The winter holiday is always a pretty high-tension time for hardware purchases, and it seems Valve’s products are no exception. Now, however, the holiday rush has brought the end of one of its most iconic pieces of hardware: the Steam Controller. Unfortunately, with the Steam Controller sold out, and the product at the end of its production line, that’s all, folks.
Valve put the Steam Controller up on what’s essentially a closeout sale: $5, and listed as limited supply. It appears Valve confirmed to The Verge that this would be the last-ever stock, given the controller is not in production anymore. Now, though, in the rush to get the last of the controllers, the stock quickly sold out.
With such a quick and sharp demand, the Steam store borked a little bit. Customers on Twitter and /r/SteamController reported customer support messages from Steam about their purchases getting cancelled and refunded. The messages also confirmed Valve’s lack of plans to continue the product.
“Due to a technical issue during our most recent sale, we mistakenly took more orders for the Steam Controller than we were able to fulfill, including yours,” the message read. “Currently there are no plans to produce more of this product, so we are unable to send you a Steam Controller and have prompted a full refund of your purchase.”
The sellout is not surprising, given Steam hardware is becoming the hot topic again. Just under two weeks ago, Valve premiered its virtual reality-exclusive game Half-Life: Alyx. Immediately, the trailer alone got a roaring reception from Half-Life and VR fans alike. The game makes full use of Valve’s new VR system, with controllers that utilize native real-time finger tracking. Now, it appears that demand rose so sharply, the Steam store says that Index orders aren’t guaranteed for Christmas delivery.
Even with the new technology in the world, Valve fans and PC gamers of all types will look back on the Steam Controller with a degree of mixed fondness. It was definitely one of the, if not the, most customizable and input-heavy controllers on the market. This in part is due to its many, many feedback points, including the usual bumpers and buttons, but also some pressure-activated plates on the back of the handles. Plus, both “joysticks” are actually mini tracking pads, which provide haptic feedback when you roll a finger over them.
The goal was to make the Steam Controller flexible towards its wide library of games, and the effort is visible. But now, unfortunately, it’ll have to go down in history as another mixed-success Steam product. Here it joins the Steam Link, Valve’s other experiment in living-room gameplay.
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The Steam Link allowed users to hook up their TVs up to a small box — lighter but slightly bigger than a box of cards — and, like Chromecast, Steam games would process from the internet to the Steam Link. They’d more importantly be converted to HD before reaching the screen. Of course, given its nature, it required either really good wifi or a fittingly-long ethernet cord. At the end of its lifespan, it saw a similar closeout sale to the Steam Controller at $2.50, but then bumped back up to its original $49.99 price in its dying days.
At least with the discontinuation of Steam Link, Valve brought in Remote Play Together. The new system allows you to essentially “stream” games from one screen to any other with Remote Play Together installed. In short, it ends up serving a pretty similar purpose to the Steam Link, just without the weird plastic box. (You were gonna use a 60ft HDMI cable for your 4k smart TV anyway, right?)
With the Steam Controller, we unfortunately don’t see any kind of spiritual successors on the way, save for the Index’s high-tech controllers. Perhaps this was a one-time experiment in changing the way people play PC games. For better or worse, at least PlayStation and Xbox controllers are still compatible.