Valve is apparently getting back in the “Steam console” business. According to data mined from Steam files and independent reporting, the company is in the process of building a handheld gaming PC to run Steam games–and it seems like it’ll be quite similar to a Nintendo Switch.
The rumor of the Steam handheld was originally posted on Steam Database’s Twitter account, which stated that hints were hidden in the latest Steam client beta update. Later, Ars Technica reported that it was able to independently confirm many of the details of the handheld, which may be called the SteamPal. Although that name is based on Steam DB’s review of the client files, it has not been confirmed.
The console will literally be a miniaturized PC ergonomically designed to hold in your hands like a Nintendo Switch, and it’ll run a version of Linux. It will have gamepad controls and a touchscreen, much like the Switch (but without removable controllers). The SteamPal’s comparisons to the Switch don’t stop at its form factor: It will also allow you to connect to a larger screen via a USB-C port.
Ars reports that the PC probably won’t feature an Nvidia microchip (sorry, no 30-series GPU in this particular device), and that Valve will source chips from either AMD or Intel. Also, because this device will run Linux, it will almost certainly be highly customizable and be able to operate more or less like a normal Linux computer.
There’s no word yet on what the SteamPal might cost or be officially called, but Ars suggests that it has the potential to be released this year. This isn’t the first time that Valve has explored small, contained, pre-built machines for running Steam games. Wayback in 2015, the company worked with PC manufacturers to launch Steam Machines, which were pre-built PCs running SteamOS (a custom version of Linux). They shipped with Steam Controllers. Although Steam Machines are more or less dead at this point, some aspects of the Steam Controller–particularly the touchpads–may be included in some form on the SteamPad.