Touchscreen-equipped Steam Controller unveiled by Valve

Valve rounds off week of product announcements with touchscreen- and trackpad-wielding gamepad

We were hoping for Half-Life 3 and we got something a little less exciting. But only a little. Valve today rounded off its week of product announcements with the Steam Controller, a gamepad it has designed to accompany its SteamOS-running Steam Machine (and other PCs running the OS).

The Steam Controller is a classic gamepad shape but deviates heavily from the analogue thumbstick-centric button setup of the Xbox 360 and PS3 pads. Instead, Valve has opted for dual circular trackpads, which the company says offers greater fidelity input than “traditional handheld controllers”. The resolution, says Valve, approaches that of a desktop mouse, and the pads are also clickable.

They’re accompanied by a central touchscreen (also clickable) on which actions and controls can be displayed. It’s a really exciting prospect and one that game developers can really exploit to add a greater range of control options to upcoming titles.

Southpaws rejoice

In total, the pad features 16 buttons, half of which are accessible without the user having to life his or her thumbs from the trackpads. The setup is totally symmetrical, which means left-handed players can flip controls for any game.

In order to maintain compatibility with Steam’s existing game library, the controller features a legacy mode that essentially fools the games into thinking it’s a keyboard and mouse. Players can set their own button configurations and share them online with the Steam community, and the controller itself will be open and hackable, according to Valve.

Valve says the controller will be sent out to the same 300 beta testers who receive a the prototype Steam Machine computer.

More after the break...