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Valve reveals the unorthodox Steam Controller: Has touchscreen, ditches control sticks for trackpads

Above: The Steam Controller has a unique look compared to existing gamepads.

Image Credit: Valve

Valve has unveiled the controller for its upcoming Steam Machines, and it’s full of surprises. The Steam Controller features two trackpads, a central touchscreen, and 16 buttons — a significant departure from standard gamepads found on home gaming consoles such as the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3.

“Whole genres of games that were previously only playable with a keyboard and mouse are now accessible from the sofa,” Valve states on the announcement page. “RTS games. Casual, cursor-driven games. Strategy games. 4x space exploration games. A huge variety of indie games. Simulation titles. And, of course, Euro Truck Simulator 2.”

Making these types of games playable with a controller is an important piece of the puzzle for Valve, the game developer that pioneered digital distribution and community with its Steam platform, as it looks to invade living rooms with devices that can access its Steam store and library of software (and stream movie and television content as well). Valve revealed Steam OS on Monday and Steam Machines on Wednesday. Both feature the Linux OS, a central piece of the publisher/platform holder’s new venture.

The dual trackpads replace the analog sticks present on most controllers. Each pad, Valve claims, registers movements from the player’s thumbs. You should also be able to click down on the pads and the high-definition touchscreen, effectively turning them into more buttons.

The controller will also feature haptic feedback, a sort of “super” rumble, according to Valve. “The Steam Controller is built around a new generation of superprecise haptic feedback, employing dual linear resonant actuators,” Valve says in its announcement. “These small, strong, weighted electromagnets are attached to each of the dual trackpads. They are capable of delivering a wide range of force and vibration, allowing precise control over frequency, amplitude, and direction of movement.”

Gabe Newell founded Valve with Mike Harrington back in 1996. The software company soon became known for the landmark Half-Life series of shooters. Valve moved to the world of digital-distribution when it launched its own store for PC gaming, Steam, in 2003. Since its initial release, Steam has grown into a huge enterprise that offers community features and services. Last year, Steam introduced the Big Picture Mode, an interface optimized for television screens and controllers.


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