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Valve unveils Steam Controller for new living room games consoles

Valve, the owner of the popular cloud gaming platform Steam, has announced a new game pad for its forthcoming Steam Machines PC-based games consoles.

Valve’s third big announcement of the week, following the Steam OS and Steam Machines on Monday and Wednesday, is a Steam controller unique to anything on the market right now.

It is shaped much like the current Xbox and PlayStation controllers with easy-to-grip handles, but that’s where the similarities come to an end.

Instead of a directional pad or dual analogue sticks there are two clickable trackpads which valve says will offer an experience similar to a desktop mouse.

“The most prominent elements of the Steam controller are its two circular trackpads. Driven by the player’s thumbs, each one has a high-resolution trackpad as its base,” Valve explains. “It is also clickable, allowing the entire surface to act as a button. The trackpads allow far higher fidelity input than has previously been possible with traditional handheld controllers. Steam gamers, who are used to the input associated with PCs, will appreciate that the Steam Controller’s resolution approaches that of a desktop mouse.”

The idea is that PC gamers will be able to decant themselves from the desk and play their Steam games in their living room, on the sofa.

That’s not all, though. There’s also a hi-res touchscreen nestling in the centre that also responds to user clicks, while the controller also sends haptic feedback to players in-game, through several sensors dotted around the controller.

“The whole screen itself is also clickable, like a large single button,” Valve says. “So actions are not invoked by a simple touch, they instead require a click. This allows a player to touch the screen, browse available actions, and only then commit to the one they want. Players can swipe through pages of actions in games where that’s appropriate. When programmed by game developers using our API, the touch screen can work as a scrolling menu, a radial dial, provide secondary info like a map or use other custom input modes we haven’t thought of yet.

These sensors will “play audio waveforms and function as speakers,” according to the Steam living room website. There are 16 buttons in total, with the traditional A, B, X, Y buttons at the four corners of the touchscreen and there are three beneath.

Like its Steam Machine consoles, the company is making 300 “or so” beta units available this year, but won’t include a touch screen and won’t be wireless. Those released next year alongside the first consoles will be the real deal.

Valve said that’s it for the announcements for now, but the company has certainly laid down a marker ahead of the PS4 and Xbox One launches in the next two months.