Touch devices have revolutionized mobile gaming, just like they’ve revolutionized the mobile space as a whole. For mobile games, they’ve introduced some amazing interfaces and controllers that make those that have had the fortune of playing Atari on console take a step back and pinch themselves. Of course, technology is now taking us toward a confluence of consoles and touch devices. Today, companies like Joypad Inc. are turning our iPhones into game controllers. Joypad’s eponymous free app syncs directly with iPad, Mac, and PC games over bluetooth or WiFi to let gamers use their smartphone as a controller to play their favorite games on various NES-style control pads.
Game developers can also use Joypad’s free SDKs, which take about 30 minutes to integrate, to add Joypad support to their games. With these SDKs, gamers can interact with their favorite games in ways that were before impossible. For example, as a gamer reaches a new level, or unlocks new features, developers can push a new button out to the player in realtime. This kind of functionality gives developers a new way to create custom layouts for controllers and forge a deeper integration with the playing experience.
Joypad started as a way to control a Mac NES emulator from your iPhone. Since launching in March, the product evolved per customer feedback — with support for additional emulators, multiplayer, and Windows. Despite positive feedback from early customers, setup was too confusing for a mainstream product, Joypad Co-founder Lou Zell tells me, and so the team released its first developer SDK in July as a way to eliminate all end-user setup. Now it “just works”, he says.
Another reason to love Joypad is that the team consists solely of its two founders: Todd Hamilton and Lou Zell. Joypad is the co-founders’ third startup, all of which have been self-funded between stints of contract work to pay off credit card debt. And the release of their SDK, along with the elimination of all end-user setup has worked. The founders have seen early traction with Joypad that far outpaces their previous startups, with 50,000 downloads of their iOS app, and 15 companies using their SDK to date. It seems that the third time just may be the charm.
As a result of this early success, the team is raising a small seed round while they continue to build out their products. Today, the Joypad team is also bringing their Unity SDK out of alpha, which means more high quality Mac and iOS games can now offer Joypad support — in addition to the 12 games already live.
Another cool part of this is that, now that Joypad has SDKs available for Mac, iOS, and Unity iOS, their new capabilities will allow gamers to play iOS games on their Apple TV via their iPhones and iPads. If you’re an Apple device freak, this will put you in heaven, especially ahead of the expected launch of iOS 5 tomorrow.
Thanks to Airplay, Joypad will allow you to wirelessly move the games you’re playing on your iPad to Apple TV, enabling you to take over the world from your bean bag chair. Joypad’s SDKs can be integrated into any iOS games available on the App Store, and with a little bit of tinkering, developers can make their games Joypad and Apple TV compatible.
While Joypad offers a great array of controller options and makes it easy for developers to give their games wireless iPhone controls, the startup isn’t the only one in the space. In June, we wrote about Brass Monkey’s acquisition of Emotely, which brought together Brass Monkey’s fully developed controller-building SDK, with support for Flash, Unity3D, and desktop games and apps, with Emotely’s ability to build controllers using HTML5 for both the interface and communication layer (with HTTP and WebSockets) — a match made in heaven.
Together Brass Monkey and Joypad offer some great options for gamers looking to add that extra level to their home gaming experience. As developers clue into these solutions and adoption grows, Joypad’s catalog of games for the iPad will expand, and we may just have a game changer on our hands.