SteamPal - Valve's New Handheld PC?


“Will Steam be porting any games on consoles, or will it just stay on PC?” Gabe Newell was asked this question a few weeks ago by a student at a college in New Zealand.

“You will get a better idea of that by the end of this year… and it won’t be the answer you expect,” Newell responded. “You’ll say, ‘Ah-ha! Now I get what he was talking about.’”

Naturally, the Internet seemed to explode with YouTubers and the like theorizing what Gabe’s vague reply might mean. Gardiner Bryant suggested that Valve could be working on a game console. Other websites had a similar thought.

Well, that theory could very well be true – albeit in a portable form factor. Ars Technica reported about this earlier. Pavel Djundik, SteamDB operator, tweeted of Valve’s “Neptune” controller showing up in the latest beta Steam client. “SteamPal” became the new name for this controller/handheld.

Apparently, SteamPal (name may not be final) will come in a Nintendo Switch-style format – a touchscreen, USB-C connectivity, and buttons on both sides, with triggers, analog sticks, and perhaps a touchpad that looks similar to the touchpad found on the Steam controller. The hardware may be powered by Intel or AMD – which would be a plus in my book for the open-source Mesa driver support.

For Valve’s push for Linux, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the device will likely be pre-installed with some customized version of Linux. Perhaps a massive SteamOS 3.0 update is brewing, and that distribution will be on it.

Take this all with a grain of salt though: a lot of this is just speculation, and knowing Valve, they could cancel things at any given moment. We don’t even have any pictures of prototypes.

It will be interesting to see what price this will come at, if it actually becomes a reality, or if it’s possible to customize the hardware/software configuration. I don’t need to preach to the choir about how ridiculously expensive it is to obtain computer hardware these days. Maybe Valve had this hardware ahead of the pandemic. Who knows. It does seem to be a good time to be talking about it though, as 2021 seems to be the baby boom of x86-powered handheld PCs.