Steam Controller gets face buttons in place of touchscreen, uses AA batteries

Wednesday, 15th January 2014 23:16 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Steam Controllers have had something of an overhaul, Valve announced during its Developer Days event today, ditching the touchscreen in favour of more traditional controls.

Although the Developer Days is a closed event, session recordings will be made available to the public at a later date, and as there’s no NDA, many attendees are tweeting or otherwise sharing news and announcements from the inside. According to SteamDB‘s round up, the Steam Controller is undergoing changes as Valve processes beta feedback.

The most significant change is the loss of the central touchpad, which would have been used to emulate a variety of controls, as customised by users or laid out by developers. To increase the controller’s backwards compatibility, it will now have a set of face buttons laid out like those on an Xbox or PlayStation controller, and a traditional D-pad is on the cards.

The final version of the controller is expected to use standard AA batteries, so the user can opt for a commercial rechargeable option.

The Steam API has support for up to 16 Steam Controllers at once, apparently; a cover version is already available in the latest Steamworks SDK.

There won’t be any biometrics on the pad, as hands aren’t the best place to capture that kind of data, Valve said, but it is future-proofing by keeping VR in mind while designing.

Steam Controllers were originally expected to be manufactured in-house only, but Valve has now said Steam Machine collaborators will be able to craft their own versions. Apart from the central touchscreen, their main differentiation is the use of twin haptic touchpads rather than sticks, something our hands-on test didn’t much approve of, and which Valve has admitted will likely never rival the keyboard and mouse for pro players.

The controllers are, of course, for use with Steam Machines, 13 of which were shown at CES 2014.

Thanks, Kotaku.



  1. Luciferous

    With the shape of the grips will peoples thumbs be able to reach those in a comfortable fashion?

    #1 11 months ago
  2. Tormenter

    Don’t want it now. I was quite happy with the other configuration and I felt one of the main features was the push touchpad… Steam had the ‘owl’ thing going for them.. but that pad, now, is downright ugly, I simply wouldn’t have it in my house.

    ‘Ditched touchscreen in favour of something more tradtitional’

    Fucking idiots.. traditional was exactly what we didn’t want… We have traditional coming out of our arses. I thought we were to look forwards to something ‘thinking out of the box’…So now the only thing this has going for it is two touchpad when sticks should be and a fucking ugly facade.

    Valve hit on a great idea with their ideas of OS and peripherals… but they’ve pissed their innovation down the pan, with this big box of boring. I think they are now going to fail EPICALLY.

    Steamboxes priced at the idiot market now this? Pfft

    #2 11 months ago
  3. The_Red

    It feels like the Steam controller is slowly morphing and changing into a normal console controller. Still, I’d very much like to try one myself before passing anymore judgement because the side touchpads are still kinda promising.

    #3 11 months ago
  4. TheBlackHole

    Don’t get your knickers in a twist. They explained that in tests they found that after several iterations the touchscreen just wasnt used outside of menus, and four what was the most expensive part of the controller, it made sense to ditch it.

    Other changes were heavily driven by user feedback, so that means hardcore pc gamers.

    The version you’re looking at also isn’t final design.

    It does play very well though. I was pleasantly impressed.

    #4 11 months ago
  5. Tormenter


    Yes, yes, per usual… because reasons.

    If they aren’t going to trick it out as much as possible then there is no place for it on the market inplace of anything else… it’s now just another in a long line of joypads.. meh, I see no reason to dip my hand in my pocket to change the control schemes I have.. 360pad and KB+M.

    I’d have bought it before the changes, but not now.

    #5 11 months ago
  6. TheBlackHole

    Are you really that vapid?

    It still retains both customisable track pads that can work as mice-accurate trackers or can mimic analogue movement (and are completely customisable and work cross platform).

    Removing a small touch screen and shifting the buttons around doesn’t suddenly make it shit.

    But sure, wave away legitimate, sensible design decisions as ‘ reasons’.

    #6 11 months ago
  7. broketm

    The only feature of this control I care for are it’s track-pads. I’m not a console gamer, no favouritism, always having had a PC I never felt the need to get one. When I do play console games at friends, the analogue sticks feel alien to me. I don’t even try to play TPS/FPS games with it any more. Since I don’t own a console I see not why I should learn to use em.

    These track-pads however, can’t say it’ll that much better than a regular console controller, still missing WASD for movement. Having used track-pads for years though, you know on laptops… it seems clear to me that the steam-controller could, will, open the way to consoles for those typical PC games that require mouse-input. RTS most notably. It would also make your console (steam-machine) a much more viable platform to do non-gaming stuff on. Browsing the web for instance.

    So IMO, as long as it has these track-pads the controller matters. Everything else should just be down to ergonomic design. So the touch-screen goes? meh, not important.

    On an other note, I’m sure 3rd party hardware developers will come with a version of this controller where the track-pads are just as precise as a mouse. Aiming not being such a huge issue, all that remains to me is seeing if I can get the same level of twitchy movement on a controller than WASD on a keyboard.

    #7 11 months ago
  8. TheBlackHole

    @7 the controllers default setting, or ‘ legacy mode’ has the left pad mimic WASD and the right pad 1-1 mouse, so is already mouse-accurate.

    The key is modifying that (which is up to developers) to allow the right pad to remain accurate but further mimic an analogue input where you don’t have to continually swipe to turn, or have too much erratic movement when adjusting the thumb only slightly.

    Also the haptic feedback (along with everything else) is fully modable, so it may be that you download custom controller states that the communit!y determine are ‘ the best fps setup’ etc.

    Lastly, you can also set the controller to enter different states on different screens, so for example in game it might mimic analogue input, then revert to WASD and mouse for menus (this is a good way for the controller to be plugged into old titles where the menus weren’t designed to be navigated by a controller).

    It’s very, very smart design.

    #8 11 months ago
  9. Gheritt White

    I’m sorry, but I just don’t see this outselling the PS$ internationally any time within the next six or seven years.

    Please accept my most humble apologies.

    #9 11 months ago
  10. TheBlackHole


    It really doesn’t have to to be successful though. I’m not even sure why the comparison is relevant.

    #10 11 months ago
  11. Gheritt White

    I’m just trolling, ignore me.

    #11 11 months ago
  12. deathm00n

    Someone who played with it can answer me this please? How does the trackpad feels? Is it like trying to play with a touchpad in a laptop? If it is I don’t see me trading keyboard + mouse for this… It looks painfull to use from where I’m standing, I simply HATE using laptops touchpads

    #12 11 months ago
  13. TheBlackHole

    @11 ah, I should have known :)


    It feels nothing like a laptop touch pad. The plastic is harder and it has ridges that allow your thumb to know where it is in relation to the rest of the pad. They are quite large when you compare them to the surface area of an analogue stick.

    They are comfortable and easier to use than I expected, but they’re also not final design.

    The new 8 button diamond layout is brilliant though, in combination with the track pads.

    #13 11 months ago
  14. deathm00n

    @13 Thanks!

    #14 11 months ago

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