On Monday, video game powerhouse Valve Software introduced an operating system based on its Steam digital distribution service. Then on Wednesday, it announced hardware that would run that OS in the living room. So it wasn't a big surprise when the company's third mystery unveiling this week was a controller for that system.
Until we saw the thing.
Valve's vision of what a game controller should be is a radically different one than Sony or Microsoft. And it's going to take a little getting used to.
Thumbsticks? They're gone. In their place is a pair of clickable trackpads. According to Valve, that will allow for higher fidelity input than traditional controllers and will replicate the precision of a mouse in a console-like controller. You'll also experience force feedback on the Steam Controller, but it's done through electro-magnets rather than motors, which Valve, again, claims is a superior experience.
Additionally, there's a clickable touch screen, which will seemingly be used to help you scroll through available actions. But Valve's hoping to avoid the two-screen confusion Nintendo faced when it rolled out the Wii U controller.
"In order to avoid forcing players to divide their attention between screens, a critical feature of the Steam Controller comes from its deep integration with Steam," the company said. "When a player touches the controller screen, its display is overlayed on top of the game they’re playing, allowing the player to leave their attention squarely on the action, where it belongs."
The Steam Controller is designed to work with any Steam game, including those titles already for sale. Should users not want to purchase a Steam Machine, they'll still be able to use this controller with their PC, says Valve.
The company spent a year coming up with the controller, it says. And while it admits it was the hardest part of the living room equation, it's confident it got the formula right.
"Traditional gamepads force us to accept compromises," said Valve. "We’ve made it a goal to improve upon the resolution and fidelity of input that’s possible with those devices. The Steam controller offers a new and, we believe, vastly superior control scheme, all while enabling you to play from the comfort of your sofa."
- Valve Software