Hm. “Wireless-ify” – that came out a bit weird. My terrible titling aside, to celebrate their 5 years of existence, 8BitDo are now selling DIY kits that allow you to mod Bluetooth connectivity into your favourite retro gaming controllers. Hippy birthday, 8BitDo!
Costing US$19.99 apiece, there are mod kits available for the controllers of the SNES, NES, Mega Drive (the six-button variant) and interestingly, the SNES and NES Classic Editions controllers too. The mods enable Bluetooth compatibility with Windows and macOS (including Steam) as well as Android, Raspberry Pi and even the Nintendo Switch. No word yet on Linux, although I’m sure the clever denizens who use that as their daily OS could cobble together a patch if they were so inclined.
The words “DIY” and “mod” are thrown around a bit – but in reality, if you can replace the batteries in a TV remote, you can probably perform these mods. All tools are included (i.e., a screwdriver) and no soldering is required. Each product page on 8BitDo’s website includes a video how-to showing how simple it really is too. Basically, the original controller is unscrewed, the original PCB is removed, and lastly, the mod PCB is installed in its place. You might have to fiddle around with some inserts for the shoulder buttons, but all in all, I doubt this would take anyone more than five minutes.
I guess there could be something said about altering original hardware, but it’s not as if anything is destroyed. As far as I can tell, this mod is completely reversible. There would be nothing stopping you from taking it apart again, and then swapping back the original PCB.
Since it does make the controllers wireless, there is, of course, a rechargeable battery as part of the kit. This battery is rocking 3.7v at 180mAH which 8BitDo claims will equal to 7 hours of playtime (while it will take 1-2 hours to charge). It is, however, charged by a proprietary cable as the socket also acts as an LED indicator (that shows status as well as battery life). So, don’t go losing that cable!
Pair it up with another product from 8BitDo, the SNES or NES Retro Receivers (that enables Bluetooth controllers to work with those consoles) and you’ll have a potential winner on your hands. Although that will set you back another 25 bucks each, so here’s hoping that 8BitDo start selling them as bundles.
If Bluetooth versions of retro controllers are something you’ve been pining for, all the kits are available now on 8BitDo’s online store.