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Valve may release a Nintendo Switch-like handheld gaming PC


Valve’s first attempt at Steam-focused consoles fizzled out, but it might try again with a very different strategy. Ars Technica and SteamDB’s Pavel Djundik say they have evidence Valve is developing a Nintendo Switch-inspired handheld Steam gaming PC nicknamed SteamPal.

Unlike Steam Machines, Valve is reportedly designing this portable PC itself. It would be built with a system-on-chip from either AMD or Intel, and would likely run your game library in Linux using a compatibility layer for Windows titles. “At least” one prototype is wider than the Switch to accommodate a range of controls, AT said, including one or more thumb-sized touchpads. It would even ‘dock’ to a monitor through USB-C.

Valve hasn’t confirmed anything about the Steam PC, but Djunkdik noticed a reference to SteamPal in code. Company co-founder Gabe Newell also hinted in a New Zealand panel that people would get a “better idea” of Valve’s console plans by the end of 2021.

Related: How to run Steam on Chromebook computers

AT‘s sources also understood Valve was aiming to ship the Steam PC before the end of the year, although the tipsters couldn’t narrow down pricing.

A Switch-like Steam PC would represent a large gamble for Valve. Steam Machines failed for multiple reasons, including a lack of games (some Steam Machines ran Valve’s Linux-based SteamOS) and a reliance on third-party vendors that were often selling Steam boxes alongside conventional desktops. It was frequently easier to buy a Windows gaming PC with the full breadth of software than to make the compromises for a Steam Machine that was meant for your living room.

SteamPal might avoid some of those pitfalls. Emulation could help the mini Steam PC run more games, even if portable hardware would limit the kinds of games it could handle. Valve’s custom design would give it full control over the experience. More importantly, this Switch-alike would enter a relatively unoccupied field — there aren’t many mainstream handheld PCs of any kind, let alone ones meant for games. Valve could still fail, but it wouldn’t face such long odds from the start.

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