Sunday, December 12, 2010

Beeshu's Rainbow of Joysticks

Beeshu was one of those little accessory-focused companies that slaved away making compatible, unofficial controllers for a variety of popular videogame and computer systems.  They might actually have made too many of them, as evidenced by this late 1980s magazine ad for seven different controllers, which probably did more to confuse potential costumers than entice them:



It's fairly clear what the difference is between the ULTIMATE superstick and the REMOTE ULTIMATE superstick.

But was there really room in the marketplace for the Zinger, the Hot Stuff, and the VIPER?

And who was the JAZZ STICK aimed at?  Aside from rhyming with "spastic," it's doubtful that young Bob Fosse and Duke Ellington wannabes were beating a path to Beeshu's door in hopes of scoring a few more points on Gradius.

The most intriguing product shown here is the Zoomer, which is apparently meant for driving and racing games.  But none of the compatible systems listed supported native analog input, so the controller would have had to send out digital D-pad style signals -- raising questions about just how much control the Zoomer would have actually provided.

As a company, Beeshu managed to survive until July of 1995, when it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida.  The company's ultimate failure was apparently precipitated by a court order forcing it to repay a $400,000 bank loan on which it had defaulted; the money to do so was clearly not available.

The July 31, 1995 issue of the Orlando Sentinel published Beeshu's final statistics, providing a rare detailed look at the size of the company when it went under -- a multi-million dollar operation it was not:

Beeshu Inc., 724 Carter Road, Winter Garden. President: Don Shulman. Assets: $130,095. Debts: $946,602. Major creditors: Barnett Bank, Orlando, $306,959; Betty Shulman, Orlando, $212,000; Don Shulman, Windermere, $171,354. Creditors meeting: Aug. 16.
Sadly, Don and Betty Shulman had apparently loaned their own money to the family business in an attempt to keep it afloat.  The company was almost one million dollars in debt when the axe finally fell, with assets about a tenth of that.

Hindsight, of course, is 20/20, but I can't help but speculate that a little more discipline in Beeshu's product line would have been a good thing for the bottom line.

10 comments:

  1. you have a lot of video game knowledge. you should join the www.racketboy.com forum and post your blog info there. you'll have a lot more readers. =]

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  2. Always happy to meet some like-minded gamers, I'll check it out. Thanks!

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  3. I have the remote super stick. I am tyring to figure out what it may be worth or what it sells for but can't find a reference of a past sale any where on the internet.. Do you know what it may be worth? Thanks

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  4. I have no idea, beyond the standard reply -- "it's worth what somebody is willing to pay for it." If I found one in working order for five bucks at a flea market, I'd probably pick it up to try it out for the novelty value. But I can't guess what a collector would pay for one.

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  5. I never saw the Jazz, Zoomer or either of the Ultimates in any store (in Florida no less), but I did run in to the Zinger, Viper and Hot Stuff a few times. In addition to their similarities, all 3 of those sticks came in a variety of colors as well (I remember buying a bright green Zinger out of a clearance bin in the early 90's), so you were definitely right on the "confusion" aspect!

    It controlled fairly well, but the connector was definitely not-exactly-up-to-spec and I remember having to force it a bit to get it to go into the port on the control deck. I think I remember the cord being fairly short as well (possibly 4 feet?) so I ended up using an extension with it. The suction cups on the bottom were a nice touch, if you played on a desk or flat surface.

    The two triggers on the stick itself were the standard A and B buttons and the white buttons on the base were the auto-fire buttons; a bit awkward to use in that orientation. I think switchable auto-fire for the main triggers would have been a better way to go.

    All in all I think I only used it a handful of times before it ended up in a box in the closet. Ah well.

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  6. The Zoomer was also available for the PC. I used it to play Flight Simulator and Wing Commander. On the PC at least it provided full analog controls. It wasn't a high-precision instrument, but was fun to use. In the end the suction cups on the bottom fell off. Without those it wasn't stable enough. I still have it, though. Just found it in an old box. Can't get myself to throw it away...

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  7. I have an Ultimate Superstick for the Sega Master System. It's an excellent joystick, although its microswitches are a bit loud. It's got rapid fire that can be adjusted with dials, and that helped me beat at least one game that I couldn't previously beat manually (Rocky). There's a fairly extensive article about Beeshu and the Shulmans in the third issue of Electronic Game Player (which became Electronic Gaming Monthly a couple of issues later). They made great controllers, but probably didn't have the marketing muscle to compete with the other companies that came along later. As a Master System gamer, I was grateful that anyone was supporting that system.

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  8. Seems like three different models for different tastes, though it's not portrayed very well, no. Makes me think of choosing between similar cars.

    I doubt this supposed confusion has anything to do with anything except this article. Beeshu probably died for the same reason every single one of those old accessory manufacturers died and had to be replaced: they just did for some reason.

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  9. I have an old game book, Computer's Guide to Nintendo Games, that lists the original price of some of these controllers. Jazz Stick: $22.99, Ultimate Stick (wired): 39.99, Zingger: $15.99, Zoomer: $$22.99.

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