In a weeklong flurry back in September of last year, Valve introduced the gaming public to its vision of the future. That vision, while a little ambitious, included a new Linux-based platform for games (SteamOS), a revolutionary new controller, and the final piece of the puzzle: the Steam Machine.
And while the Steam Machine and SteamOS have been making strides towards a public unveiling, the Steam controller has been kept closely under wraps. That’s apparently for good reason, as the controller has gone under a significant change.
As part of the Steam Dev Days convention, Valve revealed a new design for the Steam controller, the recommended input device for all Steam Machines. The controller itself still brandishes the two touchpad inputs on the left and right, but the device’s central touch screen has been replaced with a traditional set of 8 buttons. See the above image for the proposed final design.
Although it seemed like Valve was very committed to the idea of a nearly button-less controller, that design inevitably gave way to practicality, and a design that more closely resembles a traditional controller. There are still plenty of unique qualities to the Steam controller; it just isn’t so specific now.
The decision to alter the design reportedly stemmed from a need to support more traditional gameplay experiences (read: older games). As most gamers tend to favor the Xbox 360 controller for controller-based PC gaming, Valve decided it best to mimic the inputs offered by that controller in their design, specifically a D-pad and a set of four face buttons.
Ultimately, Valve has found a middle ground between those who embraced the Steam controller’s new design and those who were worried about it being too “different.” Now, any gamer who picks up one of the 14 Steam Machine designs that will go to market some time this year or early next year will have a controller fit for almost any gameplay experience.
And speaking of Steam Machine releases, Alienware announced that their Steam Machine model will hit retail some time in September. They also broke the news at Steam Dev Days, but did not say much beyond “September.”
Those who have been closely following the developments in Steam Machines know that Alienware is targeting a market not unlike that of a next-gen console, and they will presumably price their device accordingly. Their design is certainly one of the more eye-catching of the bunch, and would look nice alongside an Xbox One and a PS4.
However, Alienware is only one of the announced Steam Machine developers to reveal a release date. And since the rest of the bunch are keeping quiet we don’t know whether Alienware will be the first out of the gate, the trendsetter that influences other release dates, or one of the last Steam Machine developers to take their device to market. Whatever the case, we have a better idea as to when the Steam Machine dream might become a reality and a more user-friendly controller to boot.
What do you think of Valve’s decision to add face buttons to the Steam controller? Which Steam Machine model are you most interested in?