Ever wanted a gaming controller that doubles as a thing you could probably use to ward off mountain lions and common thieves? If you somehow missed out in the early 2000s, or are simply eager to relive your carpal tunnel diagnosis of yore, then clear up some serious space and stretch out those tendons—the king has returned.
I’m being a bit facetious, of course, if only to mask my unchecked, nostalgic excitement. Because for a good while now, there’s been significant rumblings about Microsoft possibly bringing back the original Xbox’s gargantuan Duke gamepad, and today we’ve received some fresh news via an exclusive CNET interview with Xbox creator and revival champion Seamus Blackley. According to the recent chat, accessory manufacturer Hyperkin, known for their bevy of modern, retro-minded products, is aiming to have the new and officially licensed Duke on store shelves for $70 sometime in late March.
As far as form factor and general bulk goes, this is largely the same Duke you either loved or hated back when the first Xbox launched in 2001. That isn’t to say it’s returning without some nifty additions, though. First up is a working OLED screen situated behind the infamous Xbox jewel that actually plays the original Xbox’s old bootup sequence when pressed. Buckley says it’s a feature that he wanted to include from the outset almost two decades ago, something that seems to lend decent credence to the idea that the proto-Xbox was essentially a spiritual Dreamcast 2 complete with an almost-VMU. Blackley also says that he’d “love to let game developers use the screen for other purposes, but Microsoft hasn’t yet approved.”
Other important changes include two new shoulder bumpers that make modern gaming possible, a USB cable that allows connection to both PC and Xbox rigs, as well as an omission of the archaic memory card slots at the top of the device. It’s looking exceptionally solid so far, though despite all my retro cheerleading, it might be a bit disorienting going back to such a massive peripheral. I dug out my own Duke a few years back while jamming on some Halo multiplayer, and after being spoiled by streamlined stuff like the DualShock 4 and Xbox One controller, the slanted face button placement on the Duke felt a bit off. I guess we’ll see, and I’m excited to try it out.
“Nintendo and other companies have released nostalgia products but those are … different types of exercises, and I don’t want to criticize them but this is a much purer thing,” Blackley told CNET. “This isn’t a nostalgia trip where you can play all your 8-bit games, this is the place we started from. You can play the most modern technology we’ve released with the most modern games we’ve released with this controller.”
Check out the original article for hands-on photos of the upcoming throwback controller. If I can track down a review unit come March, I’ll be sure to post detailed impressions of my experience, as well as a lurid play-by-play of my total nostalgic meltdown.
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