Following the announcement of SteamOS and Steam Machines, Valve revealed its first proprietary controller, the Steam Controller. It sure is something.
“We realized early on that our goals required a new kind of input technology — one that could bridge the gap from the desk to the living room without compromises,” Valve said. “So we spent a year experimenting with new approaches to input and we now believe we’ve arrived at something worth sharing and testing with you.”
That end result (depicted above) is the Steam Controller. Not content to rely on analog sticks and the now standard button array, Valve’s attempt at redefining what a controller can and should be has thrown the old books out the window in favor of some fairly outrageous design decisions. Rather than analog sticks, the Steam Controller features trackpads with haptic feedback. Supposedly more precise than standard console controls, the trackpads offer fidelity Valve promises relates very well to the keyboard/mouse experience.
There will also be a small touchscreen in the middle of the controller, which will serve as an area to map multiple functions without the need for more physical buttons. “When programmed by game developers using our API, the touch screen can work as a scrolling menu, a radial dial, provide secondary info like a map or use other custom input modes we haven’t thought of yet,” Valve described. Since the Steam Controller is designed to work with every single game in the Steam catalog, the device needed loads of flexibility the touchscreen should certainly provide.
You’ll be able to obtain one in the same fashion as the Steam Machine itself, though it’s not clear if this beta will be offered to people who don’t happen to get a Steam Machine. The beta version of the controller will also be slightly different, and won’t offer touchscreen or wireless functionality. It’s certainly an interesting peripheral, but until we actually get one in our hands, we’re not going to get too hyped up about its prospects.