03/08/2014 12:15 EST | Updated 05/08/2014 05:59 EDT

Hamilton company hedging bets on new kind of gamepad

Hamilton-area tech startup Tivitas is trying to do the impossible – bridge the gap between console gamers and PC gaming die-hards.

At least that’s what they’re hoping to do with Sinister, the company’s new modular multiplatform gamepad. That’s no easy feat, considering the wide gulf that has historically existed between the two camps.

“But I wanted to bridge that gap,” said Chris Zhao-Holland, Tivitas’ managing director. “The potential for this device is mind-boggling.”

PC gamers have long heralded the keyboard and mouse combination as the best way to play video games — especially within the popular first person shooter genre. The mouse’s precision allows for better pinpoint accuracy in a game like Call of Duty or Counter Strike.

But console gamers tend to gravitate towards the Xbox or Playstation controllers for their uniform comfort and muscle memory enabling “everything is the same” interface.

With Sinister, Tivitas is trying to create a middle ground with some interesting new features. It’s essentially a combination of the traditional button controller with a mouse, giving you a little bit from both worlds. “I really wanted the Xbox controller experience with muscle memory, but also a mouse,” Zhao-Holland said.

The gamepad is also modular, meaning you can swap out pieces and place them on different sections of the controller. It can stretch or shrink to suit the size of a gamer’s hand — and features a new kind of rumble technology that acts more like a human muscle moving and less like a cell phone buzzing in your hand.

“Once we realized we could switch up these things, the elements of this product really opened up,” Zhao-Holland said.

The Tivitas team is comprised of just seven people — the majority of whom are McMaster University grads. Their Kickstarter campaign to fund production of the Sinister gamepad wraps up next week, and they’ve currently raised over $86,000 of their $100,000 goal.

And to further the company’s do it yourself, startup attitude, all of the working prototypes the company is using have been made using 3D printers. “We’ve been printing almost 24 hours a day since the beginning of the summer,” Zhao-Holland said.

Zhao-Holland says he knows the “all things to all people” approach Tivitas is taking could be risky if the device doesn’t find a niche. “That thought terrifies me,” he said. “But we still want to give it a go.”

“We fully expect to meet our Kickstarter goal by next week. There’s always that last-minute push from people who are really interested.”