It has been a little more than a year since rumors of a Valve trackball controller made the rounds. Today, we have proof that Valve is seizing the opportunity of bringing mouse-style input to game pads. Behold, the Steam Controller:
Except… hold on a minute. That ain’t exactly a trackball! Valve’s new controller sports a trackpad in place of the usual right-hand stick. The principle is the same: mouse-style, 1-to-1 movement control with your right thumb, but without the moving parts and likely maintenance issues of a mechanical trackball. In theory, the only thing missing would be the ability to spin a physical trackball (comes in handy going from corner-to-corner on a large screen).
I have to admit, I hadn’t seriously considered the possibility of using a trackpad instead of a trackball on a game pad like this. My relationship with track pads hasn’t been a happy one. In fact, every time I have to use a track pad on my laptop, I feel confined and clumsy. In fairness to the Steam Controller, that’s probably because I feel like I have to consciously avoid the large trackpad on notebooks to avoid accidental input. With the Steam Controller’s thumb-only track pad, I don’t expect this to be a problem.
If the Steam Controller can give us the responsiveness of a mouse, it should be a literal game changer and provide a critical piece in Valve’s mission of bringing PC gaming to the living room. I can’t wait to try it.