What goes into creating a good arcade stick? That's what we wanted to know when Stealth Optional sat down with Marie-Laure 'Kayane' Norindr to find out all the details about her partnership with Nacon and how the FGC legend helped shape the Nacon Daija into a fight stick owners can be proud of.
Kayane started working with Nacon in 2016, she tells us, but at that time it was only on accessories like controllers. That is, until she met Nacon's accessories group director Yannick Allaert at E3 one year, when she jokingly asked when he was going to make an arcade stick.
"He said 'let's do this together'," Kayane tells us. "I looked at him and said 'are you serious or not?'" It turns out Allaert was deadly serious, and he wanted to work exclusively with her to build what would become the Daija.
"We met every two months to talk about the arcade stick, and to meet the technical team," Kayane recalls. The world-record setter was impressed with the informal nature of Nacon's team and how she could give her ideas honestly, not worrying about formal business practices getting in the way.
Nacon is aiming to shed its reputation of being a budget brand and prove it can stand toe-to-toe with other class-leading peripheral makers with the latest iteration of the Daija, but it's also a risk. "Making an arcade stick now, it's really niche because lots more people than before play on controllers," Kayane tells us. "But the fact that Nacon can took the risk to develop such a project that is so niche, I thought it was very brave for a company to do that."
In a way, it's the ultimate litmus test for Nacon, because if they could succeed in making a peripheral like the Daija for an audience with high demands like the FGC, then it cements their place in serious business. "If you succeed to satisfy this community," Kayane says, "then you can do any product and you'll succeed."
Do you need an arcade stick these days, though? It is an expensive purchase, after all. Kayane recently interviewed players at the UFA tournament in Paris about this and the results were surprising. Pro Tekken player Cuddle Core, Kayane discovered, goes through ten PS4 controllers a year. That's roughly $700 a year, while something like the Daija costs half of that amount and can be kept for years.
Curious to know more, we asked the FGC veteran what parts of the Nacon Daija she helped shape with her extensive real-world experience. "The main buttons company that people like even for the joystick is Sanwa," Kayane explains. "I wanted people to just be able to recognise the buttons and the feeling of the buttons."
But, it's not all about function, and Kayane was keen to make customisability a big focus in the Daija's development. "When you see the new arcade sticks, mostly you can't customise them." So, she wanted players to be able to easily change the artwork on their stick if they buy the Nacon Daija. "You have a black design that is included in the box that you can Photoshop, for example, and is accessible on the Nacon website. That's something that I asked them to do to make it easier because before to do that with an arcade stick, you'd have to be in the community of arcade stick artists," she says.
Another of Kayane's aims was to ensure the Daija's layout was streamlined and ready for tournament use. "I wanted to remove all the buttons that are not that useful on the front," the world-record setter says. "I think it's too easy, especially when you play emotional matches in tournaments, to hit all the buttons because you're mad." This prevents unwanted inputs - the FGC player's nightmare - from scuppering your heat-of-the-moment plays when it's all on the line. That's why most of the Daija's buttons are on the side and there's a lock button just in case.
"When you're done with your match in general, especially in tournaments, you just want to put your arcade stick in the bag," Kayane continues telling us. The problem is that most arcade sticks won't fit in the bag with the cable attached, which means if your fight stick has a proprietary cable, as the Mad Catz TE2+ does, then you have to sit there unscrewing and screwing it in pore and post match. That's why she was particularly to see the Daija use a standard USB-C cable that you can simply plug in.
You also have to press a button on either side of the Nacon Daija to make it open.This new addition was a direct result of Kayane's experiences with arcade sticks popping open and spilling their out their contents while in her bag when travelling. "Now, you will have to press the two buttons on each side and then open it, so it cannot open by itself. It's much better," she says on the topic.
There are a plethora of other changes in the Nacon Daija that reflect Kayane's fighting game prowess, but the overarching theme here is that it has been developed as a fight stick for serious use.
"We know that we are competitive," Kayane says about the fighting game community. "You won't see a Bluetooth arcade stick. When you have a product like this, it means that you're a competitor. It means that you play fighting games seriously and that you pay the price for it."