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Brand Loyal: Why buying third party accessories is a risk
by Andrew Testerman

A long time ago, in a galaxy somewhere in our immediate vicinity, a young boy was finally buying his first Super Nintendo. He had been saving for months and months, and the time had finally come to make that console his. Along with his SNES he bought two other items: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, and a second controller. The only problem: the controller he picked out wasn’t Nintendo-made, but instead was transparent, with turbo functions for all of the buttons. This wasn’t a big deal to the boy, though, for he wasn’t the kind to discriminate, and besides, he was saving a few dollars over a regular, “official” controller.

Imagine his surprise when, a few months later, the controller ceased to work.

Discerning readers will not be surprised to learn that the little boy from the story was me. A rather innocuous tale, but one that touched off my lifelong distrust of third party accessories. Gamers can be a superstitious bunch (years of hearing fake, outrageously-complicated cheat codes have taught me that), and my antipathy for any controller or memory card not made by the console manufacturers themselves borders on Bernard’s preoccupation with the number “13.” That said, I’ve had too many bad experiences to turn back now, and think I’m perfectly within reason to be distrustful of Pelican, Logitech, and so many others.

The biggest reason why I refuse to buy third party anymore is because I’ve had so many bad experiences with faulty accessories. In addition to the SNES controller from above, I’ve owned memory cards that wouldn’t save, Game Link cables that wouldn’t connect, and Worm Lights that did more to cause reflective glare on my Game Boy screen than to properly light it.

My most definitive third party moment, and the one that caused me to swear off non-Nintendo/Sony/Microsoft accessories forever, came when I was fourteen. My friend and I were looking to play some Super Smash Bros. Melee, and we had two controllers: one made by Nintendo, and the other by MadCatz. We had everything plugged in and ready to go, but the GameCube wouldn’t turn on. We checked the power strip, the back of the ‘Cube, and just about everything else we could think of, but nothing was working. Finally, exasperatedly, we unplugged both controllers and turned the system on, just to see what would happen. It worked. We plugged the controllers back in, and the system shut down, and wouldn’t turn back on. Dear readers, the MadCatz controller was preventing the console from functioning properly.

I understand that third party accessories have gotten ostensibly better: MadCatz now makes tournament-ready arcade sticks for Street Fighter IV, and the Guitar Hero franchise couldn’t have started without Red Octane’s guitar peripherals. Artists like Todd McFarlane have contributed artwork to various controller manufacturers, and the good folks at Nerf have even created a game pad made entirely foam—perfect for any rage-quitter.

Having said that, I still don’t trust third party accessories, and refuse to buy any controllers, memory cards, or what-have-you not manufactured by first parties, to the point that I’ve gone to the internet to buy an official PSX memory card ($8) instead of to one of my local pawn shops for a generic one ($3). I find extra functions like turbos or built-in fans (yes, built-in fans) to be a waste of space. I get annoyed when certain controllers feel like they weren’t tested for comfort (or if they were, it was done on Shaquille O’Neal).

Heck, I don’t even like the way they look. Accessories made by Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony have a nice, designed look to them, and a kind of feng shui that works with the rest of my gaming space. Accessories made by third parties generally have bright colors, chubby designs, and never seem to fit with the actual systems they were made to play with. Perhaps readers out there aren’t as anal-retentive about aesthetics as me (for your sake, I hope not), but the notion of using a transparent, hunter orange memory card to save games on my jet black PS2 drives me nuts.

Pardon the bigotry. It’s a matter of taste, but I simply prefer using controllers and accessories designed by the same team that made my console. They function properly every time, they look good next to the system itself, and they “feel” like they’re helping me play the game the way it was meant to be played. Perhaps I’ll cool my jets about this issue one day, but for now, I feel comfortable spending the extra $6-8 on a first party accessory, because I know it’ll actually work next year.


Last year, Harmonix officially teamed with MadCatz to create their instrument peripherals for Rock Band 3. Since I love Harmonix and all things Rock Band, I decided to finally bury the hatchet, and forgive MadCatz for their eight-year-old faux pas that alienated me from them. I bought a new drum set with the Pro Cymbal add-ons, and took them for a test run on Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue,” a song with a lot of fast cymbal parts. The yellow cymbal managed to register only one out of every four hits.

It’s good to know that some things never change.


- Andrew Testerman

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