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How the Nintendo Power Glove Worked

The Farcical Fist
For $100, players could reach new levels of frustration.
For $100, players could reach new levels of frustration.
©Digital Game Museum/Creative Commons/flickr, Used Under CC BY-ND 2.0 License

The Power Glove's top-notch marketing transfixed a generation of young gamers. Everyone wanted to strap on the glove that surged with blue electrical pulses and vanquished foes at every turn in TV commercials. It was a chance to be a superhero of sorts. Yet within minutes of unpacking the glove, most kids felt an unsettling disappointment.

The Power Glove simply didn't work. It was supposed to be fun, but instead it made gaming an exercise in futility. Low-quality parts were part of the problem.

In 1989, $100 was a sizable chunk of money for parents to blow on a single gaming system accessory. For reference, in 2015 that $100 would be closer to $200. Yet even at the $100 price point, Mattel was struggling to keep the device affordable.

To maintain a realistic price, Mattel stripped the Power Glove down and used the cheapest hardware components they could find. This had the desired effect of minimizing the price per unit, but it raised the frustration level to maximum.

The consumer-level quality of the microphones was problematic. Issues with distortion lowered the accuracy of position detection and subsequently made it much harder to control your character.

The product couldn't track minute move movements at all. It could only follow big, sweeping gestures, and even then, not very well. Lack of precision meant you wound up hitting the reset button over and over again, recalibrating the glove in a futile attempt to make it work more like a piece of sophisticated technology and less like a failed prototype.

Then, there were the games. To get full 3-D motion, the Power Glove needed games programmed specifically to its capabilities. Problem was, only two titles were ever released for these features; with all other games, the Power Glove was basically shoehorned into playability, and the results were inaccurate character control and a lot of rolled eyes.

There were two games created specifically for the Power Glove Gaming Series: "Bad Street Brawler" and "Super Glove Ball." Neither title made any money for their creators, primarily because the glove worked so poorly.

"Super Glove Ball" was a lot like "Breakout." It entailed bouncing a ball to small colored bricks over and over again while avoiding some enemies.

"Bad Street Brawler" was a side-to-side scrolling street-fighting game in the vein of "Double Dragon," only minus the fun. It was endlessly repetitive, and the glove's lack of responsiveness made it a chore to execute even the three basic punches and kicks.