Valve is reportedly prototyping a Nintendo Switch-like gaming PC

More details on "SteamPal" emerge.

Jon Fingas/Engadget

Evidence that Valve is working on a portable Switch-like device that will allow Steam users to play part of their game library on the go is starting to build up, with a new report from Ars Technica offering some potentials details on the project. Citing multiple sources "familiar with the matter," the publication says Valve has been working on an all-in-one PC with gamepad controls "on and off for some time." Taking a page from devices like the Aya Neo, the device will reportedly include an AMD or Intel system-on-a-chip while most likely coming with Linux. At least one prototype is said to be wider than the Nintendo Switch and features the usual assortment of console buttons, triggers, and joysticks. The prototype also includes a touchscreen and a Steam Controller-like touchpad.

Like the Switch, the device will include a USB-C port to allow you to connect it to an external display. Ars couldn't find out if Valve plans to release multiple variants of the device that will feature different components. It also didn't have anything substantial to say about price, noting current global chip shortages could make it impossible for Valve to sell a device anywhere near the $299 the Nintendo Switch costs. It says Valve could release the device by the end of the year, though supply constraints could affect that timeline.

While we would take today's report with a healthy dose of skepticism, there is evidence to show Valve has been working on a new hardware project. Since September of last year, the company has added code snippets to Steam referencing something called "Neptune" and "Nepture Optimized Games." Initially, most people thought Valve was working on a new controller. But on Tuesday, the company added additional code linking Neptune to snippets referencing "SteamPal" — Ars Technica says it can't confirm if that's the final name of the new device. What's more, at the start of the month, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell said the company would have something to share related to console games. "You will get a better idea of that by the end of this year, " he told a school in New Zealand. "... it won't be the answer you expect. You'll say, 'Ah-ha! now I get what he was talking about.'"

At the same time, we'll note Valve is a company that is famous for incubating projects only to cancel them later and shift its attention to something else. After all, we had to wait 13 years to play a new Half-Life game. Additionally, the company has a hit and miss history with hardware projects. Valve Index came out to strong reviews in 2019, but one year earlier Valve stopped offering Steam Machines. Either way, we've reached out to Valve for comment, and we'll update this article if we hear back.