Valve’s Final Announcement: The Steam Controller

And so the announcements are complete. And with no last-minute surprises, Valve have announced their peripheral for the Steam Machine that will carry SteamOS, in an attempt to bring PC gaming into the living room. It is, they say, a new kind of controller, one designed to be able to trick older games into thinking they’re being played with a keyboard and mouse. It looks pretty damned smart, at first glance.

They say this controller, a creepily buttonless, stickless dead-eyed staring creature, has been in development for a year now. But now they want “your help with the design process”. Oh can’t ANYONE in games development do something without my help any more?! Put me on the payroll and we’ll talk.

It’s built of dual trackpads, a thumb for each, and both clickable. This, they say, offers far higher fidelity than analogue sticks or d-pads, saying it’s similar to using a mouse. Which means they are, to some degree, meeting that much queried possibility, or giving us something equivalent to the finer controls we’re used to. But I’m not really seeing a keyboard here.

There’s also a big push forward with haptics, using electromagnets, they say. Which does sound like the beginning of a Portal plot. Then there’s the central touchscreen, which they say will offer variable buttons necessary for individual games. And it clicks. A nice detail is that touching it automatically creates an overlay on the main screen to let you see what you’re doing, so you don’t have to look down. Take that, Wii-U.

And perhaps most importantly, it’s hackable. They want people to reinvent how it’s used, what it can be for. There’s a lot of exciting potential there.

It’ll be interesting to see how significant an improvement this controller is over the traditional models. Will Sony and Microsoft be scrabbling to create equivalents for their nextgen consoles? Or will it stand as a peculiarity, a piece of PC peripheral obscura?

With the obvious lack of Half-Life 3 getting a mention, that leaves us in a place to start speculating about exactly who and what this whole device is for. Owning PCs and consoles is not exactly mutually exclusive, and it’s not as if people can’t already have PCs in their living rooms. Valve needs to pitch this really well, and have some excellent surprises about specs and prices up its sleeves before launch, if it wants to create a demand.


  1. PixelsDontMove says:

    So I was wrong about O+O = Software + Software :/

    It was trackpads instead, not disappointing though.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love the whole Linux Machine Streaming Machine Bound To One Day Run Half-Life 3 Machine. It’s just that I f*cking hype myself into depression every time Valve speaks.

    • Chalky says:

      Yeah, I’m a bit cynical about the whole thing but I have to admit that this controller looks pretty amazing – probably enough to make me get one for PC games where appropriate.

      I hope those trackpads work, a controller that allows for more refined movement than a standard console controller would be fantastic.

      • CCninja86 says:

        I’m becoming very interested…I love the cheap prices on Steam, but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a proper gaming PC and I also find more comfort in playing on consoles…this is beginning to look like that missing link that I have been searching for for over a year now.

        • HadToLogin says:

          Heh, I forgotten a bit how cheap prices on steam look like. Other shops (especially Amazon, GreenManGaming isn’t that far behind, and there’s also Humble Bundles) outdid Steam when it comes to cheap games.

          Unless you’re having contacts in Russia, where for example Dead Island Riptide is for around $6-7.

          • Smashington says:

            X and Y on the left thumbstick side?! What genius thought this up?? Now you have to take your finger off of movement to use X or Y… Unless I’m looking at it wrong this controller is terrible.

      • Cleave says:

        Yeah I’ve been wanting a way to play FPS games properly on the couch. I was (and still am probably) going to get a Razer Hydra whenever they release a wireless version but this looks like it could work well. I’m a bit sceptical about playing strategy games on it though, not enough buttons for the hot keys for one thing.

    • luukdeman111 says:

      That’s what i thought too! the O for software. the [O ] for the box the software will run on and the O + O for software that will run on our software (Half – Life 3!!!!).

      But yeah… in the second announcement they already said they’d have some things to share in terms of input so this was to be expected…. One can always hope though….

    • realitysconcierge says:

      I am exactly right there with you. They totally didn’t follow their own diagram logic >:(

      • Koozer says:

        Hey, maybe the O just represented some abstract superclass of Steam objects!

      • Stochastic says:

        Muffinmonkey on RPS called it on Wednesday: link to

        “The o+o is a standard gamepad, tennerbets. Look at the SNES style controller on the floor in the picture, it looks like that. I’m not saying that the gamepad they release on Friday will look like that, just that’s what I bet the symbol is.”

        It turns out that the controller does kind of resemble o+o.

    • uh20 says:

      thanks to a previous poster on the first of 3 announcements who speculated O+O looks like a controller, i was able to change my guess correctly to this one, this means that aside from the first announcement, my guesses were spot-on

      previous articles have stated as well that valve has been playing with haptic feedback. so this is just as it should be, the fruits of their labor.

      I really wish i could just throw my money right now, theres still at least 3 months time before even a sliver of hardware comes out, its just as painful as that ever-expanding 5-month gap of time between the steam linux announcement, and you know, actually playing tf2.

  2. Chalk says:

    No Half Life 3!!!! :(

    • Njordsk says:

      Hey, what did you expect.

      • AngusPrune says:

        Half Life 2 Episode 3. Five years ago.

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          1. Not the Spanish Inquisition
          2. James Bond to die
          3. Half Life 3

          • brulleks says:

            …and ‘the unexpected’.

          • Loyal_Viggo says:

            NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise…. Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency…. Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope…. Our *four*…no… *Amongst* our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry…are such elements as fear, surprise…. I’ll come in again.

          • Tssha says:

            Fun fact: the real Spanish Inquisition was legally required to give you advanced notice.

            Probably enough time to get your affairs in order…

            Well, more seriously, it’s a bit like being audited, only with slightly more risk of torture/burning at the stake.


    • povu says:

      I don’t know why anyone would expect a Half Life 3/Source 2 announcement within a series of announcements on living room gaming.

      • CCninja86 says:

        Maybe like an announcement of a game that will ship with the new console in a bundle, like Xbox and Playstation.

    • Don Reba says:

      I say, civilization dodged a bullet on that one. Valve has again proven to be a stalwart guardian of the people, the only thing that stands between us and our annihilation by Half Life 3 unleashed.

  3. Apocalypse says:

    High resolution controller, I am so much going to buy it if the concept works. I am complaining since years about how crappy those xbox controllers are, because those thumb sticks have a resolution which compares even bad to a c64 joystick.

    • trjp says:

      Accuracy hardly matters here because the game’s play with a mouse (they cannot emulate that – not doable) and a keyboard (nothing like a controller)

      Everything else you said was elitist nonsense too.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        “they cannot emulate that – not doable”

        Huh? Of course they can. Why not?

        • airmikee99 says:

          Some people operate under the delusion that there is only one way to do things.

          • trjp says:

            They are claiming they can replicate (actually they really say ‘improve’) the mouse (and keyboard) experience for games WITHOUT changing the games.

            I’d say that was a foolish thing to claim – but if you still think it’s doable, remind yourself what’s special about a mouse.

            A mouse can pan quickly to anywhere on the screen, select something and move it – it’s all RELATIVE movement on a big surface with your fingers/wrist and even arm involved (not just a thumb)

            Also – some games use half the keyboard – you’ll not get far there? :)

          • airmikee99 says:

            RE: trjp

            I’m skeptical that a controller can replace my keyboard/mouse. The extended options for control in a game are one of the reasons why I prefer PC gaming with a keyboard/mouse over console gaming.

            That being said, it isn’t an impossible task to do, just because I can’t think of a way to do it.

          • Banana_Republic says:

            Anything’s possible, I suppose. But I still don’t believe that a controller will ever match a m/kb in terms of speed and precision. I can certainly see Valve’s little black thingamajig being an improvement upon existing controller tech, but nothing that will replace a m/kb set up. There’s just no way tracking my thumb across an inch wide pad is going to be as precise as tracking my wrist across the six inch span I typically use when gaming. The controller might match the speed but never the accuracy.

            Still, good for Valve. Taking one more bite out of the console’s backside is a win for all PC gamers.

          • Baines says:

            It isn’t going to be as accurate/powerful as a mouse. It is two laptop trackpads turned into a controller. People buy mice to use with gaming laptops for a reason, because a trackpad is a poor substitute for a mouse.

            Valve has made a combination that could turn out adequate, or could turn out to be less than the sum of its parts. The controller isn’t going to be as good as a mouse+keyboard for games that were designed for a mouse+keyboard. Nor is it going to be as good as a modern gamepad for many games designed for gamepads. Even if the trackpad is a better analog controller than an analog stick, some games are meant to be played with a d-pad anyway, which Valve’s controller lacks. Valve’s controller also lacks buttons, and doesn’t follow the decade old standard layout. While a dual-stick shooter might be fine, playing a fighting game would probably be a mess.

            Gabe’s grudge against Microsoft is starting to get silly. Though it doesn’t even look like a grudge anymore. It looks more like Gabe/Valve want to *be* Microsoft.

          • UmmonTL says:

            Looking at those pads they seem to be fairly large and making the controller “hackable” means we’ll probably see all kinds of methods for using them. One example that should work almost as well as the mouse would be to use the center of the pad as an absolute input relating to the area around the cursor while moving the finger to the edge has the same effect as a full tilt on the thumbstick. This would allow you to have the constant motion of a stick that a mouse is incapable of but still getting a good degree of precision when moving a pointer within a smaller area. You could also vary the full tilt depending on the speed of the finger as it’s moving to the edge.
            I’m not saying it can completely replace the mouse but I can think of a lot of ways that might come close for certain scenarios. And if they want it to be used as input for older PC games, there were plenty of Jump&Runs, Shoot em ups and the like that will work perfectly well with a controller and only need around four additional buttons.

          • Apocalypse says:

            The trackpads function as d-pad just fine, even with haptic feedback. They are not even close to standard notebook trackpads, ffs you can use them as speakers. ;-)

            link to <<< Super Meat Boy developer
            link to <<< other people who have tested the actual thing

          • noodlecake says:

            But many games already play much better with a 360 controller than with a Keyboard and mouse. Twin stick shooters, racing games, platform games, 3rd person action games that are more melee focused (Assassins Creed for example). I’m very skeptical about this pad because rather than having face buttons and a stick it’s just got a weird trackpad thing… I’m not sure how I would be able to both look around and perform the multiple actions that my right stick, four face buttons and R3 button would provide me the ability to do with just one trackpad replacing all those. Hopefully they have figured out a solution that I just don’t see from looking at those pictures.

          • noodlecake says:

            I won’t be convinced till I see someone try and play something like Assassin’s Creed or maybe a newer Street Fighter game with it.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            This was exactly my thought, i currently use a controller on my PC pretty much only for 2 things, fighting games and sports games, this controller looks bad for this due to a lack of a button cluster. It seems to me they’ve designed this controller purely for FPS games and not thought about the other zillion genres out on PC. MMO’s? Nope, nowhere near enough buttons. Strategy games? Nope, still probably not precise enough and you need buttons for unit groupings etc. ARPGs? Nope, you generally need to combo a few buttons constantly to play Torchlight, PoE etc, this would not work well for that either. Even stuff like Skyrim which is first person requires more buttons than this thing has, it seems very limited to me.
            Unless it has the functionality to use the trackpad as a 4 button input (up/down/left/right doubling as separate button) that works well (tactile feedback is important when pressing buttons, a flat trackpad would seem to lack that at this point) I just see this controller being very, very limited. One worry I have at this point is that I don’t want developers simplifying their games to work with a controller with slightly more buttons than a SNES pad.

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            If someone was going to try and make an MMO-capable controller, it would wind up looking like the Atari Jaguar controller on steroids.

      • MobileAssaultDuck says:

        What exactly did he say that was elitist nonsense?

        It is well known that the resolution of the analogue sticks on the consoles is not very high.

        There are only 255 grades between neutral (0) and max (255) on a modern analogue thumb stick. This means there are only 255 levels of speed, at max, that an analogue stick can detect.

        Meanwhile a mouse’s max resolution is often in the thousands.

        There is an easy way to test the superiority of a mouse if you happen to have both a mouse and controller in use on your PC.

        Boot up a game where you can use both at the same time. Now, turn up the sensitivity to full on both the controller and mouse in game.

        First: turn in a circle AS SLOWLY as you possibly can while maintaining constant movement. You’ll notice you can turn SIGNIFICANTLY slower with a mouse.

        Second: turn in a circle as quickly as you possibly can. Again, you’ll notice the mouse literally runs circles around the analogue stick in turning speed.

        Some people prefer controllers, yes, but a mouse is PHYSICALLY SUPERIOR. It has higher resolution and more precision of movement.

        Some may be superior when using a controller, but that is their skills interacting with the device, not the physical qualities of the device itself.

        This is why most shooters on console have slight auto-aim, because the controller needs the help to make up for its limited speed and precision.

        • LionsPhil says:

          It’s hugely significant that a mouse is an absolute positional input, though, whereas any kind of stick or stick-like device is relative. That’s a big leap for your brain, too.

          I’m not sure how this trackpad thing is supposed to have an absolute input mode, unless it’s like trying to play an FPS on a laptop with a trackpad. Yes, if you turn enough in an FPS with a mouse, you have to reposition it, and that’s no different from repositioning your finger on a trackpad. But would you really call them equally comfortable and satisfying to play with?

          • MobileAssaultDuck says:

            I doubt they will be equal to a mouse, but those haptic pads should blow sticks out of the water.

            I’m playing State of Decay right now with a 360 pad and aiming the gun feels like I have cerebral palsy. Luckily the game has auto-aim out the ass.

          • trjp says:

            If haptic touch was such a winning idea – we’d all be playing FPS’s on smartphones or Apple Magic Touchpads…

          • MobileAssaultDuck says:

            Unless I missed something, phones don’t have haptic feedback.

            The precision of feedback on those pads is so precise they can be used as speakers.

            I don’t believe there is a phone on the market that can turn its touch screen into a speaker yet.

          • darkChozo says:


            Haptic technology refers to anything that interfaces with a user using touch. This can range from crude methods like shaking your device when you touch it or hooking your device up to an electrical main, all the way to fancy things like 6dof haptic feedback arms that make it feel like you’re actually touching something, albeit without texture.

            Phones have haptic feedback, but in all likelihood the Steamroller will have better haptic feedback.


          • trjp says:

            How do you know what the ‘precision’ is?

            Every smartphone does haptics – vibrating is one of the ‘key features’ – this may be cleverer but as we’ve not used one I’m skeptical that it will be revolutionary…

        • trjp says:

          The ‘elitist nonsense’ is the whole “XBOX CONSOLE THINGS SHIT” attitude – with the automatic assumption that because this is for a ‘PC’ it will be better.

          I have no idea what they teach kids these days to make them so sure about things they’ve never used but I’d like them to stop – point at the outside world and say “you will die out there if you don’t grow-up”.

          • MobileAssaultDuck says:

            He didn’t say “XBOX CONSOLE IS SHIT”, he said ” I am complaining since years about how crappy those xbox controllers are, because those thumb sticks have a resolution which compares even bad to a c64 joystick.”

            Now, are Xbox 360 thumbsticks as bad a c64 joystick? I honestly have no clue, I’m not sure what the stats are for a c64 joystick.

            Are thumbsticks on consoles vastly inferior to the technology involved in a haptic touchpad? Yes. As I explained in my very large post beneath yours.

            A touchpad with sufficient resolution is only limited by the speed your thumb can move. An analogue stick is limited to a max input of 255. It cannot go faster, it is stuck. Once you max the tilt out, it is now as fast as that stick will ever move.

            It is inferior based on physics alone.

            It’s not elitism when it is factual.

          • Apocalypse says:

            First off the C64 comparison was an exaggeration.
            Second, now that some people mentioned it, 8-bit precision (256 different stats) should have been a thing for the high quality C64 joysticks already. 8-bit precision was abandoned on PC with the Microsoft Sidewinder Precision 2 / Force Feedback 2 Joysticks. Soon after that others started to use as well much more precise devices, like Thrustmaster with their magnetic sensor which can differ 16000 different stats in its cheapest incarnation of a T-16000M. Yes that is right, that 50€ Joystick has over 6000% the resolution of a xbox thumbstick.

            Still, its not only the low resolution of the xbox thumbsticks, its as well their form that decrease precision when using them. They are not meant to be precise from an ergonomical viewpoint. They are crude little sticks, compare them to CH Products professional thumbsticks.

            All this is ok when aiming at building a $30 controller, I still would rather pay $100 for something better. Which does btw not imply that I will not be very happy if I can get something significant better for less than $100. I do indeed like to pay less, its just that even $100 would be worth it if the controller really is much better. The valve controller seems to be.

            And you know another thing? I can be enthusiastic about new tech without pre-ordering it. Reviews will tell me more and after reading them I hopefully can spend my money on this new controller.

          • noodlecake says:

            It’s inferior because of all that sensitivity stuff you mentioned comparing a mouse to a thumbstick, but just the shape and layout of a 360 pad is genius and much more comfortable. A mouse and keyboard is definitely better for playing FPS games and also more menu interfacey games like FTL or Starcraft.

            After a couple of hours of trying to play Cave Story or Spelunky or the Binding of Isaac with a mouse and keyboard, because they were sadistic to not even offer native controller support, my keyboard hand was in agony.

        • darkChozo says:

          Okay, new test. Find a game where you have something rotating around you at a constant speed. Try to track this object using both a mouse and a keyboard and log your average deviation from the center of the object. Which do you think wins? (hint: I vaguely remember reading a white paper on this and it was the controller).

          In other words, different inputs are suited to different tasks, though it happens that the mouse is suited to certain tasks common to genres the PC is good at.

          • Apocalypse says:

            And now use the good old PC Joystick for the same task. Let say a dirt cheap T-16000M, shall we? ;-)
            And while you are at it make the target every, very small, can give it some agility, lets say like an imaginative space fighter …

            He was not trying to make a point about what control scheme is better for different task, he was trying to make a point about the physical precision. The precision of game controllers can improved without giving up their advantages over mouse and keyboard.

            Just as the precision of the mouse was improved a lot in the last 15 years. Or like Joysticks become much more precise in the last 20 years.

          • darkChozo says:

            …Okay, I think my brain was running on autopilot when I wrote that. Something about the PHYSICALLY SUPERIOR probably set me off.

            Still, he’s making an invalid comparison. A mouse will win every time in this circumstance, because you’re comparing something with a programmatic maximum velocity to something with a theoretically (well, up to computer-y limits) uncapped velocity. About the best comparison you could make is the minimum possible velocity of the analog stick to the minimum detectable velocity of the mouse, and even that is kinda eh.

            I actually don’t particularly doubt that mice are generally “better” than the 360 controller’s analog stick when it comes to some vague form of technical advancement, but still, that’s not why controllers are worse at shooters, to snipe an example from his post. It has everything to do with mice being better at positional tasks (ie. get my pointer to some point on the screen). Controllers, on the other hand, are better at velocity tasks (tracking being a big one).

          • Apocalypse says:

            That is exactly not the point, because a decent joystick like the mentioned T-16000M would beat the mouse in the first scenarios every time. That is the irony: His scenario is in favor for a stick and the 360 Stick still fails to be better. 8-Bit precision does simply not cut it for anything that should not be a glorified 360° d-pad.

            And to make the offense worse, the D-Pad of the original 360 controller is legendary bad as well.

          • noodlecake says:

            But the joystick you’re mentioning would fail at a twin stick shooter, as would a mouse. The joystick you’re mentioning would be worse for playing Assassin’s Creed, as would a mouse and keyboard. The 360 pad is a very useful tool and there hasn’t really been anything that has improved on it for playing 3rd person action games or even 2d platform games. I’m including the Playstation controller too as that’s also a wonderful piece of design, despite me preferring the 360 controller.

          • Apocalypse says:

            cake, you are kinda off topic, we are not arguing about that control scheme is better, its just about physical precision and how easy it can be shown that the 360 controller is a piece of junk. FFS, you mentioned the snes. The d-pad was much higher quality than the one used in the xbox360.

            And you keep saying that the steambox controller has not enough buttons, while the thing actually has 16 buttons. ;-)

            The touchpads can function as 4 buttons as well, or as d-pad, as absolute pointer device, very similar in feeling to a trackball and as a relative device that acts like a thumbstick.

        • kyrieee says:

          That is nonsense, the sticks on the 360 controller have 16 bit resolution along each axis. Look it up yourself.

      • stampy says:

        I’m with trjp. This completely optional peripheral that i have never seen in person, touched, or used will completely ruin all of gaming for ever and ever, and it is physically impossible that I (we?) are in any way wrong.

      • Apocalypse says:

        I am not even speaking about the whole “we can do mouse and keyboards games too”, I am speaking about games that are currently aimed at controllers and suffer from the incredible cheap and lousy controllers.

        Games like super meat boy, Assassins Creed, the Transformers games, or for that matter nearly all 3rd person shooters on the planet. In essence nearly all console games made in the last years. They suffer from those low quality controllers.

        And as a side note, trackballs work just fine as pointer devices and I rarely move my mouse by more than this new controller would allow me. The only problem I see, that those two track points are meant to be use by thumbs, and thumbs by themselves are not really good input ‘devices’, other fingers usually have more precession. Still this whole thing should be a real improvement other controllers on the market. Make them 1200 DPI+ and I will be happy I guess.

  4. BaconAndWaffles says:

    Very cool. I like the idea of using a controller for shooters, with the major (and deal-breaking) exception of analog sticks, duh… So this is right up my alley.

    • Ragnar says:

      Really? I see those sticks and I imagine playing a shooter on a phone or tablet. Better than thumb-sticks, perhaps, but no where near a mouse.

      • subshell001 says:

        Wow, you’ve used one?? How was it?!!!!!

      • Banana_Republic says:

        Can’t imagine playing anything on a phone — nothing worthwhile, at least. Maybe Bejeweled or Hangman. Playing a decent shooter on a phone would be like watching Lord of the Rings on … on a … on a phone.

        • Apocalypse says:

          Strategy works great on touch screens.
          I would have say that something like anomaly warzone earth is better on a 7″ tablet than on a desktop with 30″ screen.
          Plants vs Zombies works great on tablets and phablets.

          List goes on and one, still FPS games do not work very well. The controls are simply the way of playing the game. Connect a controller and its rather ok for mobile gaming or emulator games. Still subpar to PC, mouse and keyboard is still king for shooters without much doubt. And hey, FPS games do not work very well on consoles either.

      • cunningmunki says:

        I don’t see it like that at all. For one thing, you’re not obscuring your screen with your thumbs, but secondly, its a different tactile experience. When they first mentioned that they were looking into trackpad controls I thought I’d try controlling a FPS using the trackpad on my Logitech wireless keyboard, using just my right thumb. I was astounded at how precisely I could aim, but more astounded that no one had tried to make a controller using a trackpad, or even modded one.
        I can’t wait to get my hands on this.

  5. Dudeist says:

    So, we have nothing finally:

    * SteamOs is just some linux distribution
    * Steam Box is just another pc for linux
    * Steam controler, wait? Another controler? Wow….


    • gusdoom says:

      With the same logic – Half Life 3 – just another game.

      • Dudeist says:

        No, it’s fake, invisible game

      • Grey Poupon says:

        Well, to be fair, it might end up being just another game. Wouldn’t be the first time a sequel isn’t all it’s supposed to be. That said, the Steam Box was never supposed to be anything more than a cheap PC with a Linux distro designed with gaming in mind.

        Being someone who doesn’t really want his PC in the living room, apart from arcadey games that work just fine with a normal controller, I doubt I’m going to like that black thing much.

    • cunningmunki says:

      Really? You can’t see the potential here? Its staggering!

    • Tridae says:

      Oh excuse me if some of us are getting excited for a decent linux distro with a full focus on gaming for once. . .

      Sorry if small form factor out-of-the-box easy setup gaming systems now have reason to grow in quantity and quality

      I apologize if bringing near mouse control precision to the controller is too much innovation for you.

      Your cynical corner must be a fun place to live in.

    • kleptonin says:

      Go to bed if you’re so tired

    • El_MUERkO says:

      it must be sad to be you

      • Synesthesia says:

        he, my thoughts exactly. Poor guy. Perhaps he only needs a hug?

        • Smashbox says:

          A hug is just some arm touching.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Though buggery would be excessive. Lets settle on a firm handshake and a pint of Bitter

          • Synesthesia says:

            Oh im so in. I jsut remembered i have one on the fridge. We´ll have to imagine the handshake. And maybe talk about the buggery.

    • Stevostin says:

      If a controller makes you yawn I don’t know what you consider a meaningful announcement. occulus rift, tablet, iphone, wiiU, wii, DS, all of these are defined in good part by their controler. The future of the Steam Box is tied to that controler, and the future of gaming may is tied as well by the fate of that Steambox. It’s a little bit more important than any Half Life announcement.

      Oh, I guess yo yawned when Steam launched as well. I did myself so I wouldn’t blame you. Well, turns out it just made independent video game a thing.

    • MobileAssaultDuck says:

      * SteamOS is a Linux distro, meaning a major gaming company and game selling has thrown their support behind an open source operating system, meaning over time we may finally be able to distance gaming from closed source OSes such as Windows and OSX. Closed source is bad.

      *Steam machine is a living room PC which runs Linux. This brings PC gaming into the realm where consoles previously ruled. This allows PC gaming to compete in a market it was previously mostly vacant from.

      * A new controller with haptic trackpads in place of sticks. If you can’t understand why that is huge, you can go look into the precision differences yourself.

      Your 4th dimensional scope is depressingly limited.

    • Dudeist says:

      I slowly like this new thing
      link to

  6. draglikepull says:

    I’ll wait until people have had a chance to use the new controller to form an opinion on that, but as someone who already has their PC hooked up to their TV and uses a 360 controller to play controller-enabled games I’m clearly way outside of the market for the Steam Box.

  7. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    That’s the worst “evil henchman” mask I’ve seen for a long time.

  8. clumsyandshy says:


  9. KDR_11k says:

    The trackpads on my Xperia Play are nice for aiming but not so good for movement since there’s a lack of physical feedback as to which direction you’re pushing in so you can end up sliding off.

    • Superfasty says:

      Wow, good point. Reminds me of how I end up sliding my thumb right across the screen on mobile games when using virtual thumbsticks because of that lack of physical feedback. Wonder if this will have that effect.

      • Jamison Dance says:

        I think the bowl shape of the thumbpad thingies could help avoid that. You can feel the contour as you slide your thumb around, so there is some feedback that way.

        • SuicideKing says:

          They’re saying they have electro-magnetic magiks under the trackpads to provide haptic feedback for things like this.

  10. cunningmunki says:

    Oh god its beautiful. Its surpassed all my expectations. This is what I want.

    I’ve read the whole page three times now and I still can’t get my head around all the the features and the utter awesomeness of this device. This is a truly “next generation” controller. Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony must be kicking themselves.

    I need to go and lie down somewhere.

  11. BaconAndWaffles says:

    And I knew none of these announcements was going to be That Game, but now Valve is straight trolling gamers out in the open.

    • Stochastic says:

      To expect That Game is to expect disappointment (my motto circa E3 2010).

    • tyren says:

      It’s hardly Valve’s fault that they explicitly say the announcement will be related to [category of things clearly not related to Half-Life] and everyone goes “OMG HALF-LIFE 3 IS COMING!”

  12. somnolentsurfer says:

    I guess if they want to make hardware a controller is a good place to start.

    Microsoft made input devices for years before they made consoles. And operating systems, come to think of it.

  13. Solidstate89 says:

    If they can get this to work on Windows as well as my 360 controller does, I may consider this.

    Update: The left mouse button is on the right shoulder button? No, no I don’t like this at all.

    • cunningmunki says:

      That’s a good point, its not really covered. I’m sure they’ll have drivers for Windows too.

      I wonder who is making it for them?

      • Werthead says:

        They say it will work with all games through Steam, and it’s hackable so I assume it’ll be made compatible with Windows even if it doesn’t launch with Windows drivers (and I think it will).

        • somnolentsurfer says:

          And I’d guess It’ll have standard drivers across all three platforms. I don’t know what the controller support is like on Linux, but on OS X, for a lot of games, it’s pretty flaky when compared to windows.

          • Werthead says:

            Valve are quite big on Mac support, so I assume they’ll make sure this thing works fine on it.

          • Christian Dannie Storgaard says:

            Controller support is pretty good on Linux, though it suffers slightly from supporting too many types of controllers under the same interface, meaning some games have difficulty seeing if you have say, an XBox or PS style one; this is of course the fault of the game though for not having rebindable controller buttons/axis. This might be same as on Windows, I really wouldn’t know.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Windows has had a uniform “bag of axes and buttons” abstraction for game input devices since at least Windows 95, but more recently its use has been dropped by lazy developers (and some manner of idiotic internal Microsoft API bickering, presumably, since they are distinguishable) in favour of “have exactly a 360 controller or GTFO”.

          • Apocalypse says:

            Joystick support is since Windows 7 and 8 excellent again. I have no idea why, but well, I am happy, my sidewinder ff 2 works again like it they never had dropped driver support.

            Other sticks seem to work fine as well, on the controller front I have not tested anything besides the 360 controller, which still works flawlessly in the software department. What is in windows a problem is that lots of games ONLY support the xbox controller and nothing else, which means you are stuck with that control scheme. That is something that valve want to fix with their own drivers anyway, so it is not an issue, at least if valve does not fail with their efforts.

      • SuicideKing says:

        FAQ says it’ll work with all Steam versions.

        • cunningmunki says:

          Just saw that. Blinded by awesomeness, you see. I need a drink.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          The real question is: will it work outside of the Steam environment? Will I be able to play my non-Steam copy of GTA IV with the controller?

          I’d like to be optimistic here, but my gut tells me no.

          • marsilainen says:

            They said it works with any old game too so it’s pretty sure that it shows up as regular controller in windows.

    • Tomac says:

      Uhh.. The thing will be completely reconfigurable. You’ll be able to set whatever you want on whatever button you want.

    • darkChozo says:

      Note the “Portal 2 bindings” on that picture. Mapping left mouse to right trigger makes sense for FPSs, because both are typically shoot.

    • Jad says:

      The left mouse button is on the right shoulder button?

      That’s really common for controller vs. mouse settings. If you are right handed, the index finger of your right hand sits on the left button of a mouse, and that same finger sits on the right shoulder button of a controller (because it’s your right hand).

      Virtually all console shooters now map the fire action to the right trigger and the aim-down-the-sights to the left trigger, which is usually left mouse button and right mouse button, respectively, for PC mice.

      • Solidstate89 says:

        For the shoulder button? No. For the trigger button it makes sense.

        • Jenks says:

          No, it makes perfect sense once you actually try it.

          When I first set up xpadder, I used your logic – right bumper is right click, left is left click. You immediately get confused. Your right index finger wants to left click because of muscle memory.

        • Jad says:

          You’re right, I should have said “trigger” not “shoulder button” in my first paragraph (although that’s how you worded it).

          The picture is a little unclear, but it looks like the right trigger is left mouse (“Blue Portal”) and the right bumper (to use 360 terminology) is scrollwheel up (“Zoom In”).

          I assume that this was pretty much the control scheme on the console versions of Portal 2, which I never played — anyone have familiarity with the PS3 or Xbox Portal 2 button layout?

    • Lemming says:

      To your first statement: Yeah it will, because people will make it work on Windows.

      To your second, the left mouse button is mapped to wherever you want the mouse button mapped to.

    • drewski says:

      It’s remappable, but when you think about how mouse buttons actually map to your fingers and how your fingers press a controller’s shoulder buttons, it’s actually the same finger.

      Your index finder on your right hand is the “left mouse button” and your index finger on your right hand presses the “right shoulder button”. It’s intuitive, not logical.

  14. cunningmunki says:

    Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft must be looking down at their “next generation” controllers and going, “damn”.

    • SuicideKing says:

      They’re probably doing that for a lot of things, especially M$. I mean, most of the world won’t get their Xbones before the end of 2014.

    • drewski says:

      I wonder if Sony would be big enough trolls to patch in Steam controller support to the PS4, just to shaft Microsoft.

    • anark10n says:

      And rightly so. It took Valve one year to put a spacebar on a controller when they couldn’t with their decade plus in the industry.

  15. Paul says:

    It is unique and interesting, and if they really manage to make games without controller support playable with it, awesome. I would really like to replay Mass Effect trilogy on my TV, but cannot, because EA are apparently lazy idiots. So I hope this works and suceeds.

    …still wish they announced HL3 and Source 2 alongside it, though.

    • cunningmunki says:

      I’m a teeny bit disappointed about that too, but I also know they’re definitely coming. I can see why they didn’t want to distract from the hardware.

  16. Creeping Death says:

    Well that’s an absolutely horrible controller. I guess someone forgot to tell Valve that trackpads are horrible. Stop and think for a second, ever played a shooter on a laptop where you try and aim with the trackpad? Yeah…

    The ABXY button placement also makes me think this is something I will never use for games that aren’t designed with this controller in mind.

    Edit: Also, this is silly but… Civilization V doesn’t have controller support xD

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      You should read the announcement. :P The conrtoller will work with any mouse & keyboard game.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Did you read the solution Valve propose on their announcement page?

        Button bindings.

        This has been a thing game controllers have been doing since the mid-’90s, minimum. I’m pretty damn sure I remember my pre-USB gameport Microsoft Sidewinder having that capability.

        I can’t figure out what you’re supposed to do having selected “T for chat” in their Portal 2 mapping, for example. Type only messages which use the characters which have been bound for other purposes, like E for use, and T again?

        • Tomac says:

          Or maybe when you’re using the touchscreen an overlay will appear on the tv screen that you use to select any character on a keyboard.

          • LionsPhil says:

            How? The screen is tiny; it’d be like trying to use the keyboard on an iPhone, only smaller, and held wrong.

            Or if you mean then having to take over the main controls to click on letters, well, find a laptop and try to write your reply to me using only Windows On-screen Keyboard and its trackpad.

          • dE says:

            Or that curious chat input thing from Big Picture that already exists and is really quite nifty for typing with a controller?

          • riverman says:

            simple: microphone in controller, voice recognition built into steam.

            otherwise, I can’t really see a reasonable way of doing this…. wacom style letter recognition gestures on the touch screen? maybe some funky qwerty overlay that you use with the two trackpads?

        • Panda Powered says:

          Chat will probably still keep using the Daisywheel system.

    • Reapy says:

      This was my first response too, but the more I think about it… look at the two rings around the trackpads for reference. On an ipad or other I enjoy the analog circles as controls until I lose the center, with that you should be able to find center. Coupled with an unknown haptic that is supposedly high fidelity, they can very easily use vibration to guide your hands to invisible ‘notches’ on the sticks.

      For the buttons, on a standard controller you often have to swap your hands between the right analog stick and buttons, very hard to work both at once, usually just a quick press then back on the stick. That will be the same here. On traditional ones you don’t even have the option of any ‘quick hit and back’ buttons on the left side.

      The thumb press on buttons is awkward on regular controllers, I have always had trouble in fighting games with simultaneous presses or tapping out sequences, in fact I used to use my NES controller with my index and middle fingers of my right hand on both buttons, but can’t do that any more due to current ‘ergonomic’ controller designs. It will be nice to get back to button pressing with those fingers.

      So, yeah instinctual I reared away, but as I thought, I think it can be a pretty strong and versatile controller.

    • PoLLeNSKi says:

      Trying to use a trackpad as a direct replacement for a mouse IS a terrible idea. Using trackpad technology to replace analogue sticks and d-pad control is a completely different implementation. Should work pretty nicely imo.

      • Tridae says:

        To me this controller looks like it’ll fit in the space between controller and mouse and keyboard. Sharper than controller, yet more couch comfortable than kb+mouse.

        Exactly what they intended.

        And hey, if people dont like it – they mention it being an open controller, go tweak and mess with it yourself, the groundwork is laid so anyone can have support for their own mutant controller creations if they want. If the steam controller doesnt suit you I’m sure a 3rd party version with come along that does.

        It really is a win win.

        • Chorltonwheelie says:

          Nothing is comfier than a keyboard and mouse for gaming. Nothing. You hear? Good.

          Anyhoo, I hate the sticks on sonbuns 360. I can’t shoot, drive or walk straight with the damn thing.
          So I’m open to this. If I could get the precision of my pc gaming temple on a pad I might spend more time downstairs on the sofa.

          But then again, I like hiding up here for a bit.

      • fish99 says:

        I’ve seen games use trackpads as analogue sticks, it’s… pretty horrible TBH. It’s also very similar to the on-screen analogue sticks you get in tablet games, and again, they’re horrible.

        Calling it now, even with some amazing sofrware behind it, IMO this thing will be nowhere close to replacing a mouse.

    • LionsPhil says:

      My initial reaction to seeing the big, flat circles was the venerable Mattel Intellivision controller.

      Which was actually not too bad, since at least it had moving parts, and the whole brain/body thang can work with that. This is another bloody flat surface to smear your greasy meat popsicles across, so I’m anticipating all the same “LOOK MA I’M FINGER-PAINTING” awkwardness as with tablets, sampling resolution be damned.

      • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

        Thank you for referring to fingers as “greasy meat popsicles.” Made my afternoon.

        You were referring to fingers, weren’t you?

    • Lemming says:

      Why are there so many comments like this that assume Valve just pressed a button on their ACME controller machine and this popped out? How about we assume Valve have actually used it to control these games, yeah? Thanks.

    • Apocalypse says:

      The macbooks used to had trackpads that worked better than a thumbstick in fps games, still horrible, but at least better than thumbsticks. A cheap lenovo trackpad does not work better than 360 thumbsticks, actually 360 thumbsticks would work better to control windows than those horrible trackpads.

      Why I am telling you this? To show that the quality does make a significant difference.

      Still, more important is, that we don´t even know if those thumb-input-devices will use absolute or relative controls. (They will use most likely both in my humble option, depending on game)
      If they use high precision relative controls the only problem I see is the deadzone. If they use absolute positions they need to make sure that their sensor can keep up with the human finger sensitivity. Our fingers have fine enough control to be a valid control tool for something like a (mouse)pointer, but we need an input device that can translate this into machine input.

  17. strangeloup says:

    It looks a bit weird, but if it’s not hugely expensive, I’d be prepared to give it a shot. It’s got to be better than the vast, yawning dead zones on the 360 pad’s sticks, at least, though it also looks like it might be quite on the large side.

    (If a spare DualShock3 wasn’t about £40, I’d use one of those instead.)

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      It sounds expensive.

    • fish99 says:

      You wanna see how bad analogue sticks really are, try programming for them. You actually need that huge deadzone because there’s such a big variance in where they rest after you release them.

      • Mitthrawn says:

        This is really true- for example in hammerwatch, an otherwise fantastic game, it has very little deadzone on the sticks. So what happens is you’ll press one direction, and then release and about half the time your character will spin around, because of the hyper-sensitive stick going the other way. There is no real way to stop it, and it leads to terrible times where you entire a room, aim for the enemy, and start vigorously pulverizing a nearby wall. Super frustrating.

  18. Reapy says:

    So, touch pads are nice for certain gestures, others, no so much. I have tried to use similar ‘analog’ circle interfaces on an ipad and did not really like them. There is a leg up here since the surface is textured and provides a point of reference as to where your thumbs are, so it might feel pretty good. Additionally, I don’t really understand what the types of vibration they can create with whatever those sensors are they describe, it could be possible that with the right coding the trackpads could work out.

    For now it seems very FPS oriented, once again the sort of ‘lets get the FPS working right on a controller!’ type of thing. I would like to see how other games control on it, the ultimate is could you do a strategy game or a RTS game, or hell dota 2 on it? I think flight and driving games could be interesting with this, I have always had trouble in car games on analog sticks due to the tightness of the springs in those ‘half’ spots between full press and dead center, would not really be too rough with this.

    The more I think about it, the more interesting it seems honestly, would really like to try it out.

    So all in all this looks like a nice controller, only I think it is one that is going to take some dev focus on for it to use, and while sony and ms have the clout of a controller being their defacto standard, this is going to fall into the trap of being one of many possible input devices for a pc.

    • darkChozo says:

      From the sounds of it, they’re combining two linear vibration actuators/motors to get 2dof haptic feedback. I’m only semiknowledgable on the matter, but essentially that means they should be able to generate vibrations in any direction within the plane of the touchpads. I don’t think you get directionality (ie, I don’t think you’ll feel the “stick” pull back on you), but then again, what do I know. Maybe they can do something weird with asymmetric waveforms.

      • SuicideKing says:

        The trackpads can play music too, it is said.

      • Reapy says:

        I could see something like transforming the circle part into a nes + by say giving you heavy vibration any time you get too far off the + areas, stuff like that, say you need to train a person in a fighting game to do a dragon punch motion, you could essentially ‘buzz’ them by giving heavy vibration when they move their hand off the path. If they can get that kind of fidelity that might be interesting.

        Truthfully it almost sounds more fun to come up and implement weird ass control schemes with this than use it at the moment hehe

      • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        It senses obstacles like a dolphin. It can also hold its breath for up to an hour.

  19. dirtrobot says:

    If you like ipad virtual stick controls then you’re going to enjoy spending 100+ on this april fool’s joke come early.

    Why not a trackball and analog stick??

    • chiablo says:

      That’s not a great comparison… Ridges on this give your finger a place to rest and know where the center point is. Physical buttons are also present.

    • frightlever says:

      Hope you’re wrong about those iPad style controls – I really hate those.

      I’m sceptical about change, in general, but the thought of having to learn ANOTHER controller layout is wearying. I kinda like the Xbox controller.

      • dirtrobot says:

        I think it’ll turn out to be a slightly expensive, compromised (due to reinventing the wheel) mediocre experience.

        I’m scared my thumb will fall off from doing what my finger does on trackpads (relative positioning) and/or be frustrated from the ‘always just a bit off n/s/e/w’ virtual stick functionality. My thumb is not nearly as precise as my fingers are on a trackpad, mainly because there’s always a bit of wrist/shoulder action to compensate for how the joints tend to naturally move.

        Speaking of which, if you’re emulating a stick, why not just make a real one? If you’re emulating a trackball, why not use a real one?

  20. jaypettitt says:

    Glad the announcement wasn’t a new O + O = portal. Not that a new portal wouldn’t be a nice thing for many, but doesn’t require a whole week of build up.

    err, yeah. So if that’s as good as a mouse for mouse look and as good as an analogue stick for movement and and something completely else (left hand / right hand) if you’ve got some kind of fancy VR headset from the future and ambidextrous and just about anything else it wants to be then yeah, win.

  21. Niko says:

    Meanwhile, Apple announced they had a similar controller in development for ten years already.
    …Wait, that makes no sense.

  22. Moni says:

    Motion to contract ‘Steam Controller’ to ‘Steamroller’.

    All in favour say, “Aye”.

  23. MeestaNob says:

    Seems promising.

    They quite deliberately show Civ 5 on the page as this is the ideal ‘couch solution’ controller for emulating a good portion of m+kb acitons, yet it most likely wont be as good for racing/action games where more immediately accessible buttons are required.

    • Panda Powered says:

      You have eight buttons without moving your fingers or thumbs compared to six on the PS3 controller.
      Your thumbs on the touch circles, four on the shoulder buttons and the two buttons on the back of the controller grips where the 360 and PS3 controllers have none.
      The question is how good the touch thingies are.

  24. trjp says:

    I called ‘crap controller’ – thanks for proving me right.

    NO WAY will 2 small touchpads be anything like a mouse and keyboard – mice can do variable speed movement, it’s their USP, I don’t see much difference between a pad and a stick tbh

    The whole idea of trying to make non-controller-enabled games play on a controller is a futile thing – it’s been tried before and it’s failed every time.

    So this week was a “not as good as a PC” box with a “nowhere near as good as Windows” (for this purpose) OS and a “probably no better than a 360 controller” joypad

    Well fuck me that was a waste of time.

    • darkChozo says:

      Eh, the big thing with mice isn’t variable speed (after all, analog sticks are variable speed as well, because analog). It’s more that they control position instead of velocity, which makes them better for “get a pointer from point A to point B”-type tasks.

      You’re probably right that this is no better than a 360 pad if you just use a vitrual joystick setup (ie. finger distance from the center sets velocity). However, I could see some weird hybrid position/velocity control working; basically, most of the pad words like a mouse/touchpad, but when you get to the edge of the ring it keeps moving like a joystick. Something pretty similar to how Wii shooters work, actually.

      • frightlever says:

        That’s a fair point. Moving my mouse about two inches moves my pointer from one side of the screen to the other and that’s basically (for me) a wrist movement. I reckon I could have finer control with my thumb alone. Hmm.

        • Berzee says:

          I use a thumb trackball already! If I ever use one of these, the transition to a thumb trackpad will still be weird, but in some ways quite familiar.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      On the whole, Valve’s announcement announcements tend to be a waste of time anyway.

      I’m just glad I gave up on ever seeing Half-Life 3 in my lifetime, otherwise I’d be pretty disappointed right now.

      • Lemming says:

        They certainly tend to be a waste of time on the masses, by the looks. They give their audience far too much credit in the IQ department.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          Not sure whether that’s a subtle dig at me personally, but I’ll agree nonetheless.

    • Lemming says:

      I say Valve’s years of R&D on this thing trump your opinion. Counter argument?

      • The Random One says:

        I present Nintendo’s years of R&D on this thing. *drops N64 controller on table, jumps out of window*

  25. SuicideKing says:

    Oooh that looks very interesting. Since i suck at fine control with analogue sticks, this would be very nice indeed.

    And this:
    “Oh can’t ANYONE in games development do something without my help any more?! Put me on the payroll and we’ll talk.”

    should be the line of the decade.

  26. SuicideKing says:

    On a side note, it felt like each of these countdowns were building up to an invasion or something. But an invasion you were happy about.

  27. Sam250 says:

    Look at the star in the TV on the announcement page. That has been changing colour for a few days now, and there seem to be images inside it. Just North-East form the centre of the image… is that the Half Life symbol? No, I’m not kidding (though I might be crazy). Have a look, not trolling, but curious.

  28. Don Reba says:

    The controller was the most important piece of the puzzle, and it looks like it just might do.

  29. pilouuuu says:

    Wow! This looks really good and solves the problem of the awful console controls. I hope it can be used on any PC as well.

    But now the question is:
    Where’s Half-Life 3?

    Valve is being downright cruel now.

    • trjp says:

      I love that you see a picture and on the basis of that decide kick an entire genre of gaming based on nothing but the voices in your head – then veer off-topic completely – nice post.

      • pilouuuu says:

        Well, let me elaborate more: console controls are awful because they do not allow precise control in FPS games and they are basically useless for anything that you need to point and click. Console games rely on automatic aiming which kills half the fun in shooting game. And they are simply disgusting for fighting games.

        If it makes you happy let me tell that I think that they are good for third-person games like Assassins’ Creed.

        But wait, why are you defending console controllers in a PC only site?

        • trjp says:

          Because I’m not 8-years-old so I can see that controllers are actually great for some games – what do they feed you people that CONSOLE=BAD and PC=GOOD and THING I’VE NEVER USED = AMAZING BECAUSE GABEN?

          Also – Halo called and said “screw your attitude to FPS games” – e.g. they can be fine on a pad if they’re MADE for a pad.

          Thing is – the big claim here is that this device will be “better” for all the games we already play on keyboards/mice/controllers – even without any changes to the games – and that’s just crazytalk.

          I’ve love to be wrong but I suspect this is going to end in massive LOLZ

          • Apocalypse says:

            I tried Halo.
            I laugh at Halo.
            I have to disagree with you.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          Good luck using that monstrosity in an FPS. The placement of those front-facing buttons is fucking terrible.

      • Lemming says:

        Aren’t you of guilty of this? You’ve seen this announcement, you know nothing about how the controller works, and you assume what? Valve are lying to you about the controller they’ve had in R&D for years?

  30. Saarlaender39 says:

    Where’s the “stary controller”-tag?

    • trjp says:

      It’s STARING at you

      • Stochastic says:

        It would be hilarious if the controller had two forward facing webcams. In a post PRISM world, I don’t think that would be received too well (see Kinect).

  31. trjp says:

    Also – price will be a good laugh. A wireless XBOX/Logitech controller is £40+ – this is some way more complex and I’m suspecting rather lower-volume which means they could easily be looking at £60-100

    They probably think that will compare to ‘gaming keyboards’ and ‘gaming mice’ but they need this to be more ubiquitous than that – in a market they’ve not even begun to create yet – it’s hard to see that working…

    How many people here want a £300 Steambox with a £100 controller?

    • dirtrobot says:


      Frankly if this was released by nintendo everyone would be howling with laughter. Or even worse, go ahead and pretend it was released by madcatz.

      • GameCat says:

        If it was done by Nintendo then everyone would laugh and then MS and Sony would make copy of this gabepad.

    • Christo4 says:

      Well if it costs that much then i agree it will be problem, but really now i doubt it is that much more complex.
      Other than the touchscreen in the middle, the rest of the components seem quite simple, even the thumb touchpads since the technology has existed for such a long time (i mean every laptop has one and i think it’s very cheap, the only difference is that these have textures so you can feel where the center is at).

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      My current wireless gaming setup cost £200, Keyboard £100, mouse £60 and gamepad £40. If the Steamroller really can do a good job at replacing all these for £100, I would be interested.

      • trjp says:

        Whilst they may see it as comparable to (overpriced) gaming accessories – the ‘Steambox’ concept is supposed to bring-in new players so the cost of the box and the controllers will be CRUCIAL

        I note from other pictures that it’s not wireless (that will chop $20 off the cost at least) – it will also make it look poor against PS3/360 which have been ‘wireless out of the box’ for years now.

        • Panda Powered says:

          The 300 first beta units will be wired and use four buttons instead of the middle-screen. The final controller will be wireless.

    • Aaarrrggghhh says:

      When did touchpads become expensive hardware? Did some kind of factory blow up or what?

      • trjp says:

        Making a quality gamepad is expensive full-stop – check-out the tatty shit you get with an Ouya for an example of this.

        Making bespoke electronics is actually a pretty expensive business even if you don’t overload the thing with gizmos – just designing custom plastic castings etc. has a BIG upfront cost, unless you’re making millions it pushes-up the price.

    • Vinraith says:

      They’ll sell it at a loss to undercut their competition and establish a user base. Is there really any question of that?

      • trjp says:

        If you seriously think that Valve can ‘undercut’ XBONE/PS4 with what they’ve announced – to the volume levels you’d need to actually compete with them – erm, they aren’t actually made of money.

        MS have spent staggering sums to get where they are with XBOX – Sony too – there’s no way Valve can afford to “Gillette” the gaming market (cheap razors – expensive blades) – esp as Steam is already known for CHEAP blades…

      • Panda Powered says:

        They will bundle each unit with a Gaben hat. A strategy that has worked out great for them so far.

    • darkChozo says:

      Very idle speculation, but it looks like the touchscreen/touchpads are going to be the limiting factor price-wise (I looked up some of those LVAs and they’re like a dollar bulk, so not much going there). You could compare it to the PS4 pad (two touchpads, one has analog sticks/speakers and the other has a touchscreen), which they sell for $60; I could see this being placed in the $60-$70 range pretty easily, though it’s hard to say for sure.

      • Panda Powered says:

        There is a dirty little conspiracy in console accessories prices though. There has always been a substantial markup to get back some of the money from the low/non-existent profit-margins of the console units. Hence ludicrous prices in the past for original Playstation memory cards, Nintendo controllers etc.

    • Apocalypse says:

      I take the $99 steambox with 2x $100 controllers, thank you very much ;-)
      You know, I already have a gaming PC, I am fine with local streaming.

  32. Radwulf says:

    Not what I was expecting but if they pull this off it will be perfect for me. Ever since I shifted to laptop I’ve become less tolerant of keyboard and mouse and now either use gamepad, touchpad or keyboard, whilst preferring the gamepad. With this I can get the comfort of a gamepad whilst still being able to play my PC back catalogue. And with linux support.

    Great idea. Please work.

  33. gryffinp says:

    I don’t think I’m going to be able to play Dota on this…

    • Werthead says:

      I strongly suspect DotA 2 is one of the games they’ve been testing this thing on and optimising for like mad.

  34. hypercrisis says:

    It’s very CD-i, isn’t it

  35. Cerzi says:

    I’m not sure I buy that having a thumb trackpad will be comparable to a mouse in terms of accuracy. Feels like the reason a mouse is so much more precise than a analog stick is more to do with the fact that you have your whole arm there to control it, allowing you to make the smallest adjustments with slight twitches of certain fingers, right up to big sweeping motions using your forearm. In contrast my thumbs are slow and stumpy and I really can’t see myself controlling the cursor in, say, an RTS, with just a thumb – even if it is a slight improvement for FPS games.

    • Stochastic says:

      That’s my concern, too. I don’t think this is targeting hardcore Counter-Strike players, though.

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      I have used a trackball for gaming. It was hard at first because my fingers and thumbs didn’t have enough independence, so pressing a button resulted in my moving the cursor as well. Now though, I can play any game as good as using a mouse.

      • Zenicetus says:

        I just started using a Kensington SlimBlade trackball, bought a few weeks ago. So far, I’m liking it as a mouse replacement for strategy games like Rome 2 and Endless Space. Very smooth, precise movement and I can land the cursor right where I want it. So far, no problem with TBS or RTS strategy games.

        The jury is still out on FPS games. Aiming is fine; it seems about as fast and accurate as a mouse, but tapping with the thumb feels a little weird for shooting. I think it’s just a question of getting used to it.

        Regarding the Steam controller, if it works as well as the trackpad on most laptops or a touch tablet, then I think it will be an improvement over analog sticks. It will need enough surface area so you don’t run out of room when swiping, but it looks like those pads might be big enough.

    • Reapy says:

      I don’t know that you can match a mouse, but might be comparable. I’ve been handed a macbook pro for work and quite honestly it is the best trackpad I’ve used (I don’t use a lot so not much to compare with) but honestly I can really get stuff done with it when the thing is on my lap where as with the older laptops they basically just sucked and no matter how much practice I couldn’t get stuff done. They were all older laptops so it is possible trackpad quality has improved over time.

      I still have a mouse plugged in though when I need any kind of precisions, basically I use the trackpad for scrolling windows and idle clicking, the mouse for most anything, but again it is the only laptop I’ve used where I don’t mind being stuck without a mouse.

      That gives me high hopes that a nice trackpad can get us as close as we are going to get from the couch.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      I used to use thumb trackballs for the last 15 years or so, can’t say I’ve ever had any problem in any game – in fact, now I’m on a mouse, I find my gaming significantly worse, and my arm gets tired way quicker. I had to change though because I couldn’t find a replacement trackball of high enough quality. I’m using a Logitech G700 or a Razer Mamba and I have major problems with them both – wireless mode is useless and the wires pull against me as I move the mouse, the Razor is sluggish and the Logitech is poorly laid out.

      So I’m still of the opinion that thumb trackballs are at least the equals of mice, maybe better!

    • Apocalypse says:

      Thrust me, your control comes from your fingers in a mouse, even when you may use your arm for mor brought movements. And using your arm is not mandatory when using a mouse even.

      For reference you could check trackballs. those are controlled with your thumb as well, and seem like a very well working mouse replacement.

  36. Werthead says:

    It looks like an owl.


  37. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    Meh. I’m not all that interested in fooling a game into thinking I’m using a mouse and keyboard (which is to say that this is really just the oddest mouse-and-keyboard in the world). The only games for which this actually sounds like it might be useful are ARPGs like Torchlight, that game-that-starts-with-D-which-I-can’t-mention-in-comments-without-the-comment-getting-eaten, etc.

  38. iniudan says:

    Actually if you read to the end, you will see the controller is not the final annoucement, there is spec of their SteamOS prototype next week. =p

  39. trjp says:

    Took some finding but I;m reminded of this

    link to

    I had one of those – wasn’t as bad as you might imagine – Valve just updated the tech and bit and mirrored it :)

    They weren’t cheap back-in-the-day either…

    • SuicideKing says:

      Did “multi-player” mean something different back then?

      • Rublore says:

        The guy in the pic is to scale. One person operates the “3D CONTROL PAD”, another uses the buttons like a DDR dance pad.

      • darkChozo says:

        That controller is pictured realsize as compared to fauxRobocop. It actually takes an entire family to use.

        EDIT: Stupid internet hivemind.

        • Rublore says:

          Clearly, we are the same person.

          darkChozoRublore, ACTIVATE!

  40. Cytrom says:

    I don’t see how this would work well with a platformer, or a fighting game.. or any game where a controller is actually superior to m&kb. If it just emulates mouse+kb ‘but sitting on the sofa’, then I’d rather just use a wireless keyboard and mouse instead… which is exactly what I already do.

    • Stochastic says:

      Good point. I guess having an Xbox One controller + Steam controller combo will let you cover the full spectrum of games.

      • Jad says:

        My thoughts as well. While I still cannot stand using a gamepad for FPS or anything like that, I really grown to love the Xbox 360 controller in the past couple of years. Buying that has turned this PC-gamer-for-life on to a whole bunch of different genres where a controller is superior, like platformers and sports games and racing games and brawlers like Batman, etc. I think I spend at least half of the time sitting at my PC desk with a controller in my hand nowadays, and I really can’t see how this controller will be in any way superior to the 360 pad.

        But for more mouse-focused games … maybe. We’ll see.

        Still not sure if I could give up the mouse for twitch action games like shooters, but this probably would be better than a pad for stuff like adventure games, strategy games like Civ, things like that, and more usable on a couch. I’d need to test it out to be sure.

  41. DanMan says:

    Those trackpads should work nicely with first-person games, but what about racing games (for example) where you have to keep pushing (the stick, normally) in a direction to take corners? And the further you push, the harder the turn.

    Like this, it’d really be a just a mouse+keyboard replacement, but not an actual game pad, like we’re used to. So maybe one trackpad, and one stick would be better?

    • Sheng-ji says:

      I wonder if it could work so the further from the centre you touch it, the greater an analogue signal it sends and if you hold a point away from the centre, it constantly sends that signal.

      In fact, the more I think about it, the less useful dual traditional track pads seem in comparison.

      • DanMan says:

        You’re right, that could actually work. Question then is, if the game at hand would have to explicitly support it, which would make this useless for existing games.

        • SuicideKing says:

          Unless you map it like shown in the picture…

          • Sheng-ji says:

            However you do it, you need analogue steering, accelerator and brakes – if you map accelerator and brakes to the triggers, you’ll still need to use one of the pads for steering

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Switchable modes in the driver should make this possible, but I’m sure that’s not a simple thing to impliment

    • Phasma Felis says:

      There’s no reason the trackpad can’t emulate a stick too, in the way you describe.

    • Jad says:

      So maybe one trackpad, and one stick would be better?

      I think I would have preferred this. We PC gamers are always going on about how much better and more accurate our mice are to thumbsticks (and rightfully so), but on the other hand (pun intended), for a number of games an analog stick is superior to the traditional digital WASD standard (not all games, of course). Something that combines the two could be really interesting. Perhaps that left thumbpad will be a perfect replacement for a thumbstick, and this is that controller, but I’m skeptical.

      • smoke.tetsu says:

        The thing about that is when people use keyboard emulation software they emulate the digital aspect of WASD as well negating the benefit of a thumbstick or in this case the left trackpad when it comes to movement. I here only use one not only if the game actualy benefits from it but when it’s natively supported… otherwise why bother.

  42. alkonaut says:

    I think it remsans to be seen whether it will actually be a replacement for a mouse and keyboard for fps and rts type games. For a more complex (input wise) game such as bf3 I use quertyasdfjzxcvbnm and lshift,lctrl and the f1-f6 buttons, and that isn’t for obscure things like taking screenshots but for fast action input! Replacing f1-f6 (change seat) with a single controller button (cycle seat) would be the obvious attempt to reduce the number of buttons, but it would be a lot worse as a method of input.

  43. db1331 says:

    When I first moved my computer into the living room, I had no desk for a mouse and keyboard. I had a wireless mouse and keyboard and a lap desk, but they were pretty uncomfortable to use. So I would just play games with my 360 pad. A lot of games, even ones that were console ports, like Mass Effect and Bioshock 2, had no controller support. I downloaded a trial of the Pinnacle M+KB emulator, which would allow me to use a controller for those games. It worked, but it was still pretty clunky. Even if it had worked perfectly, it still wouldn’t hold a candle to a good old M+KB. Anyhow, I think someone in a similar situation is who this controller would appeal to. I’ve since gotten back a desk, so personally I have no need for it. But if it had been available a few months ago when I was going through all those issues, I absolutely would’ve bought one.

  44. SuicideKing says:

    In the picture, which controller buttons/parts are “crouch” and “toggle zoom” bound to? They seem to be going nowhere…

    • db1331 says:

      You can see the lines for those ones bending and going around the back of the controller. There must be some more buttons back there.

      • The First Door says:

        If you look at the image above that one, those grey strips on the back of the controller are buttons. I think, anyway.

        • SuicideKing says:

          Yeah, seems so…how on earth does one press those? I mean, fingers would be there, yes, but i could imagine my hand getting a spasm…

          (this just sounds so dirty now :-/ )

  45. Phasma Felis says:


    I was really hoping for a stick+trackball option, a la Valve’s old patent. This has potential, though. I think I’m cautiously optimistic that a trackpad could be just as good as a mouse if built and calibrated correctly.

    Those buttons, though…hmm. I mean, you already have to take a thumb off a stick to hit a face button, and maybe these will let you get back in control quicker. But what worries me is that it’s impossible to work two buttons at once with one thumb. And while it’s a decent compromise for FPSes, it’s going to be awfully tricky to make it work well with 2D games where Dpad+4 face buttons is the preferred control mechanism.

    Still, the haptic feedback on the touchpads has potential, and I like that they made it symmetrical for easy left/right-handed switchery. Hmm. We’ll see.

  46. Megakoresh says:

    Controller = Nice
    Open Source OS = Nice
    Streaming = Nice
    Price = Killer
    We need the Killer, please.

    I am just gonna leave that here so tabloid jackasses can write something like:

    “Videogames make people kill other people because gameplay falls into computer screen and cause normal maps in human brain into a mindless rage!”

  47. mrmalodor says:

    Wait…so is this only compatible with Steambox or PC as well???

    • Eldiran says:

      It says it’ll “work very well with any version of Steam” so that includes PC.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      From what I’ve read, it only works within Steam’s architecture. I could be misunderstanding what Valve are trying to get across, though.

      • Panda Powered says:

        The controller is open and “hackable” so it’s not going to be bound to steam for long.
        The thing is that it’s totally different from other controllers so there will be no support without a lot of further work.
        When used in steam however it will use default settings built into games with official support for the controller and for everything else it will use something like the Steam Workshop where everyone collaborate to create per game controller profiles (Valves usual tactic of outsourcing their workload to the community).

        • darkChozo says:

          I’m actually curious what they mean about “hackable”. That could mean anything from “we didn’t use crazy tamper-proof screws and actually allow you to look at the internals” to “we’ll provide you with all our documentation and schematics and have everything in a way that is easily replaceable/modifiable” to “we’ll completely open source the hardware and this will never happen because we want to make money”.

          • Panda Powered says:

            If they do open it up completely it’s perhaps a really good way to spread the Steam Controller as a standard.
            Every manufacturer would be free to create their own versions as long as they have at least the same baseline features as the reference design (in a way like the pre-built SteamOS boxes).
            The controllers are probably pretty much bound to use with Steam for the average user anyway (unusual design with a reliance on custom config. profiles).
            They get one more user to their controller solution on their market platform for every sold Steam Controller regardless.

  48. Rath says:

    “Simulation titles. And of course, Euro Truck Simulator 2.”

    I have just inhaled half a cup of tea into my lungs due to laughing so much at what I couldn’t help but interpret there as Valve taking the piss out of truck simulators.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      I confoos… what makes you think they’re taking the piss? It’s a good game that has been selling well.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I guess he read it much as “the Watch contains many fine, hard-working individuals. And Corporal Nobbs.”

        I just took it as a whimsical nod to the strange world of PC gaming, where Tedium Simulator 2 can take off with a burst of “ha ha no what really” followed by “well, damn, I’m actually enjoying this”.

  49. Siresly says:

    Removing buttons hasn’t been a good idea for as far as I can remember. For anything, really.

    But I guess trying to compete with the 360 controller is a bit tardy, having effectively been a standard for some years now. And since it is different, maybe something interesting will come out of it. Maybe it’ll work better for certain things. Who knows.

    • LionsPhil says:

      How well it competes with the 360 controller will, I suspect, hinge to a large degree on if its rebinding software can also pretend to be a 360 pad, for all the games that already expect those.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      It’s got just as many buttons as the 360/PS3. More, if you count the trackpad. They’re just…not necessarily where you expect them to be.

    • Leaufai says:

      The Steam controller has 16 buttons. The 360 has 17 buttons if you count the Guide button in the middle, but that can’t be programmed anyway. PS3 is the same story. So it’s the same.

    • Yglorba says:

      The problem isn’t that it removed buttons, the problem is that it doesn’t have them in the right place. Nearly every single gamepad going back to the NES era put the most important buttons in easy reach of your right thumb, and since the SNES and PSX era, having four ABXY buttons in that position (or whatever it calls them) has been the defining element of a gamepad. This gamepad… seems to have moved them around its central thing? It doesn’t look like you can use them as your main buttons. I don’t know, I’m not seeing how this works with console ports.

      The problem is that for all its versatility, this doesn’t seem to be able to handle that extremely basic setup (unless you use the right trackpad as a button input, I guess, but then you give up one of your trackpads.) Given that the X-Box and Playstation controllers are the core standard today which the vast vast majority of games currently on Steam with gamepad support were designed around, I’m confused by the fact that their Steam gamepad isn’t more friendly towards it.

      Basically, if it can’t manage ABXY buttons well, it’s going to fail, because there will be a ton of games where it won’t be able to offer the controls the game was designed for.

      (That said, I still want it, because it looks cool and because I already have an XBox gamepad for those games. But if they’re trying to sell this as the only gamepad you need or as a gamepad that will work with nearly everything on Steam, it seems like it’s not going to work.)

      • Contrafibularity says:

        But the trackpads’ button thingies are your main buttons on this, no? Those conventional buttons are the secondary ones, although I suppose you could map them pretty much however you see fit.

        This way you’ve got precision control of two trackpads and their button functions without even moving your thumbs (or rather while moving your thumbs over the trackpad). I suppose I won’t know how good it is until I try it but it sounds much more promising than a simple competitor for the 360 pad (which imho is only good for racing games, platformers, and crappy multi-platform games you couldn’t even accurately call bad ports). And we’re getting another feedback mechanism (the haptics).

  50. Enkinan says:

    This is very interesting. Obviously I’d need to try it out before making final judgment, but it looks very promising and well thought out.