Steam Machines and a new controller: Valve talks hardware

Date Posted Author
1st October 2013 Matt Bailey

Last week Valve slowly revealed their plans for the living room after months of rumours and hints directly from the company. They did it in three parts; first with the introduction of Linux-based SteamOS, and then with discussion about "Steam Machines" and a new controller.

Steam Machines is the title that Valve is giving to PCs that are designed for you living room, ready to work with SteamOS (in many cases they will likely come with Steam installed). Instead of working of releasing their own hardware, Valve are working with unnamed PC makers to bring machines to market, and they will likely be split into multiple categories depending on the specification you want; from a cheaper box primarily streaming from your main PC all the way up to a full beast that can run anything that SteamOS can throw at it.

Details on Steam Machines weren't as forthcoming as we expected, but the company did reveal a beta using their own prototype hardware that will be available for just 300 people worldwide - a very limited selection considering over 100,000 people have already signed up. There's a few steps you need to take it you want to be considered, including playing a game using Big Picture mode.

While they aren't releasing their own PCs (at least, not at the moment), Valve are planning to release a new controller for use with SteamOS. A controller which is a little bit different...

Here's what the Steam Controller looks like

Here's what the Steam Controller looks like

Instead of analogue sticks there are touch pads with strong haptic feedback so that it feels more like you are moving a physical object as your thumbs slide across them. It means they can be buttons and/or analogue sticks, or give your thumbs completely free reign so you can use them like a mouse pointer. This is a controller designed to cope with the vast variety of PC titles and their control schemes, providing an option for people to play mouse and keyboard games in the living room, as well as those with conventional controller support. Different games will make different uses of the features, which also includes regular physical buttons - among them triggers on the top and even a couple on the back. The centre is also a touch screen providing even more input methods.

The controller does seem a little outlandish, but it is something that Valve have been working on for some time, and they've been reaching out to developers to help test it. The response so far seems to have been positive, but there's still concerns about those touch pads and whether they will ever be a full replacement for conventional controls. Still, there's probably a way to go with the Steam Machines themselves not likely to appear for a few months, although hopefully SteamOS will arrive sooner for anyone to download. All three items are now revealed, but in traditional Valve style we don't have any idea when any of them will actually arrive...

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