It seems that a Steam console could be much closer than one might have imagined just a few hours ago. It is not something that seems to be in Valve’s plans. Yes, for quite some time now, we have had doubts about whether the company would consider jumping into this market, but obviously in a different way, not with its hardware, especially considering the previous experience with Steam Machines.
New signals point to a Steam consoleThere were several, until now, how we were considering Valve’s leap to consoles, and as you remember we already addressed them a few weeks ago, following some cryptic statements by Gabe Newell, in which asked if Steam was thinking of porting games to consoles or its focus remained on PC, he replied “You’ll have a better idea of that by the end of this year […] And it won’t be the answer you expected. You’ll say ‘Ah-ha! Now we understand what you were talking about.” And yes, definitely a Steam console is what, at least at the time, no one expected. Until a few hours ago.
Pavel Djundik, the creator of the popular SteamDB service, has published several tweets in which he claimed to have found in the code of the beta version of the Steam client several references to SteamPal, an enigmatic device that, moreover, arrives accompanied by a new category of games, whose name is, you may have already guessed, SteamPal Games. In those messages, Djundik talks about Neptune, a Valve project, of which we already saw signs a few months ago, with references to games optimized for a device.
This alone already made us think clearly of a Steam console, a portable console as Pavel claimed, and his inquiries have been confirmed with the publication of an exclusive by Ars Technica, in which the media confirms the Steam console, a portable in the style of Nintendo Switch but that would be a PC and would feature controls such as Joy-con (not removable, that yes) and touchscreen. Given Valve’s commitment to Linux, it is hard to imagine that the Steam console would have a customized distribution of this operating system.
Valve's "Neptune" controller shows up in latest Steam client beta again.
It's named "SteamPal" (NeptuneName) and it has a "SteamPal Games" (GameList_View_NeptuneGames)
— Pavel Djundik (@thexpaw) May 25, 2021
Several sources have confirmed to Ars Technica that Djundik’s conclusions are true, although an official confirmation is not expected for several months, especially given the current state of the components market. It does seem that Valve plans to bring the Steam console to market before the end of this year. We do not know at the moment which will be their suppliers, but most likely there have already been contacts, so we will have to stay tuned for future leaks.
This does not mean, however, that all decisions have been made. On the contrary, the project is currently in the prototyping phase, we do not know if there is already a working model of the Steam console, but taking into account both the deadlines and the incorporation of specific code to the beta version of the Steam client, everything suggests that yes, and that in the offices of Valve, or perhaps the partner with which it has counted for this purpose, functional prototypes of the Steam console are already being tested.
Valve is possibly working on a handled Steam console called "SteamPal" (codename Neptune).
Beta client update added plenty of references including controller bindings, new UI strings such as quick access menu, system settings (airplane mode, wifi, bluetooth) and a power menu. https://t.co/BwDWjWWb06
— Steam Database (@SteamDB) May 25, 2021
Another interesting aspect of the Steam console is that, as with the Nintendo Switch, it would be possible to connect it to the TV, although the sources cited by Ars Technica have not revealed more details about it, such as resolution and refresh rate. The only thing we know at the moment is that for such connection the Steam console would use a USB-C port that, we can imagine, will have more functions than video output, because in that case, they would probably have opted for an HDMI connection.
Several aspects make us doubt the possible price of the Steam console. It is worth looking at that of its main rival, Nintendo Switch, although it is true that the shortage of components may cause its price to increase. On the other hand, Valve could afford to sell its console assuming certain losses, something common in the industry, counting on recovering those losses and generating profits thanks to the sales of games for the console through its store.