A few weeks ago, Valve boss Gabe Newell said the Steam giant had something planned for console gaming that fans would learn more about later this year.
At the time, an obvious guess was more games, but it seems this might not be the case. According to an "exclusive" from Ars Technica's Tech Culture Editor, Sam Machkovech, the PC video game company responsible for titles like Counter-Strike, Portal and Dota 2 is reportedly gearing up to announce a "Switch-like" device.
A recent change in Steam's code refers to it as the "SteamPal" and it follows on from the discovery of the "Neptune Optimized Games" string, which began appearing in Steam's code last September and was assumed to be some type of controller. Ars Technica's exclusive confirms the SteamPal is indeed "true" and will be an "all-in-one" portable PC with gamepad controls and even a touchscreen.
"In other words, it looks and functions like a Nintendo Switch (albeit without removable "Joy-Con" controller functionality)."
The "Switch-like" properties extend to an option to apparently "dock" the system to larger screens via a USB Type-C port.
"The SteamPal's Switch-like properties will include the option to "dock"...I don't have firm details on exactly how that connection will work or whether Valve has any plans for an eventual SteamPal dock."
As for specs, the "SteamPal" will supposedly be a system on a chip coming from Intel or AMD, but not Nvidia. And it's been "built with Linux as a likely target" - to continue Valve's push to make its library fully compatible with the open-source OS. The source also says there's a chance of a Microsoft Windows deal.
In terms of the rumoured system's design, the prototype is "quite wide compared to the Nintendo Switch", with the extra space used to accommodate a slew of control options.
"No, Valve is likely not slapping an entire QWERTY keyboard onto its system, but the company has packed in a standard array of gamepad buttons and triggers, along with a pair of joysticks and at least one thumb-sized touchpad (in addition to the device's touch-sensitive screen). The SteamPal's touchpad is likely smaller than the pair of touchpads that came standard on every Steam Controller."
The device is also expected to feature a d-pad, but as it's still in the prototype stage, the entire kit is subject to change. Other details like battery size, storage capacity, cost or if Valve will release multiple SKUs also remain unknown.
The author signs off with the following line, reaffirming the device's existence and suggesting Valve could change its mind at any moment given its past history.
"I can confirm the device's existence and development, and I can point to Newell's very loud hints that something console-related will be announced later this year, but Valve is still in a position to change gears (pun intended) at a moment's notice. The company could either delay or outright cancel this portable gaming PC project for any number of reasons. As we learned from a massive 2020 report on the development of Half-Life: Alyx, Valve loves to create, incubate, and then cancel things."
Do you think a device like this could have an impact on the Switch market or perhaps even Microsoft's Xbox Cloud service for mobile platforms? Leave your thoughts down below.