Home > News

Controller usage on Steam has tripled since 2018, with a little help from the Steam Deck

The Steam Deck's influence shows
Last Updated on June 27, 2024
This free to play game is playable on Steam Deck and the Verified original is 75% off
PC Guide is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read More
You can trust PC Guide: Our team of experts use a combination of independent consumer research, in-depth testing where appropriate - which will be flagged as such, and market analysis when recommending products, software and services. Find out how we test here.

Valve recently released statistics highlighting a significant rise in controller usage on Steam. Daily controller use has tripled since 2018, jumping from around 5% to a healthy 15%. As using controllers on PC gets more popular, we take a look at exactly why – don’t worry, we don’t exactly want to touch on the aim assist debate right now.

This surge in controller popularity coincides with the success of the Steam Deck, a handheld gaming PC that offers a console-like experience, released in early 2022. The Steam Deck’s success not only boosted controller usage on Steam but also highlighted the growing demand for versatile and accessible PC gaming experiences.

Official imagery of the Steam Deck, source: Steam

Steam Input brings in more users

A key contributor to this trend is Steam Input, a powerful feature that allows players to customize their controller experience for any game on Steam. Even titles that lack native controller support can be enjoyed seamlessly thanks to Steam Input’s ability to map keyboard and mouse inputs to a controller.

This versatility is a major selling point for Steam, offering players a wide range of control options regardless of the game they choose. Stats show that around 42% of controller sessions are using Steam Input.

Recognizing the growing importance of controllers, Valve has actively improved Steam Input to enhance accessibility and expand customization possibilities. Key additions include:

  • Gyro Aiming: This innovative feature utilizes the controller’s gyroscope for improved aiming precision, particularly in first-person shooter games.
  • Virtual Menus: Steam Input can create on-screen menus that appear when specific controller buttons are pressed, streamlining navigation within games that weren’t designed for controllers.
  • A Better Configurator: The interface for customizing controller layouts has been revamped for a more user-friendly experience.

These improvements, coupled with the recent update to Steam’s Big Picture mode and enhanced support for PlayStation and Xbox controllers, further solidify Steam’s commitment to providing a fantastic controller experience. The future of Steam Input looks bright.

The statistics reveal some interesting insights into the controller landscape on Steam. Xbox controllers reign supreme, accounting for 59% of all controller sessions. PlayStation controllers follow closely behind at 26%, while the Steam Deck itself makes up 10%. The remaining 5% is undisclosed.

This data suggests a clear preference for Xbox controllers among Steam users – a long-standing fact given better historical support for Xbox controllers on Windows in general (even before Steam Input was introduced). Sadly, no mention of Valve’s own Steam Controller, though Hori is releasing a controller of its own for Steam users.

With Valve’s continued development efforts, players can expect even more innovative features that push the boundaries of controller customization. This, combined with the rising popularity of controllers on Steam, creates an exciting environment for gamers who enjoy the comfort and familiarity of a controller.

Tom is a tech writer with a detailed view on ensuring the best buying advice, most useful information, and latest news makes its way into PC Guide's articles.