Steam is looking to encourage PlayStation users to spend more time with its platform by officially embracing PS controller-specific support. The latest Steam patch will now integrate, identify and provide input API for PlayStation DualSense and DualShock controllers, thereby providing the required tools to game developers and information to its users. The patch note further specifies console-specific controller support either as a full or partial integration.
With this major addition, Valve enabled sorting and filters to highlight games compatible with these controllers via Steam’s controller-friendly hub. This also includes a controller configuration button conveniently placed on the play bar. Developers can now specify controller recommendations in their game’s respective listings.
Valve’s Interest in PlayStation Users
The common ground between the platforms is the controller. Unlike consoles, the PC platform doesn’t have any restrictions to disallow support. It depends on the input API. And Valve felt now was the best time to roll out this integration, as 12% of Steam’s active players on its platform regularly use a controller to play its games. It acknowledges many games are played with controllers almost exclusively. One of the oldest games I could think of is Rocket League. But you can include any sports or racing games, certain RPGs and fighting games like Street Fighter 6 and Tekken. Because of its vast collection of games and global player base, Steam was able to gather the following data:
- There were over 3 billion game sessions that included a controller in the past year
- 60% Xbox controller
- 27% PlayStation models
- The remaining % is made up of Steam Deck, Switch Pro, and hundreds of other controller models
- The same period four years ago (ending Nov 2019) had 990 Million controller sessions
- 76% Xbox controllers
- 19% PlayStation controllers
- During these four years, PlayStation controllers saw a 4x increase in sessions
A combination of official and third-party controllers using XInput and DirectInput gets detected in Steam as an Xbox controller by default. Hence, it is not very shocking to see a 60% share with Xbox controllers. It is still remarkable to see 27% of Steam’s user base using PlayStation controllers in 2023 while identifying a noticeable increase since 2019. Steam attributes this to PlayStation 4 and 5 console sales globally, while acknowledging that some of its player base would use Sony’s controllers on Steam as a plug-and-play device. Since Valve recognizes the significant use of PlayStation controllers in its platforms, it is only natural to see input API, division and identification of controller-specific games.
Steam succeeds while Console makers wouldn’t tread
While console players would like to take a slice of each other’s market share with exclusive game titles and other features, Steam plays on its strong points by providing seamless support on the PC for PlayStation users to alternate with using the same controller. This wouldn’t make people replace PlayStation for PC, but will likely result in a more active user base. You’ll never see PlayStation or Xbox do this type of cross-integration. While there are unofficial Playstation controllers, notably fight sticks, that use either Brooke Fusion or the open-source GP2040-CE PCBs, Xbox recently put its foot down and disabled third-party controller support, something that didn’t go well with many of its users.
Steam’s New Classification for Controller Support
The controller support will now specify ‘Full’ and ‘Partial’ controller support differentiating USB and Bluetooth connections for DualSense and DualShock. What this means is that games with full controller support indicate almost all in-game actions and interactions seamlessly. It doesn’t necessarily mean it uses every feature on the controller. It is also not certain if gamers will be able to use the audio port via the PlayStation controller, as you’d think it would need Steam to recognize it as a separate audio output somehow.
A partial controller indicates that some elements may not work even if the controller is seen just fine. As an example, some specific interactions might not work or the game might suggest the wrong key to trigger an in-game action. This wouldn’t render your controller completely useless but rather require you to operate with a keyboard and mouse when the situation arises.
Valve admits this addition is more complicated than Xbox controllers. Hence, Steam is actively encouraging developers to use its input API for all console controllers, including Switch. This will take time, but naturally many developers should eventually integrate either full or partial support for PS controllers with its games. Thanks to Steam’s input API, many indie developers will be encouraged to do the same. Seeing these stats, developers should be encouraged to enable all of the console-specific controller functions such as adaptive triggers and haptic feedback for many of its games. If not, the recognition of partial support with PlayStation controllers goes a long way.
While some are surprised that only 12% of Steam gamers use controllers, that’s a very large share when you think keyboard and mouse dominate a large section of Steam because of many of its long-running multiplayer titles like Counter-Strike, and now CS2 and Apex Legends.