After the runaway success of the Nintendo Switch, rival gadget makers are keen to make their own handheld consoles. According to a new report, Valve is the latest to jump on the portable gaming bandwagon.
According to multiple sources who spoke to Ars Technica, it seems Valve has plans to create its own PC-based Switch clone—hardware for the device is said to have been in development for “some time.” Today SteamDB creator Pavel Djundik discovered new code in Steam referencing a device named Neptune—which first appeared last year—along with a brand new device called the “SteamPal.”
While the device’s final name has reportedly yet to be determined, the Ars Technica report indicates that the SteamPal is designed to be a larger PC-based Switch clone featuring a portable design powered by an Intel or AMD chip with a central touchscreen and attached controllers, though unlike the Switch, the SteamPal’s controllers are not expected to be removable.
As part of Valve’s push to bring more games to Linux, the SteamPal will “likely” feature a Linux-based OS, Ars Technica reports, though it’s possible Valve could make the SteamPal compatible with Windows 10 as well. Similar to the Nintendo Switch, the SteamPal is expected to output video to external displays via USB-C, while the SteamPal’s controllers are expected to come with a “standard array” of buttons, triggers, and joysticks, in addition to a small touchpad and maybe even a D-Pad.
However, despite targeting PC games, the SteamPal isn’t expected to have a physical keyboard, and it’s still unknown if Valve has plans to create a dedicated dock for the SteamPal either.
Thee SteamPal is reportedly currently still in the prototype stage, but it seems Valve president and co-founder Gabe Newell has been dropping hints about an upcoming Steam console that could arrive as soon as the end of the year.
If Valve intends to release the SteamPal sometime in the near future, it will be fighting an uphill battle on a number of fronts. The first is that Valve’s history with gaming hardware has been rather hit-or-miss, with its Steam Machines initiative from 2014 failing to grab mainstream attention. Other projects like the Steam Link and Steam Controller were eventually replaced by an app and third-party controller support, respectively. On the flip side, Valve’s most recent device, the Valve Index, remains one of the most sophisticated VR headsets on the market, though admittedly that’s within a still somewhat niche segment.
On top of that, since the Nintendo Switch’s launch in 2017, there have been no shortage of PC-based switch clones. We’ve seen prototype devices like Dell’s Project UFO, which after almost a year and a half still hasn’t seen the light of day, Lenovo’s LaVie Mini concept, and all the other PC-based Switch clones from companies like GPD, Aya, and others. Even Qualcomm has been rumored to be working on its own Switch-like gaming handheld, which is reportedly due out sometime in early 2022.
But if the Ars Technica report and Newell’s hints are accurate, we could get a better picture of what the SteamPal really is before the end of the year, though the ongoing global chip crunch may throw some wrenches into Valve’s original timeline.