Nobody expected that, but Valve’s most exciting announcement of the week might be a game controller. The Steam controller is a futuristic touch-enabled gamepad with a small screen sitting right between your two thumbs. The company promises that the controller will work with any game as it is a very malleable device.
Valve has taken a hint or two from the smartphone world and ported it to the gaming world. As smartphone interfaces allow developers to make all sorts of buttons, the company took the same approach. Thanks to a tiny high-resolution screen, players will be able to trigger a lot of different actions. It doesn’t seem to be a regular touch screen — Valve has chosen to build a clickable screen to prevent unwanted taps. But there are some familiar touch controls as well.
For example, you can swipe through pages of actions to find the right one. The same screen will be reproduced on your bigger display so that you can keep an eye on the action while selecting an item. Even mouse-and-keyboard games, such as 4X and RTS games, should be playable with the Steam controller. The company illustrates the press release with a screenshot of Civilization V to prove its point.
Below each thumb, users will find two rounded trackpads. They replace the traditional sticks that you can find on your Xbox and PlayStation controllers. Once again, those trackpads are clickable. This is crucial for the right thumb as many games use traditional buttons for the right side of the controller.
The entire Steam catalog should be compatible with the Steam controller, but some games will run in ‘legacy mode’. You don’t need a Steam machine to use it, just a computer that runs Steam. But other computer games that you didn’t buy through Steam may not be compatible.
Finally, the Steam controller can vibrate. Once again, Valve didn’t share any release date or price. But you can probably expect to see a Steam controller bundled with the Steam Box.