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TBC – Steam Controllers

This is an exciting era of video games we’re in right now, I mean this is on par to the excitement that was around back at the beginning of video games. We’re in this era where the PC is proving it’s a weighty behemoth that really can contend with the dedicated gaming consoles, but as well as that we’re finding new companies come about because of how accessible the hardware is these days.

You might not be excited by all developments in gaming, but at least all consoles and hardware have had some form of impact upon the video games industry. Say what you will about the OUYA, it’s done a good job with a small market share. Say what you will about Valves Steam Machines too, will they be a hit or a miss? We’re going to find out over the coming years.

DOG_controller_MED

However, one upcoming peripheral that we’ve not looked into much is the Steam Controller. I’ve called this article “TBC”, which stands for To Be Confirmed in this case, as we’ve not yet had our hands on a Steam Controller.

Initial thoughts on the Steam Controller

I’m personally quite excited for it. It’s really different to what is currently on the market with the Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers. The Sony PlayStation controller is also a far cry from the Steam Controllers design and functionality.

with this in mind, does that actually make this a good thing? I’d argue it’s not always a good thing to change what isn’t broken, but there’s no harm in being innovative. The Steam Controllers major difference maker is the dual trackpads it boasts. Valve claims that these trackpads “enable the high-fidelity input required for precise PC gaming in the living room“. This is a heck of a quote, but what it more or less is trying to say is that it can compete with a mouse and keyboard combination.

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Although, this particular picture looks a bit… different.

Whilst this could very well be true, using a mouse and keyboard is likely going to remain a much simpler experience for most people, even though there’s a lot more going on. I want these dual trackpads to be easy though and I hope the functionality of them both are the same as most controllers: One for movement, one for camera. If that’s the case, then perhaps moving away from an analogue stick or arrow keys is a good idea. Arguably, you would be able to get better precision from a trackpad than you would an analogue stick, but a lot of people are already accustomed to analogue sticks.

There’s not much else that’s unique about this controller. It has vibration built in, the same as most controllers. It has buttons for your actions, the same as most controllers. It’s wireless, same as a good number of controllers (not all controllers!) So this is nice, but what else makes it stand out other than the trackpad replacements to the traditional analogue stick? The biggest claim on this controllers resume is “lets you play your entire collection of Steam games on your TV—even the ones designed without controller support in mind.” This is an impressive piece to boast, which is a major boon for the device.

Will the Steam Controller be a success?

This is a hard one to determine.

Currently, we’ve got our plug n play controller of choice for the PC, in the Xbox controller. I personally have an Xbox 360 controller which I sometimes rig up so I can play games with it. There’s something so comforting and simply about the Xbox 360 controller, that I’d say it was almost a must for PC gaming to have a controller. It also allowed me to play games that haven’t got a proper Keyboard/Mouse set up.

Not much can compete with THIS rig

Not much can compete with THIS rig

The only way for the Steam Controller to be a success is to not over-complicate the controller. With this in mind, they’ve gone ahead and given us Dual Trackpads which is something I’ve not seen in a controller before, although I certainly have seen trackpads on a gaming controller (OUYA, for one). The Trackpad is something I do not use very much, but with this said it seems like Valve are aiming to make the Dual Trackpads an integral part of gaming with the peripheral.

The last point is the price, which at $49.99 it isn’t the cheapest controller on the market at all. My Afterglow AX-1 Xbox 360 controller has been a great starter controller, as it’s the first controller I’d picked up since the 90’s (Where I played with a Sega MegaDrive, a Gameboy and a PlayStation 1.) The Afterglow has a lovely glowing special effect which can be triggered and it only cost me £18 from a Tesco superstore. The Steam Controller is going to be £33.84 as of time of writing. This is a lot more expensive than the Afterglow and it’s using technologies alien to people.

Source: Engadget

Source: Engadget

Final verdict

I believe Valve will deliver a great piece of hardware, worth tinkering with and playing games with. I do wonder however if they’ve priced themselves too highly and have done too much to isolate their controller from other controllers. After all, whilst it is great to stand out, to be a bright red sore thumb isn’t that appealing to many people. I’ll eagerly anticipate the release of the Steam Controller and likely get myself one.

What do you think of the Steam Controller? Did you even realise it was actually a thing that Valve were working on? What do you think about the dual trackpads? It’s over to you now so please put your comments below, over on Facebook or Twitter and let’s discuss this new, intriguing piece of gaming technology.

According to the official page, Steam Controller is being released in November 2015.

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