For the last year or so I have bought PC games that refuse to work with anything other than the USB XBox 360 controller. I have been happy to use my Logitech USB gamepads but I have really started to use them more on my PC recently and have been a bit annoyed they just don't work with certain games. Since I don't buy PC hardware that ONLY works on Windows, I looked into the 360 controller support on Linux. It seems a few enterprising folks added support for it in the Linux Kernel and they have reported it works very well. So after a few months of mulling it over I decided to drop a few bucks and pick up the 360 controller.

If you know me, you know I am not a Microsoft fanboy. For the most part, most of what they create isn't interesting to me. That said, over the years I have come to love a few things they have created. Most notably the Microsoft ergonomic Keyboard and after using it, the 360 controller for PC. Holeee crap, this thing is wicked awesome. Force feedback, feels great in your hands, well set buttons and the analog sticks are superb. Oh and did I mention it works great on Linux too?

That said, the controller doesn't work on Mac out of the box so you must install this driver to get it working.

After the driver installed and I rebooted the controller worked on my Mac without a hitch. I hope Apple adds the 360 controller as supported hardware in a later OS patch!

I fired up some of the games that refused to work with my old Logitec gamepads and they worked great with the 360 controller. Whereas I think game developers should make their games work with a wide array of controllers, its nice to just have the damn thing work right.

One of the things I wanted to try after picking up the 360 controller was how well Big Picture Mode worked in Steam. Big Picture Mode is a mode in Steam that allows you to control Steam and launch games with a gamepad. I wondered how seamless it would be to start up Steam in Big Picture Mode and launch games and play them with ONLY my gamepad. I know Valve has been putting much love into Big Picture Mode and I wanted to see just how well a Steam Box would work now.

I first started with Windows. I figure this should work the best as it supports the most games and because of this should be the most used. While you are in Big Picture Mode many of the games have a controller icon visible that lets you know how well the game is gamepad supported. Many games have a full black controller letting the user know this game is VERY well supported. Some games have a half white half black controller letting the user know the game has some controller support BUT may require you use a keyboard and a mouse to set that up or get the game to launch correctly.

A few games worked flawlessly in Big Picture Mode on Windows such as Borderlands 2, Awesomenauts, Skyrim & Portal 2. A few other games worked well enough, but required a keyboard and mouse to set them up correctly. All in all things seemed to work VERY well and I was surprised how seamless it all was.

I decided to test big picture mode on my Mac and wasn't left with as awesome results as Windows. Many games opened and required a keyboard and mouse to switch to the gamepad and the switch from Steam to the game was a bit jilted. Overall it wasn't awesome but worked ok. I won't be using my Mac laptop as a faux Steambox as I planned, it just doesn't feel right.

The last thing I tried was Big Picture Mode on Linux and it worked as well as Windows. I have personally found Steam's support on Linux to be better than the Mac. There are more games on Mac to be sure, but things seem a bit more clean and games run a bit smoother. That said, Linux big picture mode worked well and launched awesomely for the few games I had installed.

After picking up the 360 controller for PC and checking out Big Picture Mode again I am considering never purchasing a console again. That said, I may drop Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft in favor of Valve's Steambox. With Steam Cloud Saves and the thought of playing a game in my living room and then on my PC is VERY compelling to me. Apparently the first "Steambox" will be released this December if all goes according to plan. At this point it looks like a smaller form factor PC and I hope it works out well for Valve. Because, really shouldn't our games seamlessly move from the PC to the living room by now? Seems like few companies are setup to do that and I put Valve at the head of the line for making it happen.

beansmyname   Supporter wrote on 07/21/2013 at 11:54pm

I, too, am looking at a future where I am no longer playing games on a console. Since the PS3's BluRay drive gave out, I've been questioning more and more whether I want to get a new console to replace this one when it dies. After the XBOX One and PS4 announcements at E3, the needle on the console/computer gauge swung toward computer. When I got a computer that let me play games that ran poorly on my laptop, the needle pegged on the computer side.

Exception: Valve's Steambox.

Big picture mode runs like a dream on my computer, my wired PS3 controller works (using the linux xboxdrv driver) and there are now ~230 games available for Linux. That's where the Steambox dream ends for me, though. There are ~230 games available but the biggest AAA titles come from Valve themselves and a few titles still have yet to be ported, most notably Portal 2 and CS:GO.

This lack of Linux titles from other major publishers is the only thing I can see stifling sales of Valve's foray into console gaming. Sure, there's DOTA 2, L4D2 and TF2 but if Source is the only engine ported to work well in Linux, there's going to be a huge hole in many Steam users' libraries on the Steambox.

I'm waiting patiently now for revelations on the SPECS and PRICING. Once that's available, I'll see which way the needle swings. For now, I'm looking at piecing together a gaming rig and leaving consoles behind.

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