Back in the days gaming joysticks we’re pretty common and the number 1 input device to play your games. Joysticks like the classic Microsoft Sidewinder and even way before that the Amiga sticks. I remember these peripherals were my number one device for gaming.
With the introduction of the gamepad and console gaming joysticks weren’t very commonly used anymore. PC gamers mainly use mice and console gamers stick with gamepads. So are flight sticks dying?
Flight sims are still a thing
Flight sims are a small niche in gaming but they heavily rely on joysticks. The more hardcore sim pilots build their own custom devices and even complete sim cockpits. More recently with the revival of the space sim, flight sticks are making a comeback. From transporting passengers to combat sims, flight-sim enthusiasts have a wide selection of games to choose from. I don’t see this genre dying anytime soon now that VR is almost affordable. Within a couple of years, VR could offer a whole new dimension (no pun intended) to flight-sim gaming.
The space sim genre is back
A few years ago the crowdfunded game Elite Dangerous was introduced and made a successful campaign. Other games like Star Citizen and Dual Universe (both in development) will heavily rely on joysticks which offer immersive gameplay. Of course, these games can be played with other controls but the experience is less satisfying. A joystick just makes the experience so much better.
Flight-sticks to keep an eye on
Maybe the most known brand for joysticks is Thrustmaster. TM has a solid reputation and makes some excellent sticks, some of them have been on the market for years (Warthog, T16000m) but new models are in development. Recently TM introduced a HOTAS (hands-on stick and throttle) specifically designed for Elite Dangerous. It features an analog thumbstick which allows you to control more degrees. The spaceflight model is completely different from atmospheric flight model so analog sticks are quite useful.
Some lesser known brands
There are some lesser known brands currently competing on the market. Companies like VKB and Virpil are offering high-quality sticks even for the left-handed pilot. This is one of the biggest complaints, lefties hardly have a choice. There are some ambidextrous sticks but only a few.
Anyway, if you’re looking for something with high precision/accuracy and a stick that lasts a while you might want to check out these guys. Be prepared to pay for quality but the sticks will probably last for a decade. A small price to pay considering a cheaper joystick often starts breaking down after a few months.
But what about Saitek?
Well, they went out of business. Saitek used to offer great sticks before they were taken over by Madcatz. Madcatz absolutely destroyed Saitek’s reputation and started slacking on the quality. If you do a quick google search you’ll see what I’m talking about. On top of the bad flight-sticks, their customer service also started to become less reputable. In the end, Madcats went belly up and is now part of Logitech. I sure hope Logitech will dedicate some time to develop some new sticks but I’m not getting my hopes up (even though I’m a big fan of Logitech).
Best budget joystick?
Still the T16000m by Thrustmaster, it was recently renewed and has great sensors and is pretty accurate considering the price. If I would recommend one stick it will be this one.