The Steam Controller is somewhat unique among gamepad type controllers in that is uses two trackpads in place of the cross-pad and where the four buttons would be on an Xbox or DualShock gamepad. The Steam controller also features an accelerometer and gyroscope, allowing for motion control methods to be used in some situations.
Steam Controller Launch and Price
The Steam controller was originally launched on late 2015 and was designed to run in Steam’s ‘Big Picture’ mode that allows users to configure devices to their satisfaction. Valve has pushed out multiple updates for the controller, including adding VR support in June 2016.
The Steam Controller can be bought directly from the Steam store for £39.99 (GBP) though discounts can be found at other retailers, and Steam also offer the controller in bundles with other videogame titles.
How to use the Steam Controller
Since the HTC Vive is integrated into Steam, and the Steam controller is designed explicitly for Steam, the set-up mostly involves plugging in a wireless dongle and turning on the controller. Some older VR titles may need users to go into the ‘Manage Game’ menu and ‘Browse configs’ in order to activate Steam controller mode, though with Valve’s updates, this is becoming rarer.
Apps and Games Compatible with the Steam Controller
Similar to the Xbox One controller, the Steam controller works best with titles such as Elite: Dangerous where using motion controls is not practical. Some users have also reported that moving in VR using the trackpad is smoother than using a motion controller or analog stick, meaning a reduction in ‘simulation sickness’ symptoms.
For the most part, where a Steam title reports that it is compatible with gamepad controllers, the Steam controller will work well.
Long Term Application of the Steam Controller
The Steam controller will likely remain a viable option for niche VR titles where using motion controllers is impractical, or for titles where the ability to switch between motion control and standard gamepad controls would be useful. Though some users may find the trackpad controls hard to get used to, many users find the Steam controller to be a solid and very usable controller that makes an excellent alternative (or even upgrade) from an Xbox One controller for some VR applications.