In its latest update to the Steam client beta, Valve has added native support for a wide variety of popular games controllers, allowing gamers to play games which didn't originally have controller support. It's another important step forward in bringing the huge variety of PC games into the living room.
The new feature allows for Xinput controllers, including the Xbox 360 and Xbox One pads, plus a huge number of third-party devices that support the Microsoft controller standard, to control games that were never intended for it. It uses the same interface as the Steam Controller itself, so it looks as though Valve isn't content to limit support for PC sofa gaming to its own device.
This allows Steam to promote a far wider range of its back catalogue of games to sofa-dwelling PC gamers, and allows for traditional keyboard-and-mouse genres such as strategy games to be played using a typical controller, without having to invest in a Steam Controller.
Attempts by players in the PC market to break into the living room have been growing over recent years. There are three main strands to this strategy at present. The first is to have a slimline gaming PC in the living room, though that's only for the keenest given prices are high compared to traditional consoles. The second option is to have a box that streams from a PC elsewhere in your home, great for those with all that hardware but a multiple device approach will put many off.
Finally, there's cloud streaming services, such as Nvidia's GeForce Now, that allows PC games to be played without a gaming PC in the home. Hook a controller up to any old laptop and gamers can play digital titles they've bought online from all the major providers - including Steam.
The advantage for publishers is clear, if gamers can play PC games in comfort without needing to have a gaming PC in their living room, or even in their house then hopefully they can find a rich vein of new customers for their titles, and without relying on the traditional console platform holders to sell in hardware.
It's all another small step in breaking down the barriers to entry for PC gaming, eventually allowing for almost instantaneous access to games without all the usual faff of hardware and installs. Gamers will still need a controller of course, but then you still need a remote control to watch TV and that doesn't seem to stop anyone.
The new feature is available in the beta at present and will roll out officially in the next proper update.