Valve has once again redesigned its innovative Steam Machine controller, designed as the first gamepad suitable for playing titles more readily associated with a keyboard and mouse, but in doing so has arguably lost much of what made it unique.
Valve's latest Steam Machine controller design ditches the innovative central touch area, previously downgraded from a display, altogether in favour of traditional button layouts.
When Valve first announced its Steam Machine plans, it did so with the promise of a dramatically different controller. While its twin concave touch surfaces, in place of analogue thumbsticks, were the main talking point, the company also promised a central touch-sensitive display which would be split into four controllable areas. Later, likely once Valve saw how much it would have to charge for such a controller, this was revised to a quadrant-based touch pad with no display functionality - the same design as enjoyed by the lucky few hundred Steam Machine beta testers since late last year.
Now, however, Valve has redesigned the controller once again - and the central surface has gone for good. In its place is a layout far more in keeping with something Sony or Microsoft would come out with: four face buttons in a diamond configuration at the right, and four direction buttons in the same configuration on the left. Start and Select buttons are also included, along with a glowing Steam logo which likely acts as a hot-button for the Steam overlay while paying a game - similar, fans may note, to the logo button featured on Microsoft's Xbox controllers.
According to Valve's statement on the redesign, the new face buttons feature analogue pressure sensitivity - something the original Xbox controllers had, but that was ditched due to a lack of interest from developers for the Xbox 360 and its successor the Xbox One. The two track-pad areas - designed to offer a similar velocity-sensitive control system to a mouse - remain present on the left and right sides of the pad.
As with its previous redesigns, Valve has shown no indication that the new pad exists outside computer-generated renders. With the first Steam Machine consoles due to go on sale later this year, however, the race is on for the company to finalise its design and begin mass production.