Looking back at the SideWinder Dual Strike
Nowadays any idiot with a gaming computer can just connect up an Xbox controller. And most can even link a Playstation one without too much effort. But back in the day Gamepads for PC weren’t very common. If you were really lucky you could get a nice joystick. Unfortunately those only really worked for vehicle simulation type games. Also being the nineties, FPS games hadn’t yet become popular on consoles due to their lack of a mouse. Clearly, there was a market for an FPS friendly joystick. Enter the Microsoft SideWinder Dual Strike.
It was designed like a large gamepad but with a joystick axis in the middle, allowing the right side of the controller to rotate and move the game FOV much like you would with the mouse. The SideWinder Dual Strike included a d-pad, a series of programmable buttons, and 2 triggers. Not to mention the software that allowed you to map macros to the buttons, and the drivers were packed with preset configurations for popular games of the time.
Now as most of you have probably never heard of the SideWinder Dual Strike it’s safe to assume it wasn’t the revolutionary marvel it seemed it would be. So what went wrong? Luckily for you, I was in fact lucky enough to own one of these as a kid. And in fact, I still do.
The first thing I can tell you of my impression of SideWinder Dual Strike was that it was way too big. Now I know I have smallish hands, but even the gorilla’s amongst you might have struggled to get a good grip on it. Another major problem was that, unlike the joypads on a modern controller, the axis didn’t snap back to its centre position. So if you turned it slightly left, and then tried to straighten out, you’d have to guess where the straight point was. And if you didn’t get it right your precision in the game was killed big time.
I found these two things were the main factors that meant I used the SideWinder Dual Strike less than I had originally planned. Granted it was the first attempt at something like this, and initial prototypes need to refine over generations. The only problem is console gamepads soon started having joystick like capabilities, and the demand for something more out of the box fell away.
Maybe not the revolutionary product it had intended to be, but it’s an idea I wouldn’t mind peripheral companies having another go at. Maybe Razer and all their innovation?