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Valve, company behind Steam, may be working on a rival to Nintendo Switch, launch likely later this year

If you use Steam a lot, Valve may soon bring a gaming console to enhance your gaming.

Valve, the company that owns the Steam game distribution platform, seems to be getting serious about the gaming business, which is why it is reportedly foraying into the hardware business. A new report said Valve is working on a gaming console that will look and work like the Nintendo Switch. This Valve console will be an all-in-one device with support for touch gestures and a gamepad. Valve may offer Steam games on this console, in a bid to counter Nintendo and maybe Apple, which is also reportedly working on a gaming console.

According to a report by Ars Technica, Valve has been making this console for some time now. And while there is no substantial evidence for this console, SteamDB's Pavel Djundik spotted a code in Steam's beta desktop client, referring to unannounced hardware. Interestingly, this new console is referred to as "SteamPal" in the client's code, and it does sound like a name for a gaming console. Steam is Valve's game distribution service available on PC, Mac, and Linux.

Djundik also found the "SteamPal" console is somehow linked to another device called "Neptune", which made some rounds on the internet last year for being some kind of controller. According to the report, this SteamPal will come with support for a controller, which is why the linkage between the hardware and the controller makes sense, at least now. With the controller, the "SteamPal", or whatever Valve will call it around the launch, will work like the Nintendo Switch.

In the code, Djundik also stumbled on things such as "Shutdown", "Suspend", and "Restart", referring to some sort of control panel for the controller that will power it on and off, allow for resuming games, and restart it. Since there is going to be support for touch controls on this device, according to the report, power controls seem valid. There may be gamepad buttons and triggers on this console, along with a pair of joysticks and one touchpad the size of a thumb on the "SteamPal". The report mentions that a d-pad on the console is possible, but Valve may change plans at any stage before the launch.

Valve's "SteamPal" may use a chipset from either Intel or AMD, but not Nvidia, according to the report. That sounds interesting because Nvidia's recent push into gaming hardware has been sort of a big mission. But, then again, most gaming consoles, including Nintendo's Switch, have chips from Intel or AMD. There is no clarity on whether Valve will offer different SKUs of the "SteamPal" console, with differences in storage, display size, battery life, and other things. However, the report mentioned "SteamPal" will support docking to larger monitors through a USB-C port, much like Nintendo Switch does.

The details on this Valve "SteamPal" are scarce right now. The pricing is not available, either. But Valve's co-founder Gabe Newell made a subtle hint at a gaming console earlier this month during a panel conversation at a school in New Zealand. "You will get a better idea of that by the end of this year... and it won't be the answer you expect. You'll say, 'Ah-ha! Now I get what he was talking about,'" he said.

Much like Valve, Apple, too, is reportedly working on a gaming console with hybrid functionality. The details on this console are not quite vivid, but it does sound like a way to bring Apple Arcade to the mainstream. The Nintendo Switch is a successful gaming console and it has got both Apple and Valve to make their own versions to enter the not-so-competitive handheld gaming console market.