If the Nintendo Switch has proven anything, it’s that being able to play previously PC-only indies on the go rules. Soon, though, you might not need to wait for Switch ports of your Steam-powered faves: a new report claims Valve is working on its own handheld.
The report comes from Ars Technica and cites “multiple” sources who are familiar with the device. According to Ars, the device — codenamed “SteamPal” — will run “a large number” of Steam games via Linux and could launch as early as the end of this year. The report further describes SteamPal as “an all-in-one PC with gamepad controls and a touchscreen,” though notably sans any sort of removable Joy Con equivalent. This naturally leads to questions about what, exactly, about it is Switch-like aside from its portable form factor — which, in fairness, has inspired a number of portable PCs since its release.
For now, Valve is apparently still prototyping the machine and will likely lean on either AMD or Intel for hardware, but form factor remains up in the air. Ars describes one variant as “quite wide” compared to the Switch, so as to accommodate gamepad buttons, triggers, a pair of joysticks, a thumb-sized touchpad, and of course, a touch-sensitive screen.
This report is corroborated by recent additions to Steam’s code that were discovered earlier today by SteamDB developer Pavel Djundik. These include “SteamPal” and “SteamPal Games” in relation to another Valve codename, “Neptune,” which Steam users first came across last year. All of this, apparently, refers to Valve’s in-development handheld.
Additionally, Valve head Gabe Newell seems to have hinted at the device’s existence earlier this year during a panel at a New Zealand school, responding to questions about Valve’s plans for games on consoles by saying, “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.’”
As Ars notes, however, nothing in development at Valve is a sure bet. Valve, more than most video game companies, is fine with bringing a project most of the way to life, only to pull the plug at the last second. Plus, Valve’s previous attempts at more traditional video game hardware — the Steam Controller and Steam Machines — never quite caught on, so I’m guessing Valve wants to nail this one, rather than dropping another device that contorts human hands into crab claws. The company’s luxury VR headset, the Valve Index, suggests promising steps in the right direction. Here’s hoping that the SteamPal does not also come with a luxury price tag.