Steam and Nintendo are Botching Controller Design

Steam and Nintendo are Botching Controller Design

The final official Steam controller has just been revealed and frankly, I’m not impressed. It fell into the same trap that Nintendo did with its new pro controller, that being that the positioning of the buttons and analog stick are almost certain to make the controller a pain to use.

Let’s talk about ergonomic design for a second. Take a totally blank controller body and hold it. Imagine taking the Steam Controller with no buttons and holding it in your hand. Usually, your humbs end up resting on either side of the controller, where those big-ass touch pads are right now. When an effective controller is designed, controls that are used most frequently are put in those positions, and I’m not entirely sure those touchpads are going to be the most frequently used.

The Xbox 360 controller got this right. The analog stick goes on the left, and the face buttons go on the right. Very simple. The PS3 controller also did decently well. Its analog sticks were on the bottom, but since the PS3 was known for RPGs and fighting games, the d-pad got a lot of use, so we can tall this a stylistic difference. Not only that, but having two analog sticks on level with each other really helps with games such as Katamari Damacy, which used RC car style controls.

But the new Steam Controller and Nintendo’s Wii U Pro Controller take this design and totally reverse it. They put the analog sticks, or in the Steam Controller’s case, the touch pads, where your thumbs would naturally rest, and make you reach for the controls you actually want to use. On the left side, this isn’t the biggest problem as you are usually just rocking your thumb across a stick or a d-pad in order to change direction. But on the right, when you have to reach downward with your thumb to hit face buttons, this is a definite recipe for carpal tunnel.

Not only that, but there is a problem with any sensing apparatus being directly above a set of face buttons. You see, on a PS3 controller, when you use the left analog stick which is below the d-pad, your thumb is situated higher than the d-pad, meaning the chance of hitting it is actually rather slim.

Steam and Nintendo are Botching Controller Design

On the Xbox 360, things were a little bit awkward, as the rocky d-pad sat underneath the stick which meant that there was a chance of fake inputs by brushing past the stick on the way to the d-pad, and the d-pad itself wasn’t exactly the most accurate, so this lead to a whole bunch of false inputs.

On the Nintendo Pro Controller this is even worse, as the face buttons, which are the button you use most of the time, are underneath an analog stick, leading to even more false inputs.

But the Steam controller perhaps did it the worst way yet. The steam controller put touch pads over the analog stick and face buttons. So even if a piece of your fat hand accidentally touches these pads while you play, you will get false inputs, and I have a feeling that is going to be absurdly annoying.

What do you think? Do you like the design of the new Steam controller? Let us know in the comments.

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