Back in 2015 when the original Steam controller debuted, people were skeptical. The look was somewhat alien with a non-traditional d-pad layout, and an integrated touch surface. The controller flopped on release, and even though it sold well thanks to the clout Valve has in the PC space, it was very quickly forgotten by most users. Valve even tried to liquidate their remaining stocks in December 2019 and ended up having to cancel orders, after users bought way too many of them.
With the original Steam controller failing miserably for a variety of reasons, mostly down to the lack of enthusiasm from the core of Valve’s PC audience, and it seems the company is keen to avoid those mistakes again with a new variant of the design that offers improved controls and some other QoL improvements. Judging by the patent, uncovered by Tyler McVicker (via PCGamesN), Valve is aiming to push a ton of customization options into the new version. The patent suggests more of a redesign than a fully new controller, with the Steam controller 2.0 retaining the control layout from the first version to a degree.
The “dynamic swapping of controls for changing the configuration of the controller to meet the needs of different applications” is one element of the filing that has speculation running rampant. This would imply something like a macro function that would allow hot-swapping of control schemes. This could be really useful for PC gamers who like to rely on controllers for certain reasons, and want to design their own custom button layouts for the sake of comfort.
The customization options don’t end with mapping though, the patent also suggests that Valve is designing the new Steam controller to be fully reworkable by the end user. “If a controller currently couples to a back cover having four buttons as opposed to two, then a gaming application or platform may recommend games that are compatible with … the four-button back cover,” the patent states.