Valve is allegedly jumping back into hardware, working on a handheld PC similar to the Nintendo Switch, according to a new report from Ars Technica.
The publication spoke to "multiple sources familiar with the matter," who have confirmed that "the device has been in development for some time." This news follows the discovery of new hardware-related code that the latest version of Steam earlier today and pointed to a device codenamed “SteamPal.”
Valve's "Neptune" controller shows up in latest Steam client beta again.It's named "SteamPal" (NeptuneName) and it has a "SteamPal Games" (GameList_View_NeptuneGames)May 25, 2021
According to Pavel Djundik, the SteamDB operator who found the code, SteamPal is a derivative of the much less juicy term “Neptune,” which started showing up in Steam code in September and was assumed to be a type of controller.
But according to Ars Technica’s sources, the “SteamPal” is instead a Switch style all-in-one device with both a touchscreen and a built-in gamepad. Unfortunately, those controllers aren't reported to detach like on the Switch.
The publication’s sources also say the “SteamPal” will run via Linux and could launch by year’s end, assuming the supply chain doesn’t face any unexpected interruptions.
This revelation follows a talk that Valve co-founder Gabe Newell gave in New Zealand earlier this month where a student asked if the company would be “porting any games to consoles.” Newell responded by saying that "You will get a better idea of that by the end of this year... and it won't be the answer you expect.”
Newell also said that the eventual year-end reveal would be an aha moment, where we’d say to ourselves “Now I get what he was talking about.” The SteamPal seems like it could very easily fit that description.
While a Valve Switch clone would certainly be a tasty prospect, it wouldn’t be the first PC of its kind to hit the market. Recently, both the GPD Win 3 and the Aya Neo have been making the rounds as well-received iterations on the concept.
Ars Technica’s reporter on this subject, Sam Machkovech, has put his full weight behind his sources, saying he can “confirm the device’s existence and development.” That said, he also admits that "Valve is still in a position to change gears (pun intended) at a moment’s notice," acknowledging that the SteamPal might not come to market, either this year or at all.
Valve has a rocky history with hardware, with the Steam controller having been discontinued in 2019, while living room "Steam Machines" didn't see a ton of love from manufacturers. Still, we’ll have to wait to see if the company can beat smaller but more proven contenders like GPD this time around.