New strings were discovered tucked away in the latest Steam update.
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The latest beta update for the Steam client has some interesting surprises tucked away within the code. The new client update has several strings that reference things like a "Neptune" controller alongside something else called "SteamPal." The prevailing theory is that Valve is working on a handheld console, perhaps similar to the Nintendo Switch, that will be called SteamPal when it is released.

The creator of the ever useful SteamDB, Pavel Djundik, noticed these new references in the latest Steam beta client update. He also noticed that the update added things like a "quick access menu" and a "power menu." Djundik notes that some of these names and strings started appearing as far back as September of 2020.

Now, Ars Technica just came out with a more detailed article talking about SteamPal. According to their own sources, Valve has been working on SteamPal for quite some time now and is expected to launch by year's end.

The tech site says that SteamPal will be an "all-in-one PC with gamepad controls and a touchscreen." Though this is all still very much unconfirmed, this could very well be what Valve head-honcho Gabe Newell was talking about this month when it seemed like he was hinting at Steam games coming to consoles. Hindsight is, of course, 20/20 but it now seems clear that Newell was talking about having Steam games appearing on their own console, SteamPal, rather than on any existing consumer product.

Like multiple other handheld PC devices that have hit the market (like the Smach Z pictured above), this SteamPal will reportedly go with either Intel or AMD for the chip, not Nvidia. It's unclear though if Valve will again opt to go with the multiple SKU route as they did for the ill-fated Steam Machines.

Ars Technica also mentions that SteamPal will have the ability to "dock" with larger monitors via a USB Type-C port. There is no word on there being any sort of a Switch-like Dock though.

SteamPal was "built with Linux as a likely target." This shouldn't really come as any surprise to those who have been keeping an eye on Valve's work with Proton. As a point of reference, Proton now allows over 14,600 Windows based Steam games to play on Linux without any additional work from the user.

Pricing on the SteamPal is still very much up in the air. There are a lot of variables at play here, including the still ongoing hardware supply shortages. With the Switch still priced at $299 (USD), it will be interesting to see if Valve is in a position to match or beat that price when, or if, the SteamPal gets released.