iMpulse Game Controller or How to Do a Kickstarter Right
So it all started when I got my Nexus 4. I'm a huge retro games geek, and my first true love being the SNES I had to grab myself an emulator. The logistic clusterfuck of playing a game with the tactile demands of an SNES controller became quickly apparent, however, when I loaded up said emulator with Donkey Kong Country. Multitouch or not, holding down the run button and attempting to press the adjacent jump button with your other finger or even the lower part of your thumb is an exercise in utter futility. Donkey Kong was having his hairy ass handed to him by the little squirrel dudes in the first level under my command and that simply could not stand.
I decided if this was ever going to work properly I would need to emulate with a dedicated controller of some sort. Of equal importance is the fact that I am a 24 year old personal banker pre-medical student who doesn't have the luxury, nor to be perfectly honest, the patience or pocket space to lug a proper game controller around. So the device I needed would have to be so small as to be inconspicuous when I wasn't using it yet still be a fully functioning, tactile, gaming apparatus when it was show time. Enter the iMpulse. A quick google search for mini bluetooth controller yielded literally exactly what I was looking for. So small a device that it attaches to a keychain without looking out of place, yet still a fully tactile 7 button plus d-pad gaming beast. Heaven, with one huge problem. Its a Kickstarter.
For anyone who's ready to get defensive about Kickstarter, stop for a second. I've been burned by Kickstarter once before. I had a Galaxy Nexus before this phone, and an iPhone 4s before that. Back when I was rocking my iPhone, I came across a project called the Waldok, it struck me as the perfect device to fill a specific need and I backed it. A full generation and a half later and its still not out the door. Kickstarter is a very unique and amazing platform that allows anybody with a great idea and a decent video camera to propose that idea to the entirety of the internet and their wallets. Yet they are only ideas, and people nowadays are so used to being gratified by the internet marketplace, i.e. seeing something they like on a webpage and being able to purchase it based on a couple of photos and a description, that they see a Kickstarter page and are conditioned to assume that it will be in their possession after a reasonable amount of time, myself included. After the Waldok letdown, I was, as they say, twice shy, and wasn't going to put my money down for what could very well be vaporware.
The Waldok proved that Kickstarter wasn't going to be for me anymore. I work hard for my money and I can't bear paying for something that I'm not sure I'm going to get fast enough to still be useful, if at all, and yet here I am. So what changed my mind? I implore you to visit the iMpluse's page and see for yourself. There you will find a couple of key things that should serve as future indicators of Kickstarter projects that are worth your investment. First off, their introduction video shows a WORKING PROTOTYPE. This isn't a 3D model or a CAD rendering, this a functioning piece of silicon. Second, mouse over to the updates section and you'll see a project with well defined progress and a team who keeps their customers informed about the most infinitesimal device changes. Icing on the cake? The comments section for each update has the project founders answering nearly every question asked by the backers, including the same questions over and over. Even rudely worded questions are answered with a level of professionalism and kindness normally reserved for behavioral therapists. Finally, the updates section shows a product that has graduated to a higher class of device for the amount of extra features they added to it AFTER they had already been funded. The shoulder buttons, backlighting, and a case that doubles as a kickstand are all things that were not originally part of the product and could have been introduced in a later generation or at higher price point but are instead given to the backers free of charge. This shows a project team committed to not only producing a great product, but making the best product they can, one that they would want to have attached to their own keychains.
iMpulse creators and Black Powder Media founders Scott Barrett and Art Currim have restored my faith in Kickstarter. They have shown me that this platform, properly used, has the ability to marry someone with a great idea and sound business practice to thousands of people with a genuine interest or need for that idea to come to fruition. More importantly, it has allowed me the opportunity to own one badass bluetooth controller and key finder. I would urge anyone who has an interest in a product like this to go and support this team, they have a temporary store set up for anyone who didn't get the chance to back before the deadline, and I would urge everyone else to give the page a glance or two to see a Kickstarter done right. If this device catches on, we could finally have a dedicated, platform agnostic game controller for our mobile devices. Perfectly playable first person shooters and platformers on our smartphones. Can you imagine it?