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The Worst Video Game Controller of All Time

VOICE OVER: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
Welcome to MojoPlays! Today, we're looking at the worst video game controller of all time: the NES Power Glove. Launched in October 1989 in the US, the Power Glove took the world by storm during the holiday season, becoming the hottest must-have device for a few months before quickly disappearing and becoming nothing more than a footnote in gaming history.
Transcript
Script written by Caitlin Johnson

The Worst Video Game Controller of All Time


Welcome to MojoPlays! Today, we’re looking at the worst video game controller of all time: the NES Power Glove. VR has come a long way since the 80s.

If you enjoy this video, be sure to check out our list of the Top 10 Worst Controllers over on WatchMojo.

Launched in October 1989 in the US, the Power Glove took the world by storm during the holiday season. It became the hottest, must-have device for a few months, but quickly disappeared and became nothing more than a footnote in gaming history. The first commercial attempt at virtual reality, the Power Glove functioned so poorly that it’s no surprise motion controls all but disappeared until the launch of the Wii in 2006. But in recent years, there’s been a resurgence of interest in the Power Glove, thanks to the 30th anniversary of both the Glove and of “The Wizard”, the movie that immortalized the strange accessory.

But the Power Glove didn’t come out of nowhere, it had a long and interesting development process, and was based on the first commercially-sold “Dataglove.” Datagloves, or wired gloves, are gloves used to interact with computers – but their first, and most common, application, was not as a video game controller. This early Dataglove, designed by Thomas G. Zimmerman and Jaron Lanier, was initially used for simplified programming and for playing music virtually. It was eventually picked up and used by NASA to control robots remotely, and by the medical industry to train surgeons. The problem was that the Dataglove cost $8800 per device, so there was no way it could be mass-produced like the Power Glove was. Though the Power Glove is infamous for how terrible it was, the Dataglove was an invaluable and incredibly precise piece of kit.

So, how did the $9000 Dataglove become an $80 NES controller? That was largely thanks to Mattel, which took the Dataglove and redesigned it so that it could be mass-produced and sold. Mattel believed in the Power Glove and that people would actually want to buy it, and set some of their best minds to work on its development: Grant Goddard and Samuel Cooper Davis. It was Mattel who took the finished Glove and pitched it to Nintendo since it needed to be officially licensed for the NES, the best-selling video game console at the time. But Nintendo wasn’t on board with the Power Glove right away - they thought it was too much of a “gimmick”. Eventually, though, Mattel convinced them, and the Power Glove was set to launch just in time for the holidays.

But this meant developers didn’t have a lot of time to come up with games that would actually work with the Glove. Many existing NES games were modified to work with the device, but only one game was ever designed from the ground-up with the Glove in mind: “Super Glove Ball”, developed by Rare. “Bad Street Brawler” also had features specifically for the Glove, rather than just using it as an alternate controller, but “Super Glove Ball” was easily the best game you could play with the Power Glove. You could reach in, grab balls, and throw them around a small arena to solve puzzles. But since the motion control fad wouldn’t strike until the late 00s, it’s doubtful that any game designed for the Power Glove would really be that good – and was it really worth coughing up for one, half-decent puzzle game? And a game that could also be played using a regular NES controller, albeit in a more limited way, at that?

The Glove ended up being the incredibly over-hyped gimmick Nintendo feared it would be. When released, it barely worked and was way too expensive, retailing at $80 at the lowest but in some areas as high as $139 – that’s $170 to $290 in 2020. Modern VR and motion control devices have also commanded a high price tag, with the PSVR being one of the most affordable VR headsets you can buy and still coming in pretty steep, but they’re still a lot better than the Power Glove ever was. And unlike modern VR and even the Wii, the controls of the Glove were not very intuitive at all. While playing a game like “Punch-Out!!”, you weren’t punching the air with your glove to fight Mike Tyson, you had to learn different motions that would make things happen in the game. This is in stark contrast to every game included in “Wii Sports”, all of which were intuitive and had you moving in the way you would if you were to play golf, tennis, or go bowling in real life.

Ultimately, the Power Glove was an expensive gamble that didn’t pay off, and people haven’t stopped mocking it since it came out. But it’s still a fun piece of retro kit and an important step on the way to fully realized VR in the near future. And the Datagloves it came from remain invaluable tools across many industries. But at the end of the day, it was still overpriced, broken garbage, and that’s why it’s the worst video game controller of all time.
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