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Valve's beta client code hints at handheld SteamPal console

by Mark Tyson on 25 May 2021, 14:11

Tags: Valve

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About a fortnight ago, Valve's CEO, Gabe Newell, took part in a Q&A in a high school in New Zealand. One of the answers that caught the attention of the games media concerned Valve and consoles. The particular query was about whether Steam would remain strictly a PC platform or whether it would be "putting any games on consoles". A fair enough question from the school student, but surprisingly it caused Newell to pause for thought, and after umming and erring, he obviously picked his words very carefully to provide an answer. The answer was quite short but left one wanting something more substantial – "You will get a better idea of that by the end of this year," teased Newell.

Earlier today a related information nugget was served up by the Steam Database Twitter account. It revealed that various interesting text strings had been unearthed within the latest Steam beta client. These words and phrases appeared to point to a Steam branded console, and further clues signalled that it might be a handheld console that the PC gaming giant is working on.

According to the SteamDB, Valve's coders have been busy preparing the beta client for testing a device codenamed 'Neptune'. In other code strings this appears to be a reference to a 'SteamPal' console. It is thought that it is a handheld / portable as the system and power menu strings hint at this. SteamDB and the SteamDB creator, Pavel Djundik, highlight references in the code as per below:

  • Neptune,
  • SteamPal (NeptuneName),
  • SteamPal Games (GameList_View_NeptuneGames),
  • Controller bindings,
  • UI strings such as 'quick access menu',
  • System settings such as airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a power menu.

Previous betas introduced strings such as 'NeptuneGamesCollection' and 'Device Optimized Games'.

Valve's hardware has a bit of a chequered history. We have seen Steam Machines, the Steam Controller, and Steam Link come and go without making much of an impact in the wider gaming market. However, the success of the Valve Index is perhaps reminding the company that timing is a very important factor. Is "the end of this year" the right time for a Steam handheld (streaming?) console? That depends on the product put forward, its compelling attractions, and remains to be seen.

There is an outside possibility that Valve could harvest some of the tech from the Smach Z handheld project that hit the rocks earlier this month. That handheld console was first teased back in the pre-Steam Machine era, and at that time was named the SteamBoy.

HEXUS Forums :: 8 Comments

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I bet its just a handheld for steam home streaming, that makes it easy and cheap to make.

Or its phones/tablets that are optimized for steam home streaming.
The real problem is cost.

Steam consoles offered a more restricted product, in comparison to a personal pc, for a higher cost.

The controllers were decent, but they were disliked by a lot of people, who preferred standard controllers, same with Steam Link. I'd still have expected both to remain on sale and succeeded, but sales volume must have been low enough fir Valve to abandon them.

VR, obviously much more expensive than competitors, is due to VR itself being a niche. If they maintain these prices, they remain behind the competition here too.

Regardless if this new device is a full on handheld, or streaming device, it won't make market penetration, as Valve don't compete on hardware/cost.
Steam consoles offered a more restricted product, in comparison to a personal pc, for a higher cost.

They WERE pcs, as we both know, which made me laugh and laugh and laugh. A product that had zero chance of catching on.

Please, Valve, get busy with a new Half Life and be productive.
I'm hoping it's something like the Nvidia Shield tablet. I never got my hands on the first one… but seemed like a decent extension of your PC (at the time). I mean I know Steam Link is there, but it doesn't work all too well with my tablets. Plus it takes over the whole of the PC. So I never use it, other than trying once. Time will tell I guess.
Ars Technica asserts the SteamPal will be a ‘Switch-like portable gaming PC’.
And some people are saying it will be powered by an AMD APU.