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Steam update hints that Valve could be making a handheld console

Steam logo
Steam logo (Image credit: Valve)

What you need to know

  • The latest Steam client beta references something called a SteamPal, which may be a handheld console of some kind.
  • Valve's Gabe Newell has recently been hinting that Steam is working on something console-related.
  • This wouldn't be the first time Valve has dabbled in hardware, with it having recently found great success with the VR headset Index.

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.

Rachel Kaser is a Windows Central gaming contributor, who's been writing since 2013 and gaming since the age of five. She's covered everything from gaming news, reviews, and analysis -- if it exists in gaming, she knows about it. She also contributes to Future's other sites, iMore and Android Central. If you want to hear her opinions on games, pop culture, tech, and everything in between, follow her on Twitter @rachelkaser.

4 Comments
  • Makes sense. With devices like the Aya Neo, One Xplayer and GPD Win 3 on the market, we've now reached a point in time, where it's feasibly possible to create an x86 handheld PC that can play most Steam games, including recent AAA releases on PC. I'm assuming it will be based on Linux and use Steam Proton as the backend, which, aside from a few games that use anti-cheat, is capable of playing a lot of games on Steam: https://www.protondb.com/
  • I've wanted a handheld gaming PC for a while, just don't make it cost an absolute fortune and I'll buy it, I won't pay $1500 for a gaming system.
  • LOL good luck.
  • If it costs as much as it undoubtedly will, it had better be running something besides Linux. I know they are closing the gap to run Windows programs using Proton but it still isn't 100%.