We knew Valve was going to have three announcements this week. The first was SteamOS, the second was Steam Machines and now the third is the Steam Controller. For those thinking it was going to be Half-Life 3, it looks like you are still going to have to wait for that. The Steam Controller completes the “Living Room” experience that Valve is trying to create with all of these products that they have announced.
“We set out with a singular goal: bring the Steam experience, in its entirety, into the living-room. We knew how to build the user interface, we knew how to build a machine, and even an operating system. But that still left input — our biggest missing link. 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. 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.”
The Steam Controller definitely does stand out compared to traditional controllers. On the front it has dual circular trackpads. These are to be driven by a players thumbs and are also clickable. Steam says that these trackpads will allow users to play entire genres of games that were only playable with a keyboard and mouse on the sofa. In addition, games like first-person shooters that are designed around precise aiming within a large visual field now benefit from the trackpads’ high resolution and absolute position control. The trackpads will also feature haptic feedback, delivering a wide variety of force and vibration.
The controller has a touchscreen at its center. This is actually one large button as well. So users can find the command or action they want using the touch screen then actually press it to complete the action. Steam has an API for the touchscreen that developers can use to create menus or even a scrolling menu.
One really cool thing about the Steam Controller is that it is open, it has been designed to be hackable. Valve plans to make tools available to hack the controller on both a software and physical level.
Valve plans to ship prototype Steam Controllers with the 300 Steam Machines they will be sending to BETA users. These Steam controllers will not be wireless and they will not feature the touchscreen. The official Steam Controller will launch sometime in 2014.