Valve's Steam Controller brings PC finesse to console comfort

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Seamus Byrne is the Editor of CNET Australia. At other times he'll be found messing with apps, watching TV, building LEGO, and rolling dice. Usually at the same time.

As part of Valve's three-pronged announcement last week, the Steam Controller was the finishing touch on Valve's direct assault on console domination of the living room.

The Steam Controller: a PC spin on the console experience.
(Credit: Valve)

Last week, Valve, maker of legendary PC games Half-Life and Team Fortress and owner of the Steam PC game distribution platform, announced its biggest attack on the living room yet. After last year's launch of Big Picture, a special living room-friendly viewing mode for Valve's Steam software, it was clear that Valve saw a place for PC gaming in front of your big-screen TV.

Last week saw three key announcements over the course of the week. First, there was SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system built around its Steam distribution platform set to be given away for free. Then there was Steam Machines, a new open hardware concept that will bring new PCs to the market designed specifically for a SteamOS experience.

The final announcement was the Steam Controller, a new gamepad design that aims to bring the finesse of PC gaming to the console experience. Arguing that classic gamepads force gamers to accept compromise, the new concept removes the classic thumbsticks approach to console gamepads, and instead replaces the sticks with a pair of track pads that include "dual linear resonant actuators" to deliver "super-precise haptic feedback".

The Steam Controller also includes a central high-resolution touchscreen to add availability for any in-game command, something that gamepads have struggled with compared to having an entire keyboard available for PC gameplay.

Taking a "no game left behind" approach, the Steam Controller will support all games available on Steam, not just a subset designed to work with the new hardware.

Other features that Valve has revealed include displaying Steam Controller touch-pad controls on the TV screen as an overlay to ensure that you can always keep your eyes focused on the TV and not search for options down on the gamepad.

Finally, Valve announced that the Steam Controller is designed to be open and hackable. Valve intends to make tools available "from industrial design to electrical engineering" to let users modify and extend the controller concept.

With these three big announcements aimed at introducing a new, open gaming platform to the living room, all built around Valve's Steam platform, it won't be just Xbox and PlayStation battling it out for control of the living room in coming years. But with such an open new platform concept, it will come down to what Valve's hardware and software partners come up with to see how much power this platform has to offer.

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