Valve’s Steam Controller has undergone an evolution since we first got a look at it in 2013. The initial configuration of two touchpads has been supplemented with an actual thumbstick and the now-standard four buttons as a concession to traditionalists, for instance.
Now the controller is finally ready for the spotlight, and pre-orders are available for a limited initial release on October 16, alongside the first wave of official Steam Machines and the in-home streaming Steam Link. In order to catch up and excite gamers that haven’t necessarily been following news of the controller’s development with bated breath, Valve has released a new overview video about the Steam Controller, outlining its basic features and what separates it from standard gamepads.
Although physical controls have been added, the two touchpads are still the most distinctive and potentially game-changing feature of the Steam Controller. One of Valve’s primary design objectives was to develop a gamepad that could substitute for a keyboard and mouse, allowing for couch play of games that did not previously lend themselves without a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard.
In the video they show someone playing Cities: Skylines. Previous demonstrations have used Civilization V as an example — one of my all-time favorite games, and one which I could not have imagined playing on a gamepad before seeing it. Having two touchpads also opens up interesting possibilities like a much faster virtual keyboard, with both of your thumbs available to find letters instead of the tedious hunting and pecking with a thumbstick.
The other major point in the Steam Controller’s favor is that it is fully customizable for every game. You will be able to map out any game’s controls scheme in any way you like. If you would rather not spend the time experimenting with optimal set-ups for every game, you will be able to peruse configurations that the community has shared in order to find the most popular options and then adjust to taste.
A limited quantity of Steam Controllers are available for pre-order now from Valve for $50. This first round will ship on October 16, and then hit store shelves officially on November 10.