The American Video Game giant, Valve, is secretly working on building a Switch-like handheld portable PC designed to run many games on the Steam PC platform via Linux with a touchscreen, gamepad controls, and Nintendo-Style architecture designed by either Intel or AMD. However, the unit is still in the prototype stage, and so some features could change.
Valve’s latest Steam client beta has pointed towards the possibility of a future hardware release, suggesting that it will be a handheld console.
Pavel Djundik, creator of SteamDB, who has often dug up interesting new strings showing up in Steam updates, has a new Twitter thread going over some new appearances that have created a sensation and got people to rack their brains,
He spotted the change in Steam’s code, which indicated a new device named “SteamPal.” The name, which is not final, is a derivative of a previously discovered code term, “Neptune,” which began appearing in September of last year and came with a “Neptune Optimized Games” string. New appearances are seen mentioning a “Neptune” controller along with things like “GameList_View_NeptuneGames,” “SteamPal Games,” and also mentioning entries related to quick access and power menu. Not only that, but there are also earlier mentions of a “Callisto Developer Program” and “Device Optimized Games” going by what Djundik found. There are also strings relating to a low battery notification, Bluetooth and airplane toggles, and the options to restart, shut down, and suspending. But suspending what?
These hidden strings in the code point towards the possibility of a handheld console by Steam. Details on crucial hardware aspects like battery size, screen size, pixel resolution, memory, and storage capacity.
There are no concrete details on crucial hardware aspects like battery size, screen size, pixel resolution, memory, and storage capacity. Valve will likely not include a QWERTY keyboard but instead a standard array of gamepad buttons and triggers, along with a pair of joysticks, touch-screen maybe, and at least one thumb-sized touchpad. The SteamPal’s touchpad is likely smaller than the pair of touchpads that came standard on every Steam Controller.
Recently, Valve’s Gabe Newell spoke at Sancta Maria College in Auckland, New Zealand that was highlighted in a deleted Reddit post where Newell was asked about Steam on consoles, to which Newell replied, “You will get a better idea of that by the end of this year… and it won’t be the answer you expect.” “You’ll say, ‘Ah-ha! Now I get what he was talking about.’” This reply might be the clue of releasing ‘SteamPal.’
The new Valve console being powered by Linux makes sense, as it would be up to Valve for customizations and no worries to deal with licensing fees. In addition, it could easily anchorage all the work Valve has put into Linux graphics drivers, Steam Play, maybe Gamescope, and more work done by Valve put into Linux.
In recent years, the “Switch-Like” category has exploded. In early 2020, Alienware revealed its first Switch-like gaming PC, but being just a concept, it has not yet turned into a commercial product. If you are eager to get hands-on a similar machine, you are largely looking at products from Chinese OEMs like GPD, One-Netbook, and Aya, who have merged ultramobile PC processors and parts into a Switch-like chassis.
Valve has had its share of rocky hardware launches, especially with the Steam Machine. Steam Machines were unsuccessful due to partnering with other OEMs and as they had taken up a market of the desktop system when the marketplace was already inundated with them. But Switch-like PCs are still an entirely new market—and one where Valve might very well succeed based on getting in earlier than other major Western manufacturers.
Then again, it could end up just being a Steam Controller 2. There is no problem with that, but people want more Switch-like consoles as the market demands it too, and if Valve succeeds, it will be an epic sight to see.