Back in January, Valve gave word that it was redesigning the Steam Machine’s controller. It originally sported a unique gamepad design, featuring touchpads in place of standard analog sticks, and a small square touchscreen in the center of the pad that replaced standard face buttons. Those controllers were sent out during Valve’s extremely limited 300-unit Steam Machine beta, and it seemed that the feedback drove Valve to dispense with the tiny touchscreen in favor of a more standard design. Now, Valve is finally giving us a look at the new, sleeker design.As you can see from the above image, the new design will sport a more traditional feel with standard A, B, X, and Y buttons arranged in a diamond accessible by your right thumb, while four directional buttons — also arranged in a diamond — are accessible by your left thumb. Though the directional buttons may at first seem unique, they appear to be nothing more than a D-pad, reminiscent of the C-buttons on the N64 controller, or even the separated D-pad found on Sony controllers.The center of the Steam Controller now contains what appears to be a Home button — quite similar to the ones found on the Xbox One gamepad and the DualShock 4 — as well as stop and play buttons standing in for your start and select, which have gone the way of the N-Gage, otherwise known as extinct. The owl-eye touchpads remain intact and in the same location as the previous model, and the overall silhouette remains the same as well.
The removal of the touchscreen in favor of analog buttons is most likely a more ergonomic choice, but the placement of the buttons — below the touchpads rather than above — may feel a bit out of place. The DualShock 4 — widely heralded as the most comfortable controller in a long time — places both the D-pad and face buttons above the analog sticks. The Xbox One gamepad places the face buttons above the analog stick, but the D-pad below. The Wii U GamePad is, oddly, the closest in design to the Steam Controller, as it places both the D-pad and face buttons below the analog stick areas, and also contains the infamous touchscreen in the center. With the removal of the touchscreen, at least Valve won’t have to deal with comparisons to the Wii U mutant.