Back in January, Valve announced that they would be reworking the button design of the Steam controller. Now the prototype design has been assembled, replacing the original layout around a touchscreen (shown below on the left) to a more traditional square diamond design that removes the touchpad (shown below on the right).
The Steam logo has been allocated to a Home-style button like those found on modern console controllers, with Play and Stop buttons potentially function like Start and Select as well as for media playback. This redesign does seem to make the controller more Windows-friendly, as the layout is similar to the Xbox 360 and should play nicely with the same XInput drivers.
One noteworthy thing to point out about the design, however, is the use of separate buttons for the D-Pad. It helps to make the control system ambidextrous, since the left, right, or both trackpads can be used as mouse inputs. Having separate buttons for left-handed gamers is pretty cool, but it also means that there isn’t a solid D-Pad for precise control in games that need them, like 2D fighting games.
It remains to be seen if the design works for those kinds of games, or if this is even the final prototype, but the Steam controller will be available to demo at GDC 2014 this week. No announcement has been made on when the controller will go on sale, but it will likely be released this year alongside the first Steam Machines and the launch of SteamOS.