At last we have Valve’s third and final announcement for the week, and continuing the theme set previously, we get the Steam Controller. This isn’t just the controller for Steam Machines though; it’s literally for Steam, and will work with PCs and Macs running the Steam client as well.
I’ll confess to a bit of disappointment when I first saw that they were announcing a controller, but that only lasted as long as it took me to see what they’re trying out with it. It’s definitely not yet another clone of the standard game controller configuration. Instead, this is a dual-trackpad device, with the trackpads replacing the more common analog joysticks. The trackpads will feature what they describe as super-precise haptics to overcome the lack of physical feedback that plagues traditional trackpads. Of course it has a number of regular buttons, too. If it works, the controller could be fantastic; if it doesn’t, it could be a disaster. We won’t know which is which until we start hearing from people in the wild using the devices.
The retail version of the controller will feature a touchscreen in between the touchpads that will allow for very configurable control schemes. You’ll be able to scroll through options on the screen, and the screen itself presses in like a button to actually make a selection.
Valve says that the controller is designed to work with the entire Steam catalog of games, including old games that weren’t designed with controller support in mind. This should be possible due to the configurability of the trackpad and because they’ve designed it with a legacy mode that will allow itself to identify as a mouse and keyboard to the Steam Machine or computer it’s hooked up to. Much like SteamOS and the Steam Machines, the Steam Controller is designed to be open and hackable.
Getting your hands on an early beta version of the Steam Controller (which lacks the touch screen, unlike the retail versions) is part of the same beta as the Steam Machines. If you’re trying to get your hands on one of the 300 Steam Machine beta units and you actually get one, you’ll also get a beta controller.
For those of us who typically prefer keyboard and mouse, there’s good news; Valve also likes the good old keyboard and mouse combo, and have no plans to abandon it.
So what do you think of this early look at the Steam Controller? Are you anxious to give it a try, or will you be avoiding it like the plague? Let us know in the comments!