Files inside Steam’s latest beta client suggest that it might have a handheld gaming device in the pipeline, according to details shared on Steam Database’s Twitter account. The client code is also viewable on Github, mentioning a device called a ‘SteamPal’, with references to aspects such as airplane mode, screen brightness, and Bluetooth – all ingredients of a traditional handheld gaming device.
If a portable console is in the works, Gabe Newell’s statement earlier in the month would make more sense. Responding to the question on whether Valve plans to port Steam games to consoles, the Newell says we’ll have a “better idea of that by the end of this year”, before adding “it won’t be the answer you expect”.
It could be the perfect time for Valve to enter the handheld PC gaming market, with devices like the Aya Neo aiming to be an ultra-portable alternative to the best gaming laptop. It remains to be seen whether such a device from Valve would be Linux or Windows-based, however.
Valve hasn’t had much luck with consoles in the past, with Steam Machines failing to stick the landing. These were compact prebuilt PCs that ran a custom Linux-based operating system, aiming to make PCs just as accessible as consoles. They couldn’t hold a candle to the best mini gaming PC, however, and flopped soon after launch. A critical reason for their failure was the lack of game availability because of its Linux origins.
Valve is possibly working on a handled Steam console called "SteamPal" (codename Neptune).
Beta client update added plenty of references including controller bindings, new UI strings such as quick access menu, system settings (airplane mode, wifi, bluetooth) and a power menu. https://t.co/BwDWjWWb06
— Steam Database (@SteamDB) May 25, 2021
If the SteamPal is real, here’s hoping Valve learns from its previous mistakes.