Steam Controller images, found within the latest Steam Client Beta application, seem to show a new design for Valve's ever evolving PC gaming peripheral. We understand that designing a gamepad, that is supposed to equal or better the PC gaming experience offered by ye olde keyboard and mouse, is a challenge. Thus it will be interesting to see if this latest controller design is anything near the final shipping version – whenever that happens.
Looking back through previous Steam Controller designs and redesigns the overall silhouette of the controller has remained remarkably unchanged. That's probably because the overall shape more-or-less follows an industry standard of ergonomics and isn't claimed to be revolutionary, or even represent "a new kind of input technology". However the face of the controller's touchable furniture seems to be tweaked, changed and chopped around pretty regularly.
While it's understandable that different recipes must be tried out to discover the perfect plum pudding, it's hard to know if this latest design is substantially better than the first iteration. Small changes to controllers and button layouts, for example, can have big impacts on your game playing.
Looking at the new controller image, above (I've shifted the mid-levels for easy visibility), a number of gaming publications have concluded that the large left control area, which used to be one of the pair of haptic thumb pads, is now a D-Pad. However the flat shot of the image might not show such a piece of input control hardware, it could easily just be the same haptic pad with different textures - to help guide your thumb movement perhaps.
Alternatively, as suggested by Joystiq, the new D-Pad image could actually be such an input device which has been switched for the left side haptic controller. That sounds like some kind of modular option – it could be that you can switch Steam Controller components and/or overlays for different gaming purposes.
While we ponder these questions we hope and expect that we shall receive a thorough update about the state of Steam Controller (and Steam Machines and the Steam OS), at the GDC which kicks off on 2nd March 2015.
Please let us know what you think of this Steam Controller redesign.