Valve announces Steam Controller, a gamepad for its game console

Valve revealed Steam Controller today, a controller for its living room PC-based game console initiative. It's the third announcement this week from Valve, following reveals of SteamOS and Steam Machines on Monday and Wednesday (respectively). The controller is shaped like a standard game console controller, but in place of thumbsticks there are two clickable trackpads. Valve's saying that the dual trackpads provide resolution that "approaches that of a desktop mouse," making previously PC-only games playable on a couch.

In the middle of the controller is a "high-resolution" touch screen (also clickable) that enables both control and navigation. "Players can swipe through pages of actions in games where that's appropriate. When programmed by game developers using our API, the touch screen can work as a scrolling menu, a radial dial, provide secondary info like a map or use other custom input modes we haven't thought of yet," the controller's announcement page says. There are also haptic sensors all over the controller, which offer "super-precise" haptic feedback to players -- they're in both trackpads on the front, as well as in the shoulder buttons and around the rear grips. Valve says that these sensors not only relay physical information to players, but also "play audio waveforms and function as speakers."

Like any gamepad, the Steam Controller has a handful of buttons as well: 16 in total, according to Valve. Two are around back, while the majority are found out front -- one sits in each corner of the middle touchscreen, and three sit below that screen. Game devs should have no issue getting their games working with the controller, according to Valve, as the API will become available for free for devs at the same time that the Steam Machines beta goes live "later this year." Additionally, gamers interested in beta testing Valve's controller can sign up the same way you signed up for the console beta: a quest is now available in your Steam account.

Sadly, the beta for the controller isn't identical to the controller Valve's planning for retail launch some time next year. Apparently the 300 beta units for the controller going out with Steam Machines won't be wireless, and the touch screen will be replaced by four buttons.

In terms of other big Valve announcements this week, the company says it's done for a few minutes and we can all take a breath. Once that breath is taken, head over to the Steam Universe community group and keep an eye out for more from Valve in the coming weeks. We'll also have more for you on Valve's hardware initiatives and its new OS as the year goes on.