Valve unveils Steam Controller, promises PC-like accuracy

By on September 27, 2013, 2:37 PM
valve, steam, steam controller

Valve is closing off the week with the last of three major announcements: a controller designed to work with the company's living room focused Steam Machines. Aptly named Steam Controller, the device is shaped like a standard game console controller, but the actual setup is far from typical. Instead of thumbsticks there are two clickable trackpads, and rather than the usual right-thumb four button arrangement, Valve is using a symmetrical design that distributes button placement equally on both the left and right sides of the pad.

It looks… weird. Like it could take some time getting used to, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Valve says the trackpads allow far higher fidelity input than has previously been possible with traditional handheld controllers, claiming that they approach the level of accuracy mouse-based gaming provides.

In the middle of the controller is a high-resolution touch screen that’s also clickable and enables both control and navigation. The company will provide game developers with an API to take advantage of this in any number of ways, from purposing it as a scrolling menu or radial dial, to showing secondary game info like maps. The screen’s contents can be overlaid on top of whatever you’re playing so you’re not distracted from the action.

In all there are 16 buttons, half of which can be accessed without lifting your thumbs. Both trackpads on the front, the shoulder buttons and a couple around the rear grips feature what Valve calls "a new generation of super-precise haptic feedback" capable of delivering a wide range of force, vibration and even function as speakers.

The Steam Controller will work with the entire Steam catalog of games. Older titles will simply behave as if they’re being played with a mouse and keyboard, and gamers can use the configuration tool to create and share bindings for them, or choose from a list of popular configurations. But Valve notes this is something entirely different, and developers will be able to tailor the experience of games for the controller through the API, which will become available for free later this year when the 300 or so Steam Machines beta units ship.

The Steam Controller will be available to those selected for the Steam Machines beta, although unlike the final versions, test units will be wired and include four extra buttons in place of the touchscreen.




User Comments: 33

Got something to say? Post a comment
customcarvin customcarvin said:

When? And, How much? I want to try now!

4 people like this | ikesmasher said:

This will either work fantastically, or it wont work well at all.

4 people like this | treeski treeski said:

Naturally skeptical, but I would love to give it a try.

Guest said:

I have a hard time believing it will be mouse like accuracy, but I'm sure with statements like that it will be a vast improvement over standard console controllers.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Color me underwhelmed. I just don't really see this (Steam console) taking off. Just give us HL3 and stop it with all this wasted time on another game console.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

True, it's hard to see this taking off (and I want HL3). But this controller could be really sweet. If the accuracy is near what they're claiming, I would buy the controller for my PC (for more casual games).

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

If it doesn't cost three times the price of a standard controller, I will be utterly shocked.

As far as the Stream console taking off, I'd much rather have a Steam console than any other.

5 people like this | TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

You guys who say "it won't take off" don't realize what Steam has to offer over consoles.

- Over 3000 titles available, complete with DLC

- Indie titles you can't get on the PlayStation or XBox

- Ability to share your game with 10 people

- Steam sales

- Lower PC style prices for new releases I.e., $50 for a PC game compared to $65-$70 for the PlayStation or XBox

- User generated content available - like the 3rd party L4D2 maps

- Steam Forums and User Groups

- Friends tracking

- Better graphics

- Upgradeable box

- Player workshops to develop new content for your favorite games

From strictly a gaming standpoint, I don't know why anyone would bother with a console when you have that available to you.

Guest said:

The reason is because only Linux compatible games run natively on the Steambox, all the other games that only run on Windows require a Windows-based gaming PC to stream from. This isn't a console killer, it'll appeal to preexisting Steam users who want to play on their TV too.

A gaming PC and a Steambox will cost a lot more than a PS4.

Panda218 Panda218 said:

You guys who say "it won't take off" don't realize what Steam has to offer over consoles.

- Over 3000 titles available, complete with DLC

- Indie titles you can't get on the PlayStation or XBox

- Ability to share your game with 10 people

- Steam sales

- Lower PC style prices for new releases I.e., $50 for a PC game compared to $65-$70 for the PlayStation or XBox

- User generated content available - like the 3rd party L4D2 maps

- Steam Forums and User Groups

- Friends tracking

- Better graphics

- Upgradeable box

- Player workshops to develop new content for your favorite games

From strictly a gaming standpoint, I don't know why anyone would bother with a console when you have that available to you.

If I could add to the list I would, but you sir covered all the bases

VitalyT VitalyT said:

How long before it is out? I need time to grow all the extra fingers...

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The reason is because only Linux compatible games run natively on the Steambox, all the other games that only run on Windows require a Windows-based gaming PC to stream from. This isn't a console killer, it'll appeal to preexisting Steam users who want to play on their TV too.

A gaming PC and a Steambox will cost a lot more than a PS4.

Unless developers and publishers take note and start releasing Linux versions of games from this point forward. In which case your existing gaming PC will work for streaming any titles up to now, and your Steam Machine can play all of the new SteamOS titles.

Bottom line: If people start developing Linux versions, at some point (relatively quickly) your argument becomes moot. Consider it the equivalent of buying a new console and having to keep the old console around because they decided not to provide backward compatibility with the next gen stuff. It happens ALL the time with typical consoles. Why should SteamOS be any different right out of the gate? At least with the Steam Machine solution, you can stream through the new console, rather than having to switch between new and old...

JC713 JC713 said:

Looks really cool I cant wait to try this out.

1 person liked this | Ravey Ravey said:

I can see why there is a lot of doubt on how well this new controller can perform. After all. To the pro PC gamers, it's still a console controller. How could that possibly give you the accuracy of a mouse on an FPS (counter strike) game?

Forget the keyboard. We all know that WSAD config can be controlled by the left side of the control pad quite easily. It's aiming and pointing that will be the problem. As you are taking the motion of the whole hand and condensing it to the thumb.

On current console controlled pads it's next to impossible to aim with the tumb alone. On a mouse it's easier because you have the support of your wrist to guide your hand to the target.

Now we need think fingers and aposable thumbs. Fingers are for pointing. Thumbs are for gripping. It's much harder to point with your thumb! (Do you use your thumb to use a touch screen?)

This is what this controller has to overcome. It has to turn the thumb into a finger that is accurate enough to headshot a target in counter strike for a novice. If the controller can do that it's going to be a huge success. If it can't.... Steam will have to go back to the drawing board.

2 people like this | fimbles fimbles said:

Lack of tactile feedback will be annoying for me, Like trying to play with a tablet on screen controller.

Guest said:

The controller's trackpads make me think of laptop trackpads which are anything but good for gaming. I have a hard time believing this will be comparable in accuracy to a mouse. Just give us Half Life 3 Valve...

LukeDJ LukeDJ said:

It doesn't look like it has enough buttons to me...

Guest said:

TomSEA, for your information...we're talking about a Steam for Linux and not Windows, a substantial difference. Let's not run around the bush, most Linux games are poor, nothing compared to the triple A titles that are available to Windows and console users. Valve isn't going anywhere without the support of major developers, so all the benefits that you see, are just "potential" benefits, a lot of "wishful thinking". Give me one good reason why developers like Rockstar who already refuse to release games like Red Dead Redemption and GTA V for PC, would be encouraged to invest in a minor OS instead, when they already sold 15 million copies of GTA V and made over more than a billion in 11 days? It makes no sense.

yukka, TechSpot Paladin, said:

My windows games library won't run on this Linux box. Unless they can emulate but that's not going to be pretty is it

avoidz avoidz said:

I don't think touch pads are a good replacement for d-pads and tactile analog buttons. Or a mouse and keyboard.

Guest said:

Amen to that!

Guest said:

For those that don't understand why there are some that feel this won't take off.....

You just described an HTPC, which anyone who wants one already has one. Console gamers are not going to flock to this. The number of games available is not relevant as 99% of those games are not games that console gamers care about anyway. I realize there is an exception to every rule, but the number of exceptions (percentage wise) is miniscule. This device is for PC gamers who might want to play on their 65inch. A very small percentage. I am a PC gamer, I have a large TV in my living room, easy enough for me to play on it if I want to without the need to drop hundreds of dollars on this device. I understand there will be some people that will want this, but again, very small percentage. I like Valve. I like their games and I have even grown to like Steam. I just feel that most people who would want functionality (PC gaming in the living room) already have it. Maybe I am wrong and this thing will put PS and XBOX out of business, but I doubt it will even make a noticeable difference. I already play PC games at both my desk and in the living room. This is just another device to spend money on to do what anyone can already do.

technogiant said:

Lack of tactile feedback will be annoying for me, Like trying to play with a tablet on screen controller.

Yeap....when using a controller many people just sort of flick the stick momentarily against the spring for a small movement.....this thing would take some getting used to....and may not be superior to normal controllers

Guest said:

For those that don't understand why there are some that feel this won't take off.....

You just described an HTPC, which anyone who wants one already has one. Console gamers are not going to flock to this. The number of games available is not relevant as 99% of those games are not games that console gamers care about anyway. I realize there is an exception to every rule, but the number of exceptions (percentage wise) is miniscule. This device is for PC gamers who might want to play on their 65inch. A very small percentage. I am a PC gamer, I have a large TV in my living room, easy enough for me to play on it if I want to without the need to drop hundreds of dollars on this device. I understand there will be some people that will want this, but again, very small percentage. I like Valve. I like their games and I have even grown to like Steam. I just feel that most people who would want functionality (PC gaming in the living room) already have it. Maybe I am wrong and this thing will put PS and XBOX out of business, but I doubt it will even make a noticeable difference. I already play PC games at both my desk and in the living room. This is just another device to spend money on to do what anyone can already do.

Totally agree with you.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

For those that don't understand why there are some that feel this won't take off.....

You just described an HTPC, which anyone who wants one already has one. Console gamers are not going to flock to this.

The Steam console will not require console gamers flocking to take off. The number of people who have a HTPC PC already is irrelevant. Machines are broken or replaced every day. There will always be a market for new machines, the only question is which new machine is going to be bought. I have no doubt the Steam console will survive, though I personally don't care. I would prefer the development of Steam Console software to flourish, so I can build my own Steam Box.

gooderguy gooderguy said:

It's about time someone came up with some kind of idea to make the hard held controller more accurate. I'm an old timer and my first shooter games were Wolf 3D, Doom, Duke Nukem, then I got in the Ureal games. I could never get used to playing any shooter games on a console because of the lack of precision from those controllers compared to a PC mouse. The games I would play on a console were more like Need for Speed and Super Mario games. Hopefully this thing works out as promised, I wouldn't mind giving it a try, it looks like it might take some getting used to but possibly worth the effort.

Nobina Nobina said:

I have a mouse and a keyboard, why should I use this then?

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I have a mouse and a keyboard, why should I use this then?
I'm guessing you wouldn't unless you really wanted to. I'm also guessing the primary focus for the controller is packaging it with the Steam console. Whether or not you want to purchase the controller, is no more a decision than which keyboard or mouse to use.

dennis777 dennis777 said:

Its like an ipod classic wheel control.. I like!! steam sale is the only reason you ever need :P

their is an article here that what the console should learn from Steam, well it looks like Steam will demonstrate it first hand.

Guest said:

I agree as well.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

I find it funny how people have stated almost as fact that this will or will not take off and do well. How many of you have actually touched one, tried one or even know anyone who has? Yes you may have your opinions like we all do however I suggest you wait and see what happens, before you claim to know what will happen.

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

For those that don't understand why there are some that feel this won't take off.....This is just another device to spend money on to do what anyone can already do.

I think people misplace Valve's intention here because they see through limited viewpoints when it comes to this product's meaning, or intended market. I don't think its out to replace anything directly. I believe its a device that makes PC gaming, from every standpoint, easier to do.

Everyone thought the Wii would fail, until it became the fastest console to ever sell a million units in the US (wiki fact).

I have an HTPC and while I like doing the driver updates and game maintenence myself (in and out of steam/origin) I can see a couple reasons for this.

Mostly reliability and compatibilty. PC gaming rigs and new generations of GPU's will quickly bury the PS4/XBX1 into the history books and from what I can tell in the forseeable future PC gamers aren't going anywhere fast. I am sure Sony and Microsoft will be able to squeeze impressive visual results that can rival some rigs years after release, but even from a hardware standpoint it makes it easier for the user to upgrade.

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.