Hands-on with the MOGA Pro Controller and Windows Phone at GDC

One of the biggest surprises coming out of GDC 2013 for me was undoubtedly PowerA’s announcement that its MOGA Bluetooth controller SDK would be coming to Windows Phone. On iOS and Android, videogame controller accessories are becoming increasingly popular with core gaming fans. Such peripherals can add more precise control and a console-like experience to smartphones. Sure, they can impact portability but they’re great at home and other places where you’d be playing for an extended length of time.

Windows Phone has always been a bit behind on peripheral support. We don’t have a Bluetooth keyboard, for instance. But Windows Phone 8 does add the ability for apps to communicate with Bluetooth. That ability now makes it possible for hardware add-ons like the MOGA Pro Controller to work with Windows Phone 8 games!

Head past the break for full details on the MOGA Pro Controller and a hands-on video.

From MOGA to MOGA Pro

Note: You'll see someone else's hands in the video as I was on camera duty.

The original MOGA Pocket Controller (opens in new tab) is a tiny and highly portable controller designed specifically to work with Android games. The peripheral is fairly well reviewed, but some of the concessions made to portability also result in a less-than perfectly comfortable controller. For instance, the face buttons are too tiny (similar to those on modern Nintendo systems), the analog sticks are nubs instead of real sticks, and the triggers are slightly hard to reach. Also, the Pocket Controller requires two AAA batteries, so power becomes a concern too.

Thankfully the MOGA Pro Controller fixes everything I disliked about the previous model. For one, it’s almost exactly the same size and shape as an Xbox 360 controller. The layout of the dual analog sticks (proper sticks this time), d-pad, face buttons, shoulder buttons, and triggers perfectly matches the one that 360 users have grown to love over the years. And the d-pad is actually more precise than the standard 360 controller’s!

To use the MOGA Pro Controller with a Windows Phone or Android device, you’ll simply flip out the MOGA Arm that holds the phone in place. You then plug the controller’s USB charging port into your phone’s power jack or another USB power source – no need for separate batteries here. Then just boot up a game that supports the controller and you’re ready to game on!

Windows Phone specifics

MOGA Pro Controller for Windows Phone and Android

The MOGA Pro Controller hasn’t actually been released yet, but already one game supports it: Drift Mania Championship 2. You’ll remember that title as the first Windows Phone game to utilize the Unity Engine, so clearly the Drift Mania developers love being the first at things. The game works great with the Pro Controller; steering with the analog stick and accelerating and braking with the analog triggers feels very much like playing a real console game. None of that imprecise tilting business!

During the conference, Microsoft stressed what an easy time the Drift Mania developers had incorporating MOGA support into their game. The entire process took them less than a day. Games must specifically support the controller, but the ease of implementing that functionality certainly bodes well for future support. (Developers interested in adding MOGA support to their games should visit the MOGA website.)

Now, docking a phone into a real controller and playing games on it won’t be for everybody. But for people who love platformers and other core games that use virtual sticks and buttons, the MOGA Pro Controller will feel like a godsend. Emulators like SNES8X and VBA8 will especially benefit from MOGA support (assuming the emulator developer implements it, which is very likely) since classic games were designed to be used with physical controllers in the first place. Let’s hope Gameloft will support MOGA in their Windows Phone games as they do on Android!

Almost in your hands

The MOGA Pro Controller will launch on April 15 (tax day!) for $49.99. Look forward to our full review shortly thereafter. In the meantime, you can learn more about MOGA’s Android support from Crackberry’s hands-on.

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • Hey guys do you know if this will work with VBA8 and SNES8X??
  • I hope so. Those two apps would be the only reason I would get one of these.
  • My thoughts exactly.
  • Reading the article is COOL! ;)
  • That is true...we need more cool guys!
  • ^^
  • loool quickly skimming through the article on the phone, the words aren't really highlighted there either so I couldnt see it then :P My bad. But trust me, I did try reading through it hahaha
  • I use to read the articles but lately IV been just reading comments lol
  • *shakes fist angrily *
  • Just shows, even with a Controller, this Game is bad. Worst Store Purchase from me so far.
  • This is an instant buy for me if/as soon as SNES8x and VBA8 implements support for it.
  • +1
  • I am setting aside $50 and will purchase this controller as soon as Snes8x supports it.
  • Paul, lose the thumb ring dude
  • That's not actually my hand in the video. I didn't have a tripod on me that morning, so I asked someone else to play for me while I held the camera.
  • They were giving these away at PAX East, if you had an Android phone on you - so I wasn't able to get one. Days after, they announce support for Windows Phone.  I was a little peeved at that. ;^)  Still, I'm glad to see support for this. It's kind of unfortunate that Microsoft themselves haven't tried to leverage decent hardware controls for XBox Gaming on their own phone... connecting an XBox360 controller for instance, or having the option for OEMs to add hardware controls like the XPeria.  At least then all developers would know if they referenced that one library, their users could take advantage of it.  But, oh well.  Hopefully other developers will look to support MOGA and other similar controllers in their games. (Hmm... what would a Nokia-designed Windows Phone with a slide-out gamepad look like?  #wishfulThinking)
  • If the controller takes power from the phone thats going to be an awfully short gaming session...
  • Says who?
  • He's thinking of 3D games. Battery drain really just depends on how hardware intensive the game is (as well as screen brightness, networking features, etc.). But yeah, it would usually be best to power both components separately if you can.
  • I realize it will use some power, but I imagine the game itself is going to use way more.
  • The controller connects to the phone through Bluetooth. It uses two AAA batteries...
  • Would be nice if it came with a built in rechargable battery & a cable to charge you phone while playing so it'd act as a portable battery charger at the same time.
  • Amen!!!
    The controller should have extra battery so that the phone can run off the controller (not the other way around).
    If I'm in gaming mode, my battery usually dies before I'm finished gaming.
    Throw the controller into the mix and it's even shorter.
  • It's more of a thing that you plug in (to a power source) and play with rather than a purely portable device.
  • As I understand it, this one does not use AAA batteries.
  • I think this is a great idea, but I see a major design flaw that would prevent me from getting one as a Lumia 920 owner... 
    Right where the bracket holds on to the device is right where the power/lock button is on a Lumia 920 . I can see where this could be a problem, no?
  • Depends on how tightly it holds it. Well look forward to testing that once the controller goes on sale.
  • Ah crap, good point.  Does that make this incompatible with Lumias?
  • You can just fasten it right between the power and camera button... It won't be centered though.
  • You may be right. Although, the other side might be hollow, so you may be able to just flip the orientation and be fine.  It could a serious issue otherwise.
    Engadet has it shown on their site with a 920 mounted.  Maybe it's no problem.
  • I'll wait for an app allowing use of a BT PS3 controller. The most comfortable controller ever made.
  • Choice is good.
  • Seriously....360's controller is waaaay more comfortable.
  • Choice is good.
  • Lol really ps3 im sorry but Xbox controller much more modern looking and better and thts coming from someone who had a ps1 and a ps2 so go join Sony and &$##@ff
  • I would love to see you respond to a stranger in that way to their face. I doubt YOU would even have a face after a few times.
  • Does the Xbox controller use BT and can it be used as a controller for your phone? Why buy a controller if one you already own can work with some software? For my man hands, ps3 controllers are more comfortable.
  • Xbox360's wireless protocol for controllers is something proprietary I believe, its not Bluetooth. The DualShock 3 controller however, uses Bluetooth.
  • I bet my left nut that the Nextbox controller will be supported by WP and that someone will build a cheap phone holder for it.
  • I think you are probably right, but I'll refrain from staking the family jewels on it.
  • Lol Aaron xD
  • I love this game so much. And it is supporter by A controller....i want it now. Heres my wallet.
  • Paul, did you notice any lag when testing the controller? I get a ton of lag from my WPs when using A2DP, I hope it's not the case with this controller. From the video I get mixed impressions, maybe the game is just really bad...
  • Lag! Hmmm, i hope not since the 2 best things on WP got combined and made me full of love for mankind. Plz work! Paul, save us from lag :D No but might be something to keep a eye for. This game have the best FPS and is smooth.
  • ... Does the D-Pad have to be at the bottom?
  • Now, if only these could suffice as a great alternative to the standard issue Xbox 360 controllers....
  • plz let us know where we can buy it come April 15th. yay!!
  • It surprised the crap out of me when I found out that Windows Phone didn't support the Xbox 360 controller, out of the box.
    I understand the wireless protocols being different, but why not support the USB controller?
    Why not support the USB wireless controller?
    That was a huge oversight, to me.
  • That's Microsoft for you. They really don't know what they have with the Xbox connection and the stuff they could draw upon to help Windows Phone succeed.