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Valve Software is putting an end to one of its hardware endeavors. The company has produced its last Steam Controller, according to The Verge. And it’s planning on selling its existing stock by the end of its ongoing Autumn Sale. As part of that event, you can get the Steam Controller for $5, which is 90% off its normal $50 price. And then, when it’s gone, it is gone for good. As of the time of this posting, the Steam Store says that it has a “limited quantity remaining.”
The Steam Controller first debuted in 2013. It then launched as a product in 2015. It was part of Valve’s efforts to expand how people access PC games. It came along at the same time as the Linux-based SteamOS and the long-defunct quasi-console Steam Machines push (affordable gaming machines for your living room). Valve also put a lot of effort into Big Picture mode to make Steam more compatible with a TV experience. And the Steam Controller fit into that overall initiative.
The idea was that the Steam Controller could give people a way to play all of the different kinds of games available on Steam. Even if a game didn’t support gamepads, Steam would map keyboard and mouse inputs to the controller for you. Now, Valve has improved button mapping so that you can plug in almost any traditional gamepad for use with any game. And that is a key improvement that’s going to long outlive the Steam Controller itself.
The Steam Controller is not a traditional gamepad. Instead of the standard dual analog sticks and D-pad, Valve gave its input device one analog stick and two giant touchpads. The design is bold, but it is also difficult to parse for anyone used to the old way of doing things.
I was among the many people who came away confused after using the device in the early days. Its potential for playing mouse-driven games on the couch was clear. It gave you a way to play Civilization on your television without having to balance a keyboard and mouse on your lap. But was the touchpad really better than a second stick for camera control in an action game or a shooter?
Back in 2015, few people were willing to give up their right analog stick. And even fewer were willing to swap their mouse for the controller. But over the years, more and more people have started coming around on Valve’s weird contraption.
In 2017, I wrote about an analysis that sings the Steam Controller’s praises. One thing that many people began to swear by were the gyroscopic aiming controls. The Steam Controller has a gyro that enables you to input directional controls by tilting. Following the waggle controls of the Wii, many people consider motion a gimmick. But it turns out that it is an excellent way for a lot of people to aim in shooters or to control the camera in adventure games.
The Steam Controller is more loved than ever
And now that the controller is dying, its fans are coming out to show support. The Steam Controller has an overall user rating on Steam of “Mostly Positive.” But its over 160 recent reviews are “Very Positive,” according to Valve’s metrics.
“A very good controller that is often just misunderstood and thus seen as bad,” reads a review by Steam user Kriztopher.
“There are some games in my library that I have only played with the Steam Controller, such as Dark Souls, Slap City, Ori and the Blind Forest, and more,” writes another Steam user. “After counting all the hours on these games, it comes to just about 800 hours. I have actively used my Steam Controller for almost 800 hours, and it hasn’t let me down once. I love the feel of the controller and the natural feeling of the touch pads. The button placement is ideal. Everything about the controller is just awesome.”
And you can read dozens of other reviews just like that. Some fans are hoping that Valve is working on a Steam Controller 2. But that seems unlikely. Instead, Valve is probably going to focus on supporting third-party controllers through software. So when you connect a Nintendo Switch Pro controller, the buttons and gyro aiming automatically work. That’s because of the Steam Controller.
And that’s how the legacy of the Steam Controller will live on.