If you’ve been checking out this week’s Steam Autumn Sale, you might have noticed one particular bargain: the Steam Controller, Valve’s bizarre owl-eyed gamepad, had its price slashed by a whopping 90%. Unfortunately, there’s a good reason for that – they’re the last Steam Controllers that’ll ever be released. If you haven’t grabbed by one now, that’s it. Tough luck. The Steam Controller’s death heralds the final end of Valve’s “Steam Machines” efforts to bring Steam to the sofa. Being neck-deep in VR, they haven’t quite given up on hardware entirely – but the dream of a PC for the living room seems well and truly dead, for now.
Valve told the Verge that this week’s batch is “the last batch of these gamepads that will ever be made”. Valve were flogging Steam Controllers for a bargain £4/€5.50/$5 (not including shipping) in this week’s sale. Looking at Steam however, it looks like the last run has completely sold out.
Dropping back in 2013, the Steam Controller wanted to smash apart long-held notions of how gamepads should look, breaking from the tradition twin-stick design for two massive touch-sensitive eyes that offered more accurate tracking. The Steam controller was also extremely customisable and arrived with a suite of Steam tools to completely reconfigure every aspect of the pad. It took a hell of a lot of getting used to, but in theory it’d make playing EVE or Civ on the telly totally doable.
Like Alec noted in his review, though, I found the controller a bit underwhelming. Yes, it worked, but the pad feels rubbish to hold. Surprisingly flimsy and cheap for something with Valve’s pedigree. Granted, I’m the daftie who really likes the brick-sized Xbox “Duke”, so what the hell do I know?
More than that, the controller’s ideal use case never came up. It was pretty simple to set up shop in the lounge with the Steam Link, a streaming box launched around the same time. But if I’ve got folk round for a party, we’re playing Mount Your Friends, Nidhogg or Towerfall, games that work perfectly fine with a 360 pad. If I’m putting in the hours in Stellaris or BattleTech, I’m gonna sit at my desk and get serious.
The Steam Controller was discontinued just over a year after the Steam Link, which has found new life as a mobile app. Other areas of the Steam Machines program (like partnered all-in-one PCs and the SteamOS operating system) fizzled out long before ever really taking off.
Ah well. Back to the 360 pad we go.