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Valve’s Final Announcement: The Steam Controller

Following the announcements of SteamOS and Steam Machines earlier this week, Valve has concluded its trio of surprises with today’s unveiling of the Steam Controller. While numerous folks had anticipated Valve revealing some type of gamepad, I highly doubt anyone expected to see a design quite like this. The controller is free of the traditional analog sticks and directional buttons that most of us have grown accustomed to. Instead, it features two slightly-concave, circular trackpads on each side, similar to that of which you would find on a laptop computer.

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 10.39.04 AM (2)The controller uses a “new generation of super-precise haptic feedback” to compensate for its lack of physical analog sticks. Valve equipped each trackpad with linear resonant actuators that are ”capable of delivering a wide range of force and vibration, allowing precise control over frequency, amplitude and direction of movement.” Basically, the gamepad will use complex vibration mechanisms as a means of more exceptional control. Quite a long way from Nintendo 64 “Rumble Paks,” wouldn’t you say?

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 10.38.49 AM (2)The Steam controller also includes a high-resolution touchscreen at its center. The touchscreen, like the PlayStation 4′s, is clickable, but as an added bonus also operates as a display.  According to Valve, ”The screen allows an infinite number of discrete actions to be made available to the player, without requiring an infinite number of physical buttons.” While using the touchscreen, its display will be overlaid on your television to prevent you from having to repeatedly look down.

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If there’s one thing Valve has made clear this week, it’s that it plans to make all of its hardware extensively open. The Steam controller was designed to be fully “hackable,” and Valve plans to ”make tools available that will enable users to participate in all aspects of the experience, from industrial design to electrical engineering.” The Steam controller will also be compatible with the full catalog of Steam games currently available and will include legacy support for old games with no gamepad support.

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 10.39.01 AM (2)At first glance, the Steam controller definitely raised my eyebrow because of its abstract design. But I’m definitely excited to give one of these a try to see if they’re a worthy alternative to your typical PC peripherals or gampads. Valve claims that the Steam controller tricks games into thinking that it’s a keyboard and mouse, but can it fill the void for what PC gamers have become accustomed to? Will the controller catch on with folks who typically use traditional, analog stick-inclusive gamepads? We’ll all find out sometime next year, but in the meantime there’s still a chance for 300 of you to beta test one, along with SteamOS and Valve’s prototype Steam machine.

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There you have it, ladies and gentlemen; Valve’s three big announcements that it believes will change the way games are played in living rooms forever. This has been an exciting week and a paramount one for the gaming world; How do you feel about the Steam controller or Valve’s other ambitious unveilings of this week? Be sure to leave your thoughts and concerns in the comments. Now let’s all get back to waiting for the imminent announcement of Half-Life 3. That’s right, don’t give up hope yet!

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