Steam Controller Analysis: It Shows Even More Promise

Valve officially unveiled the Steam Controller in a new video. We finally get to see the thing in action and it looks promising.

Check it out:

For the longest time, many of us have had to rely on either Xbox or Playstation controllers when we want to use a gamepad with our PC. There are generic gamepads out there, but few that rival the existing console controllers.

Programs like Xpadder work great and are a viable solution for mapping controller inputs on PC, but they’re not always ideal.

Worse yet, support for generic gamepads is sometimes hard to come by. Some PC games do ship with support for Xbox 360 controllers and even include in-game button prompts for them. Sadly, the A, B, X and Y button prompts for the Xbox controller remain when you’re using a different gamepad —  like the Sony DualShock 3 or 4.

Using a gamepad with a PC — even via Steam — isn’t what you’d call the most convenient experience. The setbacks become more apparent when you launch Steam’s Big Picture mode.

If you don’t know what Big Picture mode is, it’s a unique UI overhaul for Steam that revamps the interface to be more like a console. The idea is in Big Picture mode you can shed your mouse and keyboard, kick back and relax on the couch. It doesn’t exactly work that way. Some games still open with a launcher, and you have to get up and interact with the menu using a mouse.

Steam Controller in the living room

Valve aims to change all of that with their Steam Controller.

How Will the Steam Controller Fix These Problems?

Front of the Steam Controller

We won’t know for sure whether or not the Steam Controller can alleviate these issues until it’s in our hands, but from what we see in the video there’s certainly hope. Instead of analog sticks or a directional pad, the Steam Controller uses 2 “high precision” touchpads. As you can see in the video, they’re versatile — meaning they can also be used to control a cursor like a mouse. When those pesky launchers and menus pop up, you can take control of the mouse cursor and do your thing.

Instead of analog sticks — it does have one — or a directional pad, the Steam Controller uses 2 “high precision” touchpads. As you can see in the video, they’re versatile — meaning they can also be used to control a cursor like a mouse. When those pesky launchers and menus pop up, you can take control of the mouse cursor and do your thing.

Steam controller used as a mouse in Cities Skylines

If the video is any indication, those trackpads are pretty damn responsive which was definitely a concern when the controller was originally unveiled.

A lot of the necessary control changes will come from the UI or Steam interface. For example, in the video we can see the player interacting with a digital keyboard to type using the gamepad. In the past, something like that has been extremely tedious. Trying to navigate the virtual keyboard in Big Picture mode with a gamepad can be frustratingly slow at times. It looks better in the video using the Steam Controller, but — once again — we won’t actually know for sure until it’s in our hands.

Steam Controller virtual keyboard

Since some players don’t like the Steam overlay hogging resources in the background, one big question is whether or not it’s going to work outside Valve’s software? There’s no word on that yet. However, considering Valve’s open approach to most of their hardware and software — like Steam machines — it’s likely they’ll offer third party support for the controller too. Even if they don’t, some resourceful developers or gamers will figure something out.

What’s the Controller Setup?

Rear of the Steam Controller

When it comes to buttons, the Steam controller includes:

  • 3 option buttons
  • 14 gameplay buttons
    • Left and right bumpers
    • 2 trackpad buttons (click)
    • 4 touch buttons (touchpad corners)
  • 2 analog triggers
  • Clickable touchpad
  • 2 “High Precision” touchpads

Here, is what’s listed on the official store page for additional features:

  • Dual trackpads
  • HD haptics
  • Analog stick
  • Dual-stage triggers, each with 10° of travel, a magnetic flux sensor, and a tactile switch
  • Gyroscope and accelerometer sensors enabling tilt-to-steer racing wheel functionality and other motion-controlled input
  • Configurable controls
  • Local multiplayer capability, as supported by games
  • Wired or wireless (dual mode)
  • USB 2.0 via Micro USB port (cable not included)
  • Estimated 5 meters of wireless communications range. Actual results may vary.
  • Provides up to 80 hours of standard gameplay using the included AA batteries during preliminary testing. Battery life will vary based on usage and other factors, such as the type of batteries used. Actual results may vary

Steam Controller control schemes

The best part is that users will be able to download pre-configured control schemes via something like Steam Workshop. That means if you don’t feel like mapping buttons for a particular game you can just head to the community hub and download a control scheme.

The price is reasonable too at $49.99. That’s cheaper than what you’d pay if you wanted to pick up a new Xbox One or PS4 controller to use with your PC.

Pre-orders are available now via the official site, and apparently a select few will receive their controllers ahead of launch on October 16th.

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