An upcoming Steam update hints that Valve may be working on a handheld console, possibly called the SteamPal. We don’t yet know anything about this alleged project aside from some hints in the latest Steam client beta. However, those references do allude to specific console features, as well as a potential game collection for this new device.
The update strings were found by SteamDB’s Pavel Djundik. The beta notes reference “Neptune,” and “SteamPal/NeptuneName.” The notes imply that Neptune is possibly a code name for a new controller, with SteamPal being its real name. A controller would be interesting enough, but there are also references to a “quick access menu” and a “power menu.” That would seem to indicate something more intricate than a controller.
The client beta also references “GameList_View_NeptuneGames: “SteamPal Games,” which would seem to indicate there will be games specifically for this Project Neptune/SteamPal device. Again, that’s the only reference we have. However, sources have apparently confirmed to Ars Technica that Valve has been working on this device, a Switch-like portable game machine, for years.
Valve’s Gabe Newell has recently been hinting that his company is working on something related to consoles. In a chat with students at New Zealand’s Sancta Maria College, Newell was asked whether Steam was interested in bringing any of its games to console. Newell responded: “You will have a better idea of that by the end of this year…And it won’t be the answer that you would expect.” He added that gamers would eventually understand: “You’ll say, ‘A-ha! Now I get what he was talking about.”
If Valve announced a handheld console and a collection of games for it, that would certainly be an “A-ha!” moment.
This could, of course, be nothing — nothing gamers will ever see, anyway. But Steam’s recently found success with its VR headset, the Valve Index. This would be the moment for it to offer an audacious piece of new hardware.