Although gaming handhelds have been around since the days of the Nintendo Game Boy, the Nintendo Switch definitely kicked up interest by a notch, revealing a potentially profitable market for portable devices that can run AAA titles, even in medium or low settings only. That, in turn, has created a series of devices and concept designs inspired by the Switch, except running PC hardware and PC games instead. Given that trend, it’s not surprising to hear that Valve, best known for the Steam PC gaming platform, is planning to jump into that fray and no later than the end of this year even.
To be fair, Valve won’t be the first to commercialize PC handheld consoles and there was even an attempt to crowdfund a Steam Machine handheld pictured above. Chinese brands like GPD have been doing so for years and have iterated over a few designs in that span of time. The likes of the GPD WIN 3, the AYA Neo, and the ONEXPLAYER by One Netbook are just some of the newest entries in that rather niche market. Of course, Valve’s name could provide much-needed endorsement of that device category which, in turn, could also help boost those companies’ sales and prominence.
Ars Technica points out, however, that this rumored Valve handheld PC, codenamed “SteamPal”, won’t have detachable controllers like the Nintendo Switch, making it more like the Switch Lite instead. It will also be wider than the Switch, mostly to incorporate more and better controls. And, of course, it will be running on either Intel or AMD chips, not the ARM-based NVIDIA Tegras that Nintendo uses.
This wouldn’t be Valve’s first attempt at a gaming PC product of its own either, so it’s understandable that the tip is being met with cautious optimism. But while the Steam Machines tried to launch in an already saturated PC and console market, handhelds running PC games is still virtually unheard of despite those companies. Curiously, Valve is reportedly still sticking to Linux for this device, though a partnership with Microsoft isn’t completely off the table.
The report says that this Valve-branded gaming handheld could debut later this year at the earliest. Given Valve’s luck in making its own hardware, however, there might be some doubts whether it could pull this off, especially if the platform will not be able to adequately run some of the Windows titles that PC gamers want.