When we showed up at PAX East a few weeks ago, the size of the exhibition hall was somewhat intimidating. I’m guessing that the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center has ample room to house several clone armies, thousands of battle droids and still have enough room left over for a pretty epic battle. It’s a big building. The main floor was given to big-budget booths for products and titles I would likely play anyway, so I headed to the outskirts of the exhibition hall. That’s where I found a small booth for a company called Xwerx that was selling some foamy gadgets for XBox and Playstation controllers, called XtendPlay.
By nature, I’m a pretty skeptical person, so I looked at these things with a bit of a smirk. But then I thought about how, with 40+ years on my body, my hands were becoming sore more quickly when gaming and I decided to listen to the sales pitch. Xwerx is run by two brothers, Dave and Mark Sparling who, like many others who are gamers, are beginning to feel the effects of age or repetitive stress (Mark’s a drummer) on their gaming. As Dave talked about aching wrists and forearms, I found myself nodding along.
To mitigate some of the aches brought about by long gaming hours, the Sparling boys came up with XtendPlay, which can be fitted to XBox and Playstation controllers. The docks are made from closed-cell antimicrobial foam that is resistant to tearing, heat, cold and your favorite caffeinated beverage and it’s lacking in AZO-dye, phthalate, PVC and other nasty things you sometimes find in foam. Each was specifically designed to eliminate the empty space between a regular controller and your hands when regularly holding a controller. I was still hesitant, but willing to try and Dave sent me home with an XtendPlay for each system. At home, in the warm cocoon of my overstuffed chair, I decided to put the Playstation XtendPlay to work first. The Playstation controllers have always seemed overly small to me and I’ve never like playing long with the PS controller. With the XtendPlay in place, I fired up Motorstorm Apocalypse and started racing through the wastelands. An hour later, my hands felt great, when they normally would be cramping up a bit. What’s more, I found I wasn’t shaking out my hands, like I normally do. I was beginning to believe.
After a day’s rest, I figured it was time to really put XtendPlay to the test. I Skyped my friends and we got ready to fight the horde on Gears of War 2 on the XBox. If you haven’t played this game (or this mode) the horde is an intense, escalating, non-stop, 50-wave battle against evil bad-ass monsters who want to split you in two and dance on your head. A run against the horde can last three hours or longer and I could think of no better test for the XtendPlay.
Recent forays against the horde had left my hands and forearms sore and they would still be aching hours later. Onrushing bolters, maniacal bloodmounts and the raspy voices of Theron guards caused me to hold my XBox controller in a death-grip as I frantically tried to fire and reload before being knocked down or split up the middle. Playing with the XtendPlay was no different; the action was intense and didn’t let up for hours.
To be honest, my hands were still a little sore at the end, but not nearly as much as they had been before. I think some of it was that while the Playstation controller felt perfectly at home in my hands with the XtendPlay wrapped around it, the XBox controller and its foamy dock felt just a tiny bit oversized to me. This is definitely a product where individual experiences will probably vary a good deal.
One complaint I had was that I had to remove the controller from XtendPlay after every gaming session because I use a rechargeable battery. It’s a bit of a pain, but not a huge deal. (In case you’re wondering, the Xbox XtendPlay has a recessed area for your low-profile headset. They don’t work with earlier, large headset jacks.)
However, I was surprised by an unexpected benefit from the shape of the XtendPlay. Its extended length allowed me to rest my arms as the controller and XtendPlay rested against my belly. It seems like a minor thing, but I felt as though this actually alleviated some stress in my arms. I also liked the fact that the foam is soft enough that you can squeeze it like a stress ball, which is helpful after four-putting for the seventh hole in a row at Augusta.
Overall, for me, the Playstation XtendPlay was definitely worthwhile. The Xbox XtendPlay, while not as perfect a fit for me, still offered some help and made the experience better. But, at the end of the day, I think the best testimonial is that a week after I finished demoing the XtendPlays, I’m still using them for my regular gaming.
XtendPlays are available in North America from the Xwerx site or Amazon stores in the US and UK for $19.99 each.
- Amazon.com, XBox XtendPlay
- Amazon.com Playstation XtendPlay
- Amazon.co.uk, XBox XtendPlay
- Amazon.co.uk Playstation XtendPlay
Disclosure: Xwerx sent GeekDad samples to review.