The games industry has provided us with some pretty amazing stuff over the years. From gaming-on-the-go convenience of the Gameboy to the frankly all-out witchcraft of the Wii controller, gaming has conspired to inspire and amaze the public with newer and fancier technology that has pushed the boundaries of what we perceive as viable or even possible.
As part of this, gaming peripherals have been rife; from basic controllers with an extra turbo button, to full on controller systems for flight or driving games; niches have been identified and filled expertly.
However, in this series we don’t care about those worthy and helpful products; no. Not for us the Wii mote or the NES gun, no sir. What Gaming Fail celebrates (or is that commiserates?) is the gloriously terrible peripherals and systems; those fabulous follies that make you wonder what the designer was thinking.
Nothing so far, however, has managed to achieve base and utter pointlessness…
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I present to you, the Pressman Speedboard.
Released in 1991, the Speedboard was a complimentary peripheral released for the then premier games console, The Nintendo Entertainment System.
The concept was that holding the NES’ rectangular controller was all well and good, but the posture of actually having to grasp the unit itself restricted the rapidity with which you could press the buttons; speedy button mashing being, apparently, a key success factor in early 90s home gaming.
So, Pressman devised the Speedboard, a stand in which you slotted your NES controller which then rested on a table, purportedly holding the controller for you, allowing you full finger motion to dedicate to pummelling those buttons. Basically, it put the NES controller on a desk position, replicating keyboard ergonomics.
Yes, that’s right, they invented a stand to hold your controller. Because that’s what you need right? We’ve all thought ‘this controller would be great if only it was fitted into a table at about a 30 degree angle…’ I mean, we all play better on the game store controllers that are fixed to a mounting don’t we? There’s nothing quite like a fixed, immovable position to really round off a controller’s usability.
Well, to be fair, when I’m being unfair when I use the words fixed and immovable. Amounting to little more than a thin plastic shell with a rectangular slot for the controller and a slit to accommodate the connecting wire, the Speedboard is certainly the most basic, technologically speaking, peripheral we’ve come across. Consisting of nothing but moulded plastic, the unit had no method for fixing to a surface; not even rubber feet or suction cups. This thing was basically a tray, so you got all the joy of a fixed mounting, without any actual surface grip.
Now you may have some doubts as to the usefulness of this peripheral (the Gaming Fail title not withstanding), but Pressman brought out the big guns in their marketing for the Speedboard. None other than Kyle Petty, a popular NASCAR racer at the time signed on as an advocate for the unit, though quite how the whole NASCAR thing was meant to translate to a gaming peripheral remains unclear. A rather loose link to the concept of speed is about all we could come up with.
Despite this rather stellar marketing campaign, the Speedboard was an unmitigated failure and was withdrawn from sale a few months after release. Presumably the fact that few people actually play a console with a table in front of them like a PC was something the public just couldn’t get over. That and the idea paying money for a peripheral that has no actual practical benefit and, in fact, essentially makes the controller much bigger when holding…
The thing is though, while the Pressman Speedboard is genuinely unnecessary and possibly the most pointless peripheral I’ve even encountered, I can’t hate it. To be honest, I kind of want to own one. Not to use it, gosh no. But just to own a little bit of gaming’s personality. For every bout of genius in the industry we love, there’s a number of spasms of insanity; aberrations that really shouldn’t exist, but are the symptoms of the organic process. That’s why I can’t hate the things I chronicle in Gaming Fail, they’re the counterbalance of the things I love about gaming…
Except the Wii Car Adapter… That still scares me.
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Paul Izod is a lifelong gamer. Since he was old enough to tap at his Dad's PC's keyboard he's been a gamer. Dedicated and often opinionated, you can be sure he'll always have something interesting to say about the subject at hand. Find him on Twitter at @PaulIzod or @FaultyPixelUK or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org