The hype was off the charts. The possibilities were mind boggling. And the future? Well, we were living the future.
The Power Glove was without a shadow of a doubt the coolest toy there had ever been, and that was before it even hit the shelves.
We had just finished watching The Wizard, starring Fred Savage and Christian Slater. Our jaws still firmly planted on the floor from watching Lucas Barton absolutely dismantle Rad Racer with a video game glove that we didn’t know existed, or that we needed.
It turned out that the movie was essentially one giant commercial for the Power Glove and Super Mario Bros. 3.
A shortage of ROM chips in North America prevented Nintendo from releasing the game when they had intended, presenting them with a wonderful opportunity to promote both products like never before.
The movie was a moderate success, the game has become one of the most beloved Nintendo games of all time, and the Power Glove? Well, the Power Glove didn’t have the same reception.
Grant Goddard and Samuel Cooper Davis designed the glove for Abrams/Gentile Entertainment (AGE) and released it in 1989. Because of Nintendo’s massive popularity, AGE rushed the release of the product in an attempt to cash in on the success of the NES. Working with Mattel (and PAX in Japan), the Power Glove was completed and on the shelves in less than 5 months.
The gloves design was based off of a product called the Dataglove, a revolutionary piece of virtual reality equipment that operated how you envisioned the Power Glove working. The difference? The Dataglove sold for a cool $10,000. The Power Glove was to retail for $100.
The glove functioned from ultrasonic transmitters. Two on the glove itself and three receivers that attached to your TV. The glove detected finger movements thanks to fibre optic tubing that ran along the first four fingers (the pinky finger was excluded to save money).
This is where things go from “coolest toy ever” to ripping the velcro off and throwing it at your brother.
The glove could only detect four finger movements. Extended, curled up, and two others in between. The tech inside them was cheap and of a shoddy variety, so your control was severely limited. It resulted in a lot of consumers turning it sideways and using the buttons on the glove as an extra controller. It also taught most kids how to string multiple curse words together.
The glove was the first attempt at what the Nintendo Wii would eventually become 17 years later. Once they realized their mistakes and improved upon them with modern technology, they were able to achieve what they initially had intended.
There were a variety of games created specifically for the Power Glove, but they were titles that no one ever added to their Christmas Wishlist (but who am I to judge? Maybe you really did ask Santa for Super Glove Ball). The glove was a let down with most of the popular games that you really wanted it for, and it took a lot of mundane button programming just to be able to get to that point.
The Power Glove is proof of what a great marketing campaign can do for a product. Even 30 years later, knowing all that you know about this product, you still want one.
Maybe Nintendo hypnotized us into the same trance it seemed to get Lucas Barton with.