I have seen the future of ubiquitous gaming and it probably starts with a Alienware Project Nyx controller. The gaming PC maker gave me an early glimpse of the device, which is admittedly more concept than product, just prior to CES 2023, where it’s being officially unveiled. Put simply, this controller could influence the future of PC and even console gaming for years to come.
To understand why Alienware (a part of Dell), is fiddling with gaming peripherals, you need to know a little about Concept Nyx, Alienware’s experimental platform for gaming around the home. To support it, Dell’s been working on hardware and software concepts that let you, for instance, take PC gaming from your desktop and laptop to the biggest screen in your home: your TV.
Playing a PC game on your TV isn’t easy. Most gaming computers aren’t hooked up to the family room TV (unlike most consoles, which are), and it’s a trial to get your gaming laptop working with even the best 4K TVs.
For Alienware, the solution is a sort of home gaming server and then a flashy controller: Nyx Games Control.
At a glance, the controller looks like a marriage of Xbox and PlayStation modern controllers (with a little bit of Google Stadia [RIP] thrown in), but it offers a series of features that either one might want to adopt on future console systems.
For starters, there’s a built-in fingerprint reader under the Alienware logo. The authentication system can be used for games or for accessing your NyX Controller profile and the associated customizations.
Instead of a D-Pad there’s the Omnipad, a circular trackpad that responds to a variety of gestures and provides haptic response.
Along the back edge where your thumbs might rest are an easy-to-reach pair of wide scroll wheels that you can use for multi-tasking (switching between various open apps and games). The bumper buttons let you quickly switch between weapons and the traditional-looking thumb sticks offer adaptive resistance levels depending on activity and weapons use. The variable resistance gets down to trigger resistance for various kinds of weapons.
Alienware has spent considerable time fine-tuning the overall haptics for a wider frequency of advanced rumble features that can reproduce everything from gunshots to heartbeats.
More importantly, the rechargeable NyX controller is designed to replace not so much a games controller, but the keyboard and mouse you typically use with PC games. Using a combination of the D-Pad and shift buttons that act a bit like the shift keys on a keyboard, the NyX controller can, company representatives claimed, manage up to ninety-five different actions. It’s close to the number of actions you need to replace keyboard input.
Because this is part of a ubiquitous gaming concept, the Nyx controller is screen agnostic and designed to transfer gameplay to whatever screen you point it at. Imagine your Xbox controller doing that.
Leaving aside all the bells and whistles, this is a right-sized, comfortable-to-hold, and exciting-looking controller (thanks to the customizable LED lighting).
While I didn’t get to play a game on it, I did marvel at how the Alienware representative could flick between big-screen gaming activities.
Frustratingly, the Nyx Games Controller will never be a true product. Alienware told me that Project Nyx serves a different purpose. It’s all essentially an experiment that helps Dell and Alienware imagine future scenarios. With it, they can envision the future of ubiquitous home gaming and inspire others within the company and outside of it to build the products that will turn it into a reality.
I hope Microsoft and Sony are paying attention.
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.