The Nintendo Power Glove has an absolute terrible reputation. Released in 1989, it was discontinued a mere year later. The Power Glove promised to replace joysticks by using 3D sensor technology that would instantly respond to the movements your hand made. It was supposed to make you feel like you were actually knocking out Mike Tyson or grabbing a steering wheel. But the 1989 movie The Wizard summed up the reality of the Power Glove in three short words: “It’s so bad.”
However, there is more to the story than you might think. Secretly, the Power Glove was an awesome bit of tech that predicted the next several stages of gaming evolution. And without this accessory, we may have never enjoyed some of Nintendo’s greatest innovations.
Don’t believe us? Here are our favorite reasons why the Nintento Power Glove was actually awesome!
1. It Was Part of an Early VR Experiment
Nowadays, virtual reality (VR) is everywhere that you look. PlayStation users are enjoying an increasing library of PSVR games. Meanwhile, PC users have options such as the Oculus Rift to really place them inside the game. However, it’s possible we would have none of this if not for the Power Glove.
Some of the original Power Glove designers were initially focusing on VR and 3D environments. They even considered offering VR goggles at one point. And while the final offering was much simpler, it served as a blueprint (even in its failure) to future advances in haptic glove technology.
2. Classic Design
Say what you will about the Power Glove’s performance. But the design of this baby is the epitome of 1980s sexy technology.
It is actually beautiful in its simplicity. The mixture of glove and buttons makes it clear that this is a video game glove while giving it some surprising versatility. At the same time, the colors coordinate perfectly with your original Nintendo Entertainment System.
In terms of that NES aesthetic, the Power Glove actually fits in much better than older accessories such as the orange Zapper gun or the Track and Field pad you threw in the attic after only one use.
3. It Has NASA Roots
If we’re being blunt, many people look at the Power Glove and think “cheap toy.” But did you know it had its origins in some cutting-edge NASA technology?
Long before it was a Nintendo product, Thomas Zimmerman designed and built a “Data Glove” for NASA. Their dream was both simple and radical. They wanted astronauts to be able to control things such as robots by using a special glove that would make the whole thing feel natural.
What we ultimately got was the simplest version of their product. The Data Glove took nearly $9,000 to create, and they had to turn it into a $75 toy in time for the holiday season.
4. A Knockout Pitch
Many frustrated players have a simple question about their Power Glove. “Who,” they ask, “approved of this damn thing?”
The glove, whether by design or accident, basically sold itself in the room. In a pitch meeting, Jill Barad (an executive vice president at Mattel) donned the glove and started playing Punch-Out!! Despite not being a gamer, Barad knocked Glass Joe out right away and was sold on the product.
Barad obviously had a lot of vision and foresight. Even as the gaming industry was bouncing back from the previous crash, she saw that the future of gaming would transcend traditional controllers entirely.
5. It Was Very Responsive (When Set Up Correctly)
Many Power Glove owners have miserable memories about trying to control games with their new accessory. The general consensus was that this vaunted glove was laggy and not nearly as responsive as it needed to be.
According to glove developer Chris Gentile, this lag was not an issue if the glove was calibrated correctly. The issue was that it was mostly young children or confused parents improperly calibrating the technology and ending up with a bad experience.
In this respect, the Power Glove is no different than other technology. There is a world of difference, for example, between a properly-calibrated PSVR and an improperly-calculated one!
6. The (One) Exclusive Kicked Ass
Ever wonder why the Power Glove was not a perfect fit for many games? The answer is straightforward: almost no games were made for this accessory. So, developers had to cross their gloved fingers that this single device would be perfect for everything from punching out boxers to jumping on Goombas.
However, there was exactly one exclusive game: Super Glove Ball. While the gameplay was simple, this title made fun use of both 3D graphics and glove controls. It was a preview of what this technology could really do, but we would never see another attempt at a glove-exclusive game.
7. It Was Cyberpunk Made Real
Gamers all over the world are excited about the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 game. But Nintendo deserves full props for bringing the cyberpunk future to us decades ago.
Over the years, we have seen various visions of a cyberpunk future in movies from The Lawnmower Man to Minority Report. And what do they have in common? Characters manipulating digital information using special gloves.
Nintendo brought us a taste of that future before we even knew what it looked like. To us, that’s really delivering on the “playing with power” promise!
8. It Previewed Nintendo’s Future Plans
Remember all that fun you had playing Wii Sports and other titles using the Wiimote and joystick? It may never have happened without the Power Glove.
Nintendo often uses one piece of technology as a stepping stone to something else. Their 3D failure in the form of Virtual Boy eventually became the success of the 3DS. The limited Wii U touchscreen eventually led to the unlimited portability of the Nintendo Switch.
Critically and commercially, the Power Glove was a failure. But it showcased the potential for non-traditional controls and non-traditional games. Nintendo took the essence of this good idea and, decades later, made it truly shine.
Did you own a Nintendo Power Glove? Does it get a bad rap, or is its reputation deserved? Sound off in the comments below!