Valve, the developer behind the Steam PC game marketplace, is building a portable, Linux-based handheld device for playing PC games, according to a new report from Ars Technica.
The device is said to be similar in design to a Nintendo Switch and capable of playing Steam titles that don't require a powerful gaming PC, including indie games and less graphically intensive software. Ars Technica reports the device may come out as soon as this year, dependent on ongoing computer component supply chain issues that continue to constrain the gaming and PC markets.
It's not clear what the device will be named, but Valve included information related to potential internal codenames for the device within the latest beta version of Steam. That includes code referring to something called "SteamPal" as well as an existing name "Neptune" that begun appearing last fall in beta updates, according to SteamDB creator Pavel Djundik.
Valve's "Neptune" controller shows up in latest Steam client beta again. It's named "SteamPal" (NeptuneName) and i… https://t.co/lr1bsis8LX— Pavel Djundik (@Pavel Djundik)1621928073.0
Valve co-founder Gabe Newell also insinuated the company would soon share plans related to the console market when speaking to a group of students in New Zealand earlier this month, saying, "You will get a better idea of that by the end of this year … and it won't be the answer you expect."
Such a device wouldn't be completely without precedent. The idea of a portable device playing low-key PC games has been kicking around the gaming industry for years now, helped along by the success of the Nintendo Switch. At CES 2020, Alienware unveiled a prototype called the Concept UFO that performed much of the same functions as a Switch and yet ran Windows 10 and ran applications like Steam.
Valve also for years tried its hand at developing a console ecosystem, under the banner Steam Machines, and even made its own controller. Now, it sounds as if the company is trying its hand at hardware once again. Valve did not immediately respond to a request for comment.