Steam is stepping up its controller support game for developers

JC Torres - Feb 24, 2021, 9:39pm CST
Steam is stepping up its controller support game for developers

Once upon a time, Steam envisioned homes with a Steam Machine gaming box in their living rooms. The idea of playing PC games on such a large screen and on the comfort of your couch would have gone well if not for the fact that most PC games are designed with keyboard and mouse in mind. That may no longer be true today, with a variety of games across genres advertising support for game controllers. With Steam’s latest dashboard feature, the PC gaming market’s biggest distributor is telling developers to start caring about controller support.

Steam has long had support for a variety of controllers, including those from Xbox and PlayStation consoles, but that doesn’t mean games on Steam are anywhere near having perfect support for them. According to Steam’s latest stats, however, there are 48 million players that have used a controller in a Steam game, suggesting that the trends have shifted. It is, perhaps, also time for developers to shift their expectations as well.

Steam is adding new reports n its Steamworks Sales & Activations Dashboard to give developers a hint at how controllers are being used in their games, if at all. It shows how many players have controllers, how many of them used controllers in this particular game, and which of the controllers that Steam supports are actually being used. This could tell developers whether they need to improve their controller support and in what ways.

Steam itself provides two “easy” ways for developers to add controller support. The easiest is Gamepad Emulation that lets Steam do the heavy lifting of mapping game actions to gamepad controls. Although more involved, the Steam Input API gives more flexibility and power while still removing the hassle of targeting each and every PS or Xbox controller out there.

Curiously, Valve’s announcement seems to revolve around improving PlayStation controller support, perhaps due to recently adding support for the new PS5 DualSense controller. It also urges developers to at least provide PS button icons in games where players are prompted to press a certain button, a concept that might be alien to PC games driven by keyboards and mice.

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