The video game peripheral company Hyperkin, who are responsible for the Supaboy and Retrocon 5, is bringing back the Duke. For those unfamiliar with what that is, I will sum it up carefully: It’s the worst video game controller ever made.
The Duke shipped with the original Xbox back in 2001, and because of that many gamers were left with a sour first impression of the console. The backlash that Microsoft experienced caused them to replace the awkwardly-massive game pad with the Controller S. There is a conspiracy theory speculating that the Duke was designed to make the real Xbox controller seem amazing in contrast to it. The theory makes sense to me because I love the Xbox One game pad, which is essentially a fine-tuned cordless Controller S.
The truth behind conspiracy theories is always less interesting than the nonsense though, and this one is no exception. The Duke is huge because the circuit boards were manufactured bigger than anticipated. Building the surrounding case big became the only option. If you have never held one, imagine yourself playing Halo using an unsliced loaf of bread with buttons. Eventually the S became widely available and everyone had three of them, while the black sheep of controllers sat around for the unlucky fourth player. It amused me to watch friends struggle with that thing. I would hide all the good controllers and make my brother use the Duke to give myself an advantage. As petty as it sounds, the strategy worked.
Who is going to buy the re-release of this monstrosity? I will, because I’m a sucker. Hyperkin understands that there are a lot of adults who are longing for their pasts, but we’re in trouble if that’s the reason behind the return of the Duke. The well of nostalgia must be getting dry. The end of the retro video game era might be near. I can see future generations debating what caused the great retro gaming crash and historians will know to blame the over-sized controller. There is a big market for all things that tap into people’s nostalgia, for example the multitude of mini consoles that have released recently. The difference being that those little boxes are refreshing, fun and useful to gamers.
Like it or not we will see the Duke in stores. But what’s next? Mattel will re-release the Power Glove, and McDonald’s will bring back the Arch Deluxe!
As I stated earlier, I will get the new Duke. It will sit on my shelf, I’ll post a picture of it on Instagram and that’s all. I had the original Duke and with it are associated some nice memories because the Xbox was still an incredible console, despite the obese controller. But anyone who didn’t posses one in the early 2000s will likely not have any desire in owning one now. If that’s the case, reading this will not persuade you, however I will tickle your interest with a feather: The original designer of the Duke, Seamus Blackly is on board for the reboot. He is directly overseeing the creation of the new Duke and is promising that it will be faithful in size and feel of the primordial Xbox controller. That statement isn’t going to sell many units, but he has also explained that there will be “many improvements.”
The one feature that is interesting is that instead of the big Xbox logo in the middle of it there will be an LCD screen. Blackly hyped that the screen will display animations and information, but regarding what exactly is still a mystery. If Hyperkin can get that feature to work it will add some intrigue to the endeavour. I’m reminded of the Sega Dreamcast game pad that has the screen in the memory card (VMU) that slides into the controller.
I’m in no way attempting to belittle the quality of Hyperkin’s products. Their retro compact Xbox One controller works great, and I use it when I play on my laptop. The Duke will also be compatible with Windows 10. I still don’t know who is going to buy it, but I do know that if you’re unable to palm a basketball then it’s not for you. And if you didn’t own an Xbox that was packaged with the Duke, you’re out too. That leaves a lot of gamers left, but how many of us want a controller that has a cord running to the game system? Sitting close to the TV isn’t as comfortable as it used to be.
If the new Duke can overcome all these obstacles and still manage to sell well, then maybe one day we will be graced with the re-release of the Sega Activator. I cannot wait!