Valve says no to third-party Steam Controllers

Valve says no to third-party Steam Controllers
Seth Tipps

By Seth Tipps

November 12th 2013 at 8:36AM

Dual-touchpad input device won't be trusted to third-parties, says Valve's Greg Coomer

Valve won't let third parties design and sell their own Steam controllers like it's encouraging them to do with Steam machines, the company has revealed.

In an interview with IGN, Valve's Greg Coomer said his company will supply Steam Controllers to third-parties that want to make their own Steam Machines.

“The controller is going to be a Valve product,” said Coomer.

“We’re going to manufacture it. We’re going to supply all the people who are making third party Steam Machines with controllers.”

While Valve will probably have to allow third-party controllers to work on SteamOS if it doesn't want to spend millions of dollars and even more man-hours trying to defy one of the fundamental laws of Linux, the point here is branding.

A company with a reputation like Valve's can't afford to hand control of what is arguably the most delicate aspect of its push for the living-room PC.

“It’s really because we want the controllers to exist. We want them to have the attributes that we think are important, that allow people to play all the games on Steam, and we didn’t think that it was really going to be possible to outsource the design for manufacturing and the finishing of the controller in a way that would allow third parties to take from us an idea or a reference design and bring it to market soon enough,” explained Coomer.

“We just think that, for now, at least, we have to do that ourselves. So we’re going to be doing high volume production of the controller for ourselves.”

This doesn't mean that Valve wants to go into the manufacturing business – an area they've been warned is a very different enterprise than software development.

“It’s not really because we’re super anxious to get in the hardware business and we think it’s the best way to turn 90 degrees and start racing toward success in hardware and making money in that way,” said Coomer, who admits that the company is going to be at a disadvantage when it comes to cost.

“We think we are disadvantaged when it comes to cost,” he said.

“We’re making a lot of decisions that are not actually optimized for cost. We’re not going to lose money when we go make the controller. We have enough confidence around that, that we’ve thought through the manufacturing. But we’re also not looking at it the same way that typical hardware manufacturers would look at it.”

Coomer says that a few design decisions - like going with touchpads rather than trackballs - have actually lowered the cost, and he's confident that Valve has what it takes to make the complex business of supply chain management work.

“We’ve got a pretty clear picture of what it’s going to take to bring this to market,” he said.

“We’re very confident that we’re within the ballpark we need to be in so that this isn’t going to turn out to be a non-starter in terms of cost. It’s just not our primary focus.”