Update: Valve really is working on a portable console similar to the Nintendo Switch, and it's hoping to have it in stores by the end of 2021, according to a report that backs up details from a recent leak.
The new info comes from Ars Technica in an article that surfaced just hours after we wrote about references to a new Steam handheld console codenamed SteamPal. According to Ars Technica, the console has been in development for years and could launch this year if the supply chain holds through.
Like the name itself, SteamPal is likely to change in the months, years maybe, until its release. Today's report describes a prototype system that's noticeably wider than the Switch, with a touchscreen, your standard gamepad controls, and at least one thumb-sized touchpad.
The SteamPal is expected to pack either an Intel or AMD processor similar to other "Switch-like PCs" that have picked up a lot of steam in recent years. Valve's foray into the category will reportedly include a dock that you can use to project the screen onto a larger TV or monitor, again, just like the Switch.
Ars doesn't have any information about things like processing grunt or screen resolution, but its report suggests that the SteamPal is precisely what Valve co-founder Gabe Newell was referring to when he said we'd get a Steam-related console announcement by the end of the year.
A new Steam handheld console could be on the way if references in a new Steam update are to be believed.
Just below, you can see the complete breakdown of files found within the latest update to hit Steam, through two tweets by a Steam dataminer. It turns out Steam's new client beta refers to something called "Steampal," which some believe is a handheld device that Valve is planning to release, boasting the ability to play PC games on the go.
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
That's not all, though. The new update for Steam makes reference to both "quick access" and power menus, as well as options to "shut down," "suspend," or "restart" the system in question. There are even references to Bluetooth settings, wifi, and airplane modes, further pointing to a handheld device.
Valve has obviously dipped its toe into the hardware waters several times over the past few years. There have been the likes of the Steam controller, the Steam link, the Valve Index virtual reality headset, and other devices, so the likelihood of Valve developing a new handheld device for portable PC gaming isn't exactly outside the realms of possibility.
Recently, Valve CEO Gabe Newell hinted at possibly bringing Steam games to consoles at some point in the future. During a Q&A session in New Zealand, where Newell has been living since last year, the CEO was asked whether Steam games could ever come to consoles, to which Newell replied that people would "get a better idea by the end of this year." It's a surprisingly candid answer for a question with such massive potential behind it.
For a list of some of the best games you can get on Valve's storefront right now, head over to our 25 best Steam games for more.