Nobody Wants to Game on Mouse and Keyboard Anymore

It’s been a long while since we saw any Valve branding on a controller that didn’t have a screen attached to it. Then, out of the blue, Valve’s helping a Japanese gaming hardware company, Hori, stick a Steam button on a brand new controller. At the same time, why is arguably the most influential company in PC gaming promoting the rise of the controller, perhaps upsetting the absolute supremacy of the mouse and keyboard? Is this a true paradigm shift in PC gaming?

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Come on, no—of course not. It simply represents the shift in portability for PC gaming. It’s evident by what kinds of controllers Valve decides to promote. Valve hasn’t released a new version of the Steam Controller since its original debut in 2014. Now, here comes Hori with the new Horipad for Steam. It’s a wired/Bluetooth wireless controller that sports many of the same buttons on a Steam Deck.

Despite sporting the Valve logo and being built to support gaming on Steam, it lacks in several key areas. It doesn’t sport any rumble, a headphone jack, or trackpads. It has two back paddles and two programmable buttons underneath the bottom joystick, but that’s two fewer back buttons than a Steam Deck has.

It’s about $50, but it will only be available in Japan this summer, with no word on a Western release. It’s not a bad price, but anybody who wants rumble will be better off with a more available controller option if they don’t already have one. According to newly released statistics from Valve, Steam’s daily average controller use on the world’s biggest PC gaming platform went up from 5% in 2018 to 15%.

First of all, there’s a fair few caveats there. In 2018, Valve recorded a high of 18.5 million peak concurrent users, but in 2023, the company boasted 33 million peak concurrent users. You don’t nearly double the average player counts without a few more distinct classes of gamers moving in who may not be keen on the old M&K setup.

It would help if you also considered the changing hardware landscape. Valve says 10% of those controller users are on Steam Decks. Another 85% are split between PlayStation and Xbox controllers, with more falling on Microsoft’s side—less than half of those using a controller with Valve’s Steam Input controller support.

It’s interesting how Valve would consider the Steam Deck as a controller for its purposes. Valve’s stats make it unclear whether other handhelds like the Asus ROG Ally, Lenovo Legion Go, or any smaller brands also count as controllers.

A Steam Deck is far more than a screen attached to a controller. If you treat the Steam Deck as a PC, you can get rather crafty with how and what you use it for. I’ve written an entire guide of apps and clients you can access with Steam Decks. Most players will likely use it as a vehicle for on-the-go gaming,

The mouse and keyboard are not floating away on a tide of irrelevance, but a contingent of older gamers seem to gravitate toward controllers. There’s a push among competitive Call of Duty players to switch to controller.

Then there are folks like me: the aging and decrepit. I look at my desk, at the old keyboard sitting there that’s so over-used that the finish on the WASD keys has been worn away to the bare plastic by my coarse fingertips, and I get sick at the idea of shackling myself to a desk for any lengthy gaming session.

Everybody has a preference. For the time being, I have either my Steam Deck, PlayStation 5 DualSense, or SCUF Envision Pro, and that is specifically for PC. I have a Gulikit KK3 Max I’ve been testing a few times when I want to go hard on my brother’s Nintendo Switch, but my poor mouse and keyboard will continue to rot unless I have some specific use for them.


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