Remember how the Wii’s groundbreaking motion controls helped Nintendo sell over 100 million consoles? Well, it turns out it wasn’t actually the first Nintendo console you could play by flailing around a joystick. Thanks to a third party accessory called the Hot Stik, the original NES had rudimentary motion controls too, but there’s a good reason it took around 15 years for the idea to really catch on.
As the Gaming Historian elaborates in his latest YouTube video, a company called Power 10 Inc. released a motion-controlled gaming chair called the Hot Seat back in 1990 that was later refined to a cheaper, joystick-only accessory. As with the Wiimotes it could detect a player’s movements and translate them to the action on screen for any game in the NES’ library. But whereas the Wiimotes used modern gyro chip technology that was very sensitive and very precise, the Hot Stik used liquid mercury switches that were decidedly less so—and kind of toxic should the joystick ever get cracked open. Yikes.
Surprisingly, the Hot Stik actually worked quite well for several games. Kirby’s Adventure (which was very forgiving to make it easier for younger kids to manage) was totally playable, as was Rad Racer which essentially just had players steering a race car from side to side. But games like Gradius that required fast reflexes, tight controls, and more finesse were problematic. Punch Out was downright unplayable with the Hot Stik, as its slow response made trying to dodge punches all but impossible.
Goofy accessories have existed as long as video game consoles have, and looking back, the Hot Stik was a genuine failure. But it was just an idea that was a decade or so ahead of its time. Eventually, the technology caught up to the idea, but it would end up making Nintendo a fortune, instead of Power 10.