Valve Software doesn’t just distribute games and make digital hats. It also tracks how its Steam members interact with their software. Over the last several years, the company has looked at which controllers and gamepads players have connected to their PCs. Using that data, the company has some insights. For example, Steam has 783 registered dance pad controllers.
The biggest takeaway is that most people reach for a console controller when they want a gamepad on PC. More than 30 million Steam users have connected a controller. The vast majority of those are from Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
This is an instant reminder that, for many people, PC is not always about keyboard-and-mouse.
“Since 2015, over 30 million players have registered at least one controller,” reads a Steam blog on the subject. “And over 15 million of those players have registered more than one. Between accounts with multiple controllers and controllers that have been registered to multiple accounts, we find that a total of 60 million device-account pairs have been connected to Steam.”
Console controllers may represent tens of millions of Steam controllers, but the other category still has 4.9 million devices in it. That includes more than 1.5 million Steam Controllers, 460,000 Switch Pro controllers, and 315,000 fightsticks.
Xbox and PlayStation controllers
While console controllers are most popular, Valve says that Xbox gamepads are the “default.” They represent by far the biggest piece of the pie.
“Nearly 40 million Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers have been connected to Steam, representing 64 percent of all controllers,” reads the Steam blog. “A decade ago, Microsoft made a concerted effort to drive adoption of XInput, the underlying protocol, and that work resulted in widespread support by game developers. Because built-in support is overwhelmingly XInput support, an Xbox controller is a good bet to seamlessly play many different titles.”
But, somewhat surprisingly, more people have registered their DualShock 4 gamepads with Steam than the Xbox One controller. Steam has 12.2 million connected DS4s and 11.5 million Xbox One pads. That’s likely due to the sales success of the PS4.
“The reason we’re surprised by 12 million is, historically, the PS4 controller has not been treated like a PC gaming controller,” reads the blog. “Built-in support is uncommon, so players turn to software that translates their PS4 controller input into Xbox controller input.”
That software often doesn’t work well, though. Games may still show prompts for Xbox-style buttons. So players have to to translate “press Y” to “press Triangle.” Valve notes that playtime with the DS4 is far less than that of the Xbox One pad.
Switch and Steam controllers
Switch is only a year and a half old, and it doesn’t come with the Pro controller. Despite that, it has caught on with Steam users.
“The Switch Pro controller arrived in 2017 and players immediately began attaching them to their PCs,” reads the blog. “At the time, support was mostly limited to basic Steam Input remapping. … In May 2018, a Steam update enabled the full feature set of the device, added matching artwork in the UI, and improved the overall experience. The result was an acceleration in Switch Pro controller registrations.”
The Switch Pro controller is now the No. 7 most popular gamepad on Steam.
And finally, the Steam Controller may not have the raw numbers, but it does lead in the number of games that people use it with.
“To date, we have sold 1.3 million Steam Controllers, but it’s how they’re being used that is most interesting to us,” reads the blog. “The Steam Controller community plays a more diverse selection of games than other controller types, interacting with nearly twice the total number of titles compared to the next closest device. Additionally, many of these are titles without built-in controller support.”
Looking ahead, Valve wants to continue to do more to ensure widespread controller support. It points to motion controls as an example. Fans are using that in games that didn’t originally support it. And many people swear by that method of input.
So if new features like that come along, Valve wants Steam to support it. It also wants to make it easy for developers and players to integrate it.