A USB controller made of solid gold is surprisingly impractical. Diamond-encrusted 3D glasses could scratch. A platinum iPad stylus could be mistaken for any old piece of aluminum. If you really want people to know that you care about your electronics way more than your bank account, the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 is exactly what you’re looking for.
Some of the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7’s features, like its built-in wrist rest and programmable buttons, are nothing special. Others, like the dramatic modularity of the unit and swappable keys, are fun but hardly drool-worthy. And the membrane keyboard designed to imitate a mechanical without the noise is very much a wait-and-see for those of us who crave a little finger soreness. But the OLED touchscreen with integrated software is so nifty is almost justifies the $300 that Mad Catz is asking for a keyboard.
The touchscreen has some features you’d expect to be on buttons, like media playback and brightness controls. But it also features obsessive-compulsive levels of customizability via the Cyborg Gaming Apps, which let you load in a range of bespoke macros and icons. It also features an integrated TeamSpeak interface and a note-taking system, just in case you regard two-dollar pads of paper as beneath your regal highness.
Anyone with a long enough memory, will see Mad Catz’s foray into high-end peripherals as a bit of a departure. Once upon a time, “Mad Catz” was synonymous with low price and lower quality, with a line of crappy GameCube controllers, crappy Xbox controllers, and crappy… you get the picture. But in the late aughts, the company made a conscious decision to refocus. Mad Catz president and CEO Darren Richardson told Kotaku: “We kind of became the Wal-Mart guys,” and promised that the company would focus on releasing fewer but better products.
Shockingly, Mad Catz did. First the company secured an exclusive license to make third-party controllers for Rock Band, and came out with some genuinely lovely replicas of iconic Fender guitars. Then it made controllers for the Xbox 360 with unprecedented customization options. It even made a well-reviewed flight sim, the way-better-than-it-ought-to-be Damage Inc. In just a couple of years, Mad Catz has gone from industry joke to “among the top earners on the third-party peripheral market”, and the idea of a Mad Catz product costing more than a new graphics card now gets sober consideration, rather than hysterical laughter.
We now live in a world where Electronic Arts releases innovative new IPs, Blizzard punts out lame cash grabs, Activision is an evil corporate behemoth, and Apple is a major player in video game publishing. At this rate, expect Nintendo to start making realistic military shooters and Valve to focus on single-player rhythm games before the decade is out.