Hori's new 'Steam Controller' might be the first third party Steam hardware we've seen in years, but where are its trackpads, its adorable owl-like face?

Two Steam-branded Hori controllers on a desk by a keyboard
(Image credit: Valve, Hori)

First reported by The Verge, peripherals manufacturer Hori is making an official Steam-branded controller set to release in Japan on October 31. While this is a Steam controller, it's not a Steam Controller if you take my meaning. But this is the first time Valve has licensed the Steam branding to a third party hardware manufacturer since the quiet death of the ill-starred Steam Machines.

Like many beautiful things in this fallen world⁠—the works of Vincent van Gogh, RPG powerhouse Troika Games, the 1995 film Johnny Mnemonic⁠—the Steam Controller was not appreciated in its time, only getting a wistful, bittersweet reappraisal after the fact. Yes it definitely needed a second analogue stick, and maybe could have benefitted from a rechargeable battery instead of two double-As, but it was something strange and new, and its software support helped usher in a new era of customization for gamepad controls on PC

The Wireless Horipad for Steam, meanwhile, just looks like an acceptable but replacement-level mid-budget controller. As The Verge points out, it seems to be based on (and a slight upgrade to) Hori's previous Horipad Pro for Xbox Series. You get Bluetooth wireless and some programmable buttons⁠—definitely some steps above a super budget controller like the Logitech F310 favored by doomed submariners everywhere, but nothing that gets me super-excited like drift-proof Hall Effect analogue sticks.

So no true Steam Controller 2, and it's not even certain it will ever break containment in Japan, but it is notable to see Valve dip its toe back into Steam-branded hardware licensing. The game studio turned tech company's Steam Machines, an initiative to partner with companies like Alienware and Gigabyte to deliver console-competitive living room PCs, famously petered out. While the Steam Deck has ushered in a new era of handheld PC gaming, competitors like the ROG Ally haven't bent the knee to buy into a unified Deck ecosystem or anything.

It's hard to say if this is indicative of the company's future plans though: Valve doesn't bet on losers, and even a successful game or project may not get the full support you'd expect—I don't know if we can expect more like this controller in the future. The Wireless Horipad for Steam might just be a budget PC gamepad, but the tradition of all failed Valve hardware initiatives weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. 

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.