GameTrak – A Conversation with Elliott Myers
Elliott Myers founded In2Games in the year 2000 to sell his Gametrak controller, which was released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2, along with the first-person brawler title Dark Wind. This interview was conducted by Henner Thomsen as part of the research for a podcast episode.
Stay Forever: Before founding In2Games in 2000, you worked for the gaming peripherals brand Gamester – were you involved in the development of the Gamester Evolution Motion Sensitive Control System, another “motion control” device?
Elliott Myers: Background: Gamester was the brand developed by my father’s company, Leda Media Products (LMP). I was given the opportunity to set up a development team in HK and China (many are still with me today) and we have created some cool innovative products over the years.
Yes, The Evolution Control System was my brainchild. The idea was to bring the fantasy of a ‚Power Glove‘ to life – it was one of the first input devices that took full advantage of an accelerometer.
Stay Forever: What other input devices were you working on or inspired by before inventing Gametrak?
Elliott Myers: My first product was for the NES, it was a rumble pack and memory card combined. It was super useful and I’m still proud of the design and function. I also helped bring the steering wheel to the European market, although this was initially a distribution deal with a company called MadCatz. I produced Beat Mania for Konami (DJ controller). I also made the first Force Feedback Wheel and Joystick, beating Microsoft and Logitech to market, working with a company called Immersion Technology in the USA.
Something which may interest you, one of the factories in China I helped to set up was called Berway, which ultimately became very successful, going on to make Skylanders, Guitar Hero, and Oculus.
Stay Forever: How did you come up with the idea for Gametrak? Were you still working for Gamester/Leda at the time?
Elliott Myers: When LMP was sold to Radica Games, part of the deal was my moving to Dallas Texas to help sell our products in North America. But I wasn’t really allowed to be creative and develop new products, so after 6 months I quit and moved back to the UK and wondered what my next invention would be. I was looking at a washing line in a hotel shower room one day and realized such a solution could offer an accurate X, Y, and Z position. I founded In2Games shortly after.
Stay Forever: How satisfied were you with the final Gametrak device? What worked well and what didn’t?
Elliott Myers: I was happy with the final Gametrak product (there were two iterations) but we couldn’t convince games developers to support our device, as it would require starting a game from scratch. So we had to raise money to make games ourselves, which we did – we made Dark Wind first in 2003 (a fighting game with Sony, Atari, and others distributed across Europe and the USA) and then Real World Golf in 2004 which got to number 3 in the PlayStation 2 charts.
Stay Forever: In2Games announced several other games, like basketball, baseball, and tennis simulation titles – but they were never released. What happened? What about the planned fighting game?
Elliott Myers: When Nintendo successfully launched Wii, a wireless device, we felt we would be fighting an uphill battle to continue with Gametrak, which was obviously a tethered device. Also, Nintendo did such a great job with their software, making people believe that their controller was doing so much more than what it was actually doing. It made our efforts feel somewhat redundant. What’s the point in having a great 3D device if it can only be presented on a 2D screen? We couldn’t find a way to actually show how cool our 3D product was.
My thinking has always been that 2D screens would eventually migrate to 3D screens, which has happened now thanks to VR headsets, but it has taken a lot longer than I envisioned. Actually, I tried to create a VR headset back in 2001 (!). Anyway, this was the reason for continuing to create 3D input devices.
So we switched focus and created Gametrak Freedom, the first ultrasonic games controller which was super complex but we made it work and actually nearly sold it to Microsoft a few years later but they went with Kinect instead.
Stay Forever: Why did you decide not to support additional controller input with the standard PlayStation DualShock controller? You could easily hold it in your hands (well, one hand) while being attached to the Gametrak.
Elliott Myers: I honestly don’t think we thought of it!
Stay Forever: You also talked about a planned “Force Feedback” version of Gametrak. How would that have worked?
Elliott Myers: There was the possibility of having motors pull the cables underneath the spool inside the Gametrak base, which would have been cool. It would have offered the feeling of picking up objects with weight.
Stay Forever: Gametrak seems to have been a success, at least the PS2 version that came bundled with Real World Golf. Do you remember any sales numbers? What about the Xbox and PC versions?
Elliott Myers: I remember we sold 120K units of PS2 games in the UK (where we did TV advertising), which also equated to 120k units of Gametrak hardware. I honestly can’t remember other sales numbers, but PS2 was our main market. I remember the XBox license was quite complicated and time-consuming. We also sold in the USA with MadCatz as our distributor, who focused on PS2. We probably sold around 400k units in total, maybe a bit less.
Stay Forever: The Gametrak line was ultimately discontinued. What happened?
Elliott Myers: We switched focus when Wii came out so successfully. I felt we hadn’t sold enough Gametraks to continue the line.
Stay Forever: What about Gametrak Freedom, which was announced (and fully developed, as far as I can tell) but never released?
Elliott Myers: After I sold In2Games to PDP, based in California, I left the business as I wasn’t really able to create new products which has always been my passion. Gametrak Freedom was due to be launched with a game called Squeeballs, but the hardware was shelved and Squeeballs was sold as a Wii title.
Stay Forever: What are your thoughts on the current state of motion-controlled 3D input technology for games? How does your current project, the Roto VR chair, tie into this (which is more about output and immersion than input and control)?
Elliott Myers: Valve, HTC, and Meta (and soon Apple) are doing such a fantastic job with their input devices and continue to iterate alongside their VR headsets. There’s little point in offering an alternative solution, especially when outside these 1st party companies.
Roto is a different kind of product, in that we recognize most people would rather sit to consume and engage with 360-degree content. None of the 1st party companies want to ship a chair, so at least for a while, we have a green-field opportunity ahead of us to make our mark. Roto solves the problems of looking and moving around an infinite digital world with its innovative headtracking solution (wherever you look the chair auto-turns), which also solves motion sickness (for most people), plus we add haptics which you can feel through your entire body. There’s lots more to it, but essentially Roto is the first game chair that offers genuine gameplay benefits, as the motors inside the chair are bidirectional, developers can turn the user around to see things they would otherwise miss. Unlike my previous products, Roto already works with all games out of the box, so convincing game developers to add ‚extra features‘ is proving to be much easier. Roto V2 is coming out next Easter for $699 and I am feeling quietly optimistic that it will be a hit product.
Stay Forever: Have you heard of artists and musicians using Gametrak as a musical instrument?
Elliott Myers: Actually yes, and I’m very grateful to see such use cases.