The Life & Death of Mad Catz [LGR Tech Tales]

The Life & Death of Mad Catz [LGR Tech Tales]


Mad Catz.
The brand unceremoniously
thrust upon younger siblings
and Player Twos the world over.
Often derided for subpar
controllers that felt just as cheap
as much as they looked absurd.
But before that, Mad Catz had a history
going back almost 30 years,
with them being responsible for all
sorts of award-winning flight sticks,
steering wheels,
gaming mice,
instrument peripherals,
and even their own microconsole.
One quarter of the entire
game console aftermarket
was claimed by Mad Catz alone in 2006.
And yet, it obviously didn’t end well for them
since the company declared Chapter 7
bankruptcy on March 30, 2017.
What happened?
This is LGR Tech Tales,
where we take a look at noteworthy
stories of technological inspiration,
failure and everything in between.
This episode tells the tale of Mad Catz:
the Prolific Purveyors of Plastic Peripherals.
The year is 1987
and the video game market is exploding!
Devices like Nintendo’s Entertainment System
were leading the charge of
the video game industry’s
40% annual growth rate that year,
and it showed no signs of slowing down.
This caught the attention of a
small group of engineers in Hong Kong
who saw this rapid growth as
a great investment opportunity.
Games were growing at such a rapid rate
that third-party manufacturers
could easily swoop in and lay claim
to underserved gamers with niche product ideas.
So these engineers decided, hey,
why not latch on to some of that success
using their skills and connections in Hong Kong,
China, and the USA?
They spent the next two years laying the groundwork
for design, manufacturing,
packaging and distribution
culminating in 1989 with
the founding of Mad Catz, Inc.
There’s seemingly no stated
reason behind that name,
but their goal was to provide third-party
products for video game consoles
at a low cost to both them and consumers,
and they accomplished this by
outsourcing 60% of the work.
Manufacturing was handled
by a firm in Shenzhen, China,
and the design and marketing
was handled by a satellite office
in Southern California, near San Diego.
This not only ensured they could manufacture
the required electronics for a crazy low price,
but the American side of the business
ensured they had an ear to the ground
of their largest target markets,
the U.S. and Canada,
eventually leading to the company
being headquartered in San Diego.
Mad Catz’s first product is
tough to pin down precisely,
but two of them were these turbo controllers
for the NES and Sega Genesis.
These were sold under the
High Frequency label at first,
which was the in-house brand for the
Toys “R” Us retail chain in North America.
The way this worked is that the
product and marketing were conceived
by Mad Catz’s office in California,
and the design was sent to
their contracted facility in China
to be manufactured and shipped out
as an Original Equipment
Manufacturer, or OEM, product.
This method meant that Mad Catz
could develop their own designs in-house
and then sell it themselves
under their own brand
or as a generic item to whoever
paid to stick their own logo on it.
And while this didn’t make
them a fortune immediately,
it was enough to continue to grow
the company throughout the 1990s.
They made game pads,
screen magnifiers,
steering wheels,
dust covers,
joypads,
power adapters,
flight sticks,
memory cards,
light guns,
carrying cases,
hardware abominations…
the list goes on and on.
Sure they were cheap, but they worked…
mostly.
And their product line was so pervasive
that it was hard to ignore them
when you went to a game store
looking for a new accessory on a budget.
By the latter part of the ’90s,
Mad Catz had grown to over 100 employees
while partnering with over 12,000 retailers worldwide.
And with the onslaught of new game consoles
set to release across the next few
years on into the new millennium,
investors were eyeing Mad Catz
with piles of cash in hand.
It was the Ontario, Canada-based GTR Group,
formerly known as Games Trader, Inc.,
who completed the acquisition of
Mad Catz on August 31, 1999
for $33.3 million.
Mad Catz remained
headquartered in San Diego, however,
and work quickly began on several new projects.
One of these was the BioForce,
a device that sent 16 milliamps of electric current
to shock and temporarily immobilize players’ fingers
when they got hit in-game.
Apparently, the press members that got to try it
had fun with it at trade
shows but suffice to say,
a device that electrocutes kids…
never made it to market.
A more successful new product for them was
the MC2 and Mario Andretti racing wheels,
both of which earned several
best-in-category awards
from industry magazines and websites.
Mad Catz also ended up releasing a
dozen licensed controllers and peripherals
to coincide with the launch
of the Sega Dreamcast in 2000,
which led to a perceived increase
in the brand’s value to consumers.
So GTR Group decided to rebrand themselves
as Mad Catz Interactive in 2001,
closing down the other
parts of their business
to focus on new console
launches in North America,
like the PlayStation 2,
the Gamecube
and the Xbox.
Another slew of new products came flooding in,
from wireless controllers
to third-party dance pads
to higher-capacity memory cards.
Then in 2003, Mad Catz paid
$5 million to acquire GameShark,
a company that made
plug-in devices and software
that allowed players to
cheat their way through games.
In 2007, Joytech and Saitek
were two more major acquisitions
at a combined $34 million,
with Joytech being the gaming accessories
unit of Take-Two Interactive Software,
and Saitek being known mostly
for their PC gaming peripherals,
especially flight sticks.
And somewhere in the midst of all this,
they found time to start
publishing their own games,
such as Real World Golf.
Naturally, this was an excuse
to sell more controllers
and with this one, it was the
USB Gametrak golf club motion controller.
And while they dabbled with
motion controls for a couple years
with the popularity of the Nintendo Wii,
starting in 2008, Mad Catz dove
head first into a lucrative new activity:
license deals.
Not with console manufacturers
but with game properties themselves.
Partnering with Capcom,
Mad Catz released a bunch
of Street Fighter IV controllers.
But the most notable of these was the Fightstick.
This arcade-style controller cost
$70 for the standard model
and $150 for the Tournament Edition.
This was not only more costly than
Mad Catz’s usual fare but it was actually…
good!
The higher-end version used
the exact same Sanwa joystick
and 30 mm buttons as the
Street Fighter IV arcade machine,
leading to notoriety in the eSports world
and several eSports events and sponsorships
coming from Mad Catz over the following years.
The developer Harmonix was next on the agenda,
striking a deal with Mad Catz to release
a bunch of officially-licensed instruments
for Rock Band in late 2008.
These were arguably an improvement over the originals,
with a microphone that
included its own controller buttons,
a portable drum kit that was much more compact
and easy to move around than the full thing,
and a bass guitar that looked a
lot like an actual Fender Precision.
In 2010, Mad Catz then acquired
gaming audio company Tritton,
giving them an instant foothold into the
growing realm of microphones and headsets.
They continued to support
personal computers as well
with the release of the
Cyborg R.A.T. gaming mouse in 2010,
the Eclipse touch-sensitive keyboard
and gesture-controlled mouse,
and acquired the V Max Simulation
Corporation, a flight sim developer,
to help guide the development of future Saitek products.
Then in 2013, they decided to cash in on
the microconsole boom inspired by the Ouya,
which was at the time the second-highest funded
project on crowdfunding site Kickstarter.
Mad Catz’s response was the Mojo,
an Android-based console that cost $250.
It saw some success among
Android modding enthusiasts,
but projects like this and the Ouya
quickly faded from the limelight,
even after hefty price drops.
Making matters worse, it was not going
so well behind the scenes at Mad Catz.
They’d been in and out of debt since 2011,
and by June of 2015, they’d announced to investors
that they’d failed to meet their
credit lender’s monthly target
on a $20 million loan.
The bank decided to waive the violation, though,
since Mad Catz had what they
thought was an ace up their sleeve:
Rock Band 4.
Set to release in October, Mad Catz was
betting the farm on the game performing well,
not only manufacturing
the instruments for the game
but going so far as to take care of the marketing
and distribution worldwide as well.
But it was not nearly enough to keep up
with Mad Catz’s mad credit problems.
Even with a 55 percent uptick
in sales from the previous year,
they reported an $11.6 million loss.
This was largely due to the lower-
than-forecast Rock Band 4 sales,
along with $8.3 million of unsold instrument
inventory languishing in warehouses.
The writing was on the wall after
Harmonix dropped Mad Catz as distributor
and partnered with
Performance Digital Products instead.
Even with Mad Catz laying off 37% of their staff,
their CEO and chairman resigning,
and selling off the Saitek brand to Logitech,
their stock prices plummeted
down to an abysmal 4 cents a share.
The New York Stock Exchange delisted
them entirely on March 23, 2017,
and that… was that.
One week later, Mad Catz’s board of directors
voted to declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy,
meaning that everything they owned
would be liquidated to pay off their debts.
And just like that, a company with an
almost 30-year history vanished overnight.
Mad Catz was gone.
Will they be missed?
Probably not by very many.
While they did make a few
excellent products over the years,
there’s no shortage of other manufacturers
that continue to provide the same types of things
at a similar price point.
Mad Catz is more of a
cautionary tale than anything else,
showing just what can happen to
even the largest name in their category
when people lose sight of what made
the company succeed in the first place
and fail to recognize the interests
of a rapidly changing market.
And if you enjoyed this episode of LGR Tech Tales,
then awesome. I’ve got more for you.
And there’s new videos coming every
Monday and Friday here on this channel,
so stay tuned if you’d like.
And as always, thank you very much for watching.

100 thoughts on “The Life & Death of Mad Catz [LGR Tech Tales]

  • January 4, 2018 at 4:55 pm
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    Update: Mad Catz is back from the dead! Well, they're back in the sense that the brand was acquired by a manufacturing firm in China that used to build certain Mad Catz devices. They've also been restructured under new management than the old Mad Catz completely and that is probably for the best. Doesn't seem like they're doing fight sticks anymore either, at least not yet.
    http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2018-01-04-mad-catz-returns-under-new-management

    Reply
  • September 1, 2019 at 10:44 pm
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    Had a Mad Catz extension cord for my ps1 controller and that thing was a life saver.

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  • September 2, 2019 at 12:45 am
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    Original Xbox madcatz mini controllers were the SHIT for Halo, we had 8 of them and they never ever broke, joysticks would wear a LITTLE bit but they looked cool and took a LOT of abuse. Miles above the original xbox controller imo.

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  • September 2, 2019 at 12:58 am
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    I had a rat 7 mouse. Loved it. The early stuff was garbage.

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  • September 2, 2019 at 1:49 am
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    I definitely miss them. I never got anything from them the I didn't like better than the original.

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  • September 2, 2019 at 3:09 am
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    F

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  • September 2, 2019 at 3:38 am
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    Ill miss them – just wish the warehouse liquidation was more public i would of bought a lot of unsold inventory

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  • September 2, 2019 at 4:01 am
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    I actually really liked my mad catz xbox controller

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  • September 2, 2019 at 8:09 am
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    I had a madcatz controller for my PS2 and it was rather good controller

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  • September 2, 2019 at 9:55 am
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    I had a mad cats ps2 controller i hated that thing

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  • September 2, 2019 at 6:30 pm
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    Mad Catz co.:

    God: I’m bout to end this mans whole career

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  • September 2, 2019 at 7:15 pm
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    I actually had and really liked the Mad Catz Genesis controller shown in this video. I hadn’t heard of six-button controllers at the time and the cord on standard Genesis controllers are notoriously short, so that controller was great, as it made it possible to sit farther from the console and TV.

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  • September 2, 2019 at 7:49 pm
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    Didn't mad catz make the xbox controller with the fan that would de-clam your hands?

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  • September 3, 2019 at 12:17 am
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    Rock band 4 flopped. I work at gamestop and it just sat on our floors

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  • September 3, 2019 at 12:37 am
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    I hated this brand. Absolutely hated this brand. Everything fucking broke on my ass. Im very wary about 3rd party accessories, because of this brand. They deserve to go bankrupt.

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  • September 3, 2019 at 12:49 am
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    I never bought a bad Mad Catz product. Cheap sure. But did the shit do what it said? Yes. So?

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  • September 3, 2019 at 1:35 am
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    I used to love my Streer Fighter IV controllers for Xbox 360 made by MadCatz.

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  • September 3, 2019 at 2:30 am
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    I always thought Mad Catz was the stupidest name

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  • September 3, 2019 at 2:54 am
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    Good riddance. Mad Catz was always garbage.

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  • September 3, 2019 at 4:10 am
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    I kind of want to buy a R.A.T. mouse after hearing about it.

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  • September 3, 2019 at 5:03 am
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    I had a chair with a mad cat sticker I miss that chair so much

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  • September 3, 2019 at 7:19 am
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    The Z button for n64 stopped working within a month from playing 007 Goldeneye it pretty much got stuck into the hole. Garbage made in china shit. They deserve all Trump Terrifs. Stuff made in USA or Japan last over 50 years stuff made in china last at times a few mins.

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  • September 3, 2019 at 3:29 pm
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    I still remember in one of the mario party games there was a mini game which if you had the Mad Catz controller you would automatically win because there was a button prompt that was only available on a Mad Catz controller

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  • September 3, 2019 at 4:31 pm
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    I think what dented the company was no more turbo controllers on consoles. I stopped seeing turbo controllers since the xbox360, ps3 and Wii.

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  • September 3, 2019 at 4:53 pm
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    When I needed a new controller and my mom didn’t want to pay full price, Mad Catz was there..

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  • September 3, 2019 at 5:04 pm
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    I always got a corrupt file on the memory card

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  • September 3, 2019 at 6:47 pm
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    The last thing I remember from madcatz was their Strike 7 keyboard. It was an extremely expensive 300$~ keyboard with a touch-screen display and some other weird features. The base keyboard was really just a cheap plastic membrane keyboard though, and the touch-screen was so utterly unresponsive it was completely unusable. It was unique, though. The same goes for any tritton headset or rat mouse I owned, they were all overengineered in one way with one or more unique features to them that were actually pretty smart, but in order to accomplish those features they had to sacrifice base functionality of the product, e.g. ergonomics for their mouse to have swappable shell parts, or coil whine and mediocre audio quality on their headsets especially while it vibrated (which made up the unique feature). For the keyboard above it was a lot of interesting and unique features added to a shitty base keyboard, so the actual keyboard part of it was horrible and would easily get stuck. A shitty base product with interesting ideas added on, or a product with interesting and unique features that take priority over the most basic and important features of it seems to be the theme for madcatz and its not surprising that once the people that were interested in these features (like myself) got bored of them the company would not be able to substain itself in the long run. Sad but probably for the better.

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  • September 3, 2019 at 10:27 pm
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    The memory cards for ps2 and and steering wheels was their best item the controllers always were clunky and felt weird in my hand

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  • September 4, 2019 at 1:04 am
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    Mad Catz was awesome and cheap.

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  • September 4, 2019 at 1:10 am
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    Had one mad catz controller, shattered like glass when my 10 year old ass raged lol

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  • September 4, 2019 at 1:28 am
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    If you like this channel, check out Bright Sun Films' Bankrupt series for non-tech stories like this one.

    Reply
  • September 4, 2019 at 1:52 am
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    Madcatz, for the real gamers who want their friends to have to use shitty controllers when they visit.

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  • September 4, 2019 at 3:46 am
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    The only good thing about Madcatz were those fight sticks. They were considered one of the best sticks in the market.

    Now Razer has taken its place in the stick market, it isn't as one-sided as Mad Catz domination in the FGC.

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  • September 4, 2019 at 3:57 am
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    I've used a r.a.t 3 since 2012 till this year. #quality right thur

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  • September 4, 2019 at 6:06 am
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    Who didn't have a mad Catz controller or two?

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  • September 4, 2019 at 6:57 am
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    Must be a "I paid more so it's better" thing for a lot of people..other than the hideous colors and see through deals they would come out with i feel they were pretty damn good products.

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  • September 4, 2019 at 9:52 am
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    Imagine MadCatz would have made it to aftermarket joy-cons…

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  • September 4, 2019 at 12:13 pm
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    I've still got a couple mad cats ps1 controllers in storage lol

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  • September 4, 2019 at 2:48 pm
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    I live in San Diego. I remember back in early 2016 I was looking for another job in IT and I got a call from Madcatz. I don't remember applying, but I remember after they contacted me thinking wow their still in business!?! I went in for an interview for an IT support position. They never called me back and wow pretty crazy to think that had I been offered and taken the job I'd be right back looking for another one shortly.

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  • September 4, 2019 at 3:08 pm
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    Younger brother has entered chat

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  • September 4, 2019 at 7:34 pm
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    Typed this comment on a Cyborg V7 in 2019… still love this keyboard. Possibly the best £50 ever spent.

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  • September 4, 2019 at 9:50 pm
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    Bank ruptsy doesn’t mean the death of a company it’s a sign but not certain death

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  • September 4, 2019 at 9:50 pm
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    Well they did there goal

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  • September 4, 2019 at 9:56 pm
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    Still look ing for a good replacement for the rat 7

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  • September 4, 2019 at 10:35 pm
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    They had the best Steering Wheel on the N64 from all the ones I saw. They were the only one who made one with a gear shift stick (yes, it was only sequential but the N64 didn't have enough controls available for a true shifter without a serious controller config screen for button combos in each game (presumably just for this wheel!)). The one I had was like the one at 3:19 but had C-buttons on the gearstick and a red back plate; no force-feedback though. It worked great on Automobilli Lamborghini.

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  • September 5, 2019 at 12:08 am
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    Mad catz were kinda the rulers of joysticks and stealing wheels. They should have just stuck with that. They could have improved what they were good at and if they did, maybe they would still be around.

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  • September 5, 2019 at 12:46 am
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    Oh the controllers that would barely make it a year before theyd just stop working. Or bugging out out.

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  • September 5, 2019 at 1:39 am
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    From reading through quite a decent chunk of the comments, I can only conclude that a lot of people actually liked their Mad Catz products. I never really had any Mad Catz products myself, except for a 8 MB memory card for the PS2. Never had any problems with it, and it's still going strong, after 20+ years. 👍😆

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  • September 5, 2019 at 3:36 am
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    Had many Mad Catz controllers in the 90's and even bought my first wireless controller for the original xbox from them.
    I remember buying an RGB lit clear controller because I thought the LED's looked so cool.

    I never had an issue with low quality controllers from them and even preferred them over the pricy OEM controllers.

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  • September 5, 2019 at 5:26 am
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    Why did you not add the NBA,NFL & MLB licences mad catz had? I have over 50 NBA,NFL & MLB PS2 controllers as collectibles.

    They were the very first 3rd party peripheral manufacturer to have major sport league official licenses to make team based themed controllers. This should not have been omitted as it's more than likely, mad catz's highest plateau in terms of recognition.

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  • September 5, 2019 at 9:40 am
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    Shouldn't acquire that many

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  • September 5, 2019 at 12:18 pm
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    I'm still using my Mad Catz Cyborg V.7

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  • September 5, 2019 at 12:41 pm
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    So sad, I loved the Mad Catz fightsticks.

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  • September 5, 2019 at 2:30 pm
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    I was told madcatz now makes afterglow peripherals

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  • September 5, 2019 at 2:43 pm
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    They made crap products and that doomed their brand from early on. That's why Logitech is still around by comparison.

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  • September 5, 2019 at 4:38 pm
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    They also had a deal to do the official MLG controller for xbox 360s which had a lot of customization options

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  • September 5, 2019 at 8:32 pm
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    Mad catz gave my xbox a virus😢

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  • September 6, 2019 at 12:36 am
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    I think mario party and mad cats had a deal going on.

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  • September 6, 2019 at 1:07 am
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    I really liked my old mad cats playstation controller was a little more bulky and had rubber grips on the back nothing wrong with that. Memory card worked fine. I think yall just dont take your shit.

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  • September 6, 2019 at 6:36 am
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    I miss madcatz. New cheap controllers like powerA just don't have the same charm

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  • September 6, 2019 at 1:53 pm
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    6:05 i own the controller at the middle.Its works pretty good but its speeker some time buzzing too much. But other wise its quite inexpensive and nice product.

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  • September 6, 2019 at 2:30 pm
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    RIP Mad Catz. (8BitDo is better anyway)

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  • September 6, 2019 at 7:34 pm
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    The first lines were hilarious! TRUTH!

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  • September 6, 2019 at 8:51 pm
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    The mouse's were perfect

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  • September 6, 2019 at 9:39 pm
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    Today on “Why is this in my recommended”

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  • September 7, 2019 at 12:44 am
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    Their console products kinda sucked, but their R.A.T. series mice are to this day my favorite mice.

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  • September 7, 2019 at 3:56 am
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    Man, I used to have so many of their memory cards. So brightly colored lol

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  • September 7, 2019 at 4:25 am
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    Mad Catz was the brand poor kids like me had to settle for, and pray that it would last longer than the previous one 😩

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  • September 7, 2019 at 10:01 am
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    Damn from the looks of that google maps shot, I grew up 2 minutes from their head office and never knew it.

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  • September 7, 2019 at 10:41 am
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    once upon a time i bought a WaveBird controller for the gamecube, i absolutely hated that controller because of its size and bad RF connection, so i returned it and got a wireless MadCatz GameCube controller, still to this day i have never found a controller on any system that could be any better than this one!

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  • September 7, 2019 at 1:49 pm
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    Good riddance

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  • September 7, 2019 at 5:36 pm
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    I used one of these it got hot and melted

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  • September 7, 2019 at 5:45 pm
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    I still have my mad catz xbox controller

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  • September 7, 2019 at 10:38 pm
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    Ah, Mad Catz. Loudest A button in the world

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  • September 8, 2019 at 2:07 am
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    I still have a MadCatz PS2 controller. I love it.

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  • September 8, 2019 at 2:57 am
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    I love stuff from the Golden age of gaming.

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  • September 8, 2019 at 5:01 am
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    Ok but their R.A.T. series mice are flippin' awesome

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  • September 8, 2019 at 5:45 am
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    You guys need a tiger electronics episode

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  • September 8, 2019 at 8:55 am
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    The Madcatz Rockband 4 drums are perhaps the worst drums I’ve ever bought, I cannot believe i dished out $300 for the bundle that included a guitar also, one of the worst purchases ever

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  • September 8, 2019 at 10:51 am
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    I just realised that i have a madcatz product. A ps2 steering wheel controller.

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  • September 8, 2019 at 11:07 am
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    Dead Catz

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  • September 8, 2019 at 5:02 pm
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    My mother randomly shipped my official n64 controller away to some cousin in the Dominican Republic and later bought me a Mad Catz controller… I never forgave her and fuck Mad Catz

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  • September 8, 2019 at 9:56 pm
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    I know Mad Catz from my GameCube memory cards, and tv coaxial adapter to connect our game consoles to the tv

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  • September 8, 2019 at 10:05 pm
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    i still use my TE Stick till this day, also in canada it costed 199$

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  • September 8, 2019 at 10:59 pm
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    My chiropractic physician can play Mario kart while healing my back …. Lol

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  • September 8, 2019 at 11:44 pm
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    I have a madcatz ps2 controller as well as some GBA gear that all still work and I’m surprised with both how they’ve held up and how I haven’t broken them with my clumsy dumb idiot baby child hands

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  • September 9, 2019 at 3:33 am
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    The controllers sucked but the memory cards where good.

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  • September 9, 2019 at 6:18 am
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    I have a mad cat her name is ita

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  • September 9, 2019 at 7:28 am
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    kinda weird that some of the people watching this vid never even seen or heard of Mad Catz before..

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  • September 9, 2019 at 8:22 am
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    I still have the one for genesis lol

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  • September 9, 2019 at 11:52 am
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    1) Too much leverage / acquisition binge in a market segment with few barriers to entry
    2) Decline of in-store purchasing, coupled with the disappearance of nearly every actual toy store and video game 2nd hand retail store.

    3) The rise of brand piracy in the controller market, made possible by #2
    4) Failure to appreciate the transformation in the market from "cutting edge" to "nostalgia" gaming, and focusing on the former while writing off the latter.

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  • September 9, 2019 at 2:53 pm
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    One time I bought a mad catz controller for Xbox and the white button never worked. Then a few years later I bought a wireless mad catz controller and clicking the thumbstick never worked from the second I used it. I never went back after that.

    Reply
  • September 10, 2019 at 7:26 am
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    I remember my very old pc broke, then after many months my dad got a mad catz pc for free and replaced its components with mine. Both then worked like a charm, for some reason.

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  • September 10, 2019 at 8:15 am
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    When yo ass broke

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  • September 10, 2019 at 8:16 am
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    Had That mad cats Xbox controller

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  • September 10, 2019 at 10:23 am
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    Rock band killed mad cats

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  • September 10, 2019 at 7:46 pm
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    Mad catz controller bricked my original PlayStation rip 😢

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  • September 11, 2019 at 4:24 am
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    they where good products too bad that greedy companies like sony and microsoft took over

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  • September 11, 2019 at 6:07 am
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    Subscribe just for this. Remember I bought one for my GameCube. Total POS controller lol

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  • September 11, 2019 at 6:25 am
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    So this is where Apple is headed towards 😂

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