way to add physical buttons to their mobile gaming. We've seen a few add-on controllers attempt this, but most have lacked the developer support needed to gain mass appeal. The team at Milkshake Labs is trying to change all that with the coco controller -- an iPhone/iPod accessory that adds physical buttons and a joystick to your mobile device for a price on par with just about any other case you'd find at the Apple Store.
The project just hit Kickstarter this morning, where Milkshake Labs are looking for financial backers to help them reach a funding goal of $175,000 and deliver the coco controller to the masses. Last week, we were lucky enough to chat with Milkshake Labs co-founder Colton Gyulay who shed light on how developer support and unique features will separate coco from the countless smartphone gaming controllers we've seen in the past. Head past the break for the full interview!
MTV Multiplyer: Most smartphone games rely solely on touch-based controls. What do you feel physical, tactile controls can add to smartphone and tablet gaming?
Colton Gyulay: Touch-based controls don’t offer the precision required for serious gameplay. Virtual joysticks and buttons take up space on the screen, and your fingers slide all over the place while playing. Long periods of gameplay become very difficult. We know that tactile controls can unlock this higher-end genre of games, and make mobile gaming less focused on tap/swipe.
Multiplyer: We've seen several smartphone gaming controllers come out over the years, what does Milkshake Labs' coco controller offer to be competitive?
Gyulay: Other controllers have failed to deliver in a couple key aspects – portability and price point. coco will deliver on these, as it is first designed as a case with minimal pocket presence that tightly fits the form factor. On Kickstarter, we are launching the coco at an early bird price of only $35 and standard backer price of $42, which is by far the most competitively priced controller for iOS. It’s basically the same price as any other case you can find in the Apple store.
Multiplyer: In the past, the lack of support from leading mobile games developers has prevented smartphone gaming controllers from reaching mass appeal. What is Milkshake Labs doing to ensure leading developers add support for the coco controller?
Gyulay: We already have a great batch of over 30 games pledged to integrate support for the controller by the time we ship to users, and we’re adding more every day. We’re in serious talks with some of the biggest studios, and hope to have a lot of their games signed up by the time we ship to users. The biggest source of friction for developers is ease of implementation – and our launch partners have been pleased so far with how straightforward our framework is. Lack of distribution might also deter a developer, but we’re in part using Kickstarter to send a signal to the development community that this is a product that gamers really want. Our launch partners already see the potential and are pretty excited to get their games compatible with coco. We know that a good launch will bring many more games into the coco library.
Multiplyer: How easy is it for developers to add support for the coco controller to mobile games currently available?
Gyulay: Our lightweight framework is very easy for developers to plug into – simply assign actions to button outlets and you’re good to go. There is no complicated setup for getting things started: the user puts the case on and the software begins updating immediately. Our launch partners are a testament to how easy it is to integrate coco.
Multiplyer: Many gamers were disappointed when they learned Nintendo's 3DS only featured one analog joystick. The coco controller also features a single analog joystick. Why was this configuration chosen over the option of dual analog sticks, for example?
Gyulay: We’ve been reviewing tons of games across every mobile platform, and we’ve decided that one analog joystick, in addition to a good directional pad, would offer suitable controls for almost every game. The move for one analog stick is also to keep coco at such a competitive price. That being said, we do want to offer a dual analog stick controller, and it’s possible with the proper scale. Check out the reach rewards on our Kickstarter page – you might find what you’re looking for.
Multiplyer: The recently crowd-funded Ouya console is bringing Android-based games to the television screen. It's my understanding the coco controller, along with its related apps, will offer a similar experience. Why is this important to Milkshake Labs and how will it be achieved?
Gyulay: We want to offer developers of any size a shot at bringing their games to the living room, and the latest generation of mobile phones can bring that quality and performance to a game necessary for the big screen. So we think it’s silly that gamers need to buy expensive technology they already have in their phone, especially since iOS has more games than all other consoles combined with an average price that is less than tenth of console games. Traditional console gaming and development has been largely stagnant over the past few years; meanwhile, mobile gaming has and will continue to blossom. We firmly believe that mobile gaming does have the potential to surpass traditional consoles, but it needs tactile buttons for real gaming. We think a controller like ours is the perfect solution. It’s just another case.
A little less tangential, we plan on doing this at first via Apple TV mirroring. You can already mirror games, and even have dual-screens, but to encourage this growth we’re also going to release a slew of documentation to help developers make their games better on the tv. We love the idea of people playing a game on their big screen and then pausing the game and carrying it with them out the door.
Multiplyer: The coco controller is currently seeking financial backers on Kickstarter, what perks come with being an early supporter? Are there plans for a special edition model or anything similar?
Gyulay: Early backers of coco will get the product in hand months before it finds its way to retail. They’ll also be getting the controller at a better price and have the option of purchasing a Kickstarter-exclusive color. Our early backers will also have a say in the product’s development, as we still want lots more feedback on how to improve coco.
Multiplyer: What's your favorite mobile game at the moment? Why does it have you hooked?
Gyulay: That’s pretty tough, but I’m going with Infinity Field. As a dual-stick shooter, it offers a great variety of intriguing and beautiful gameplay – it’s going to be compatible with coco, too!