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Well well, perhaps we finally know what the end game is here for the Steam Play Proton compatibility layer and a lot of the other work Valve has been doing for Linux with a possible handheld Steam console. Take this with a heavy pinch of salt as we're into super speculation territory now. UPDATES WILL BE POSTED AT THE BOTTOM.

Pavel Djundik, creator of SteamDB who has often dug up interesting new strings showing up in Steam updates has a new Twitter thread up going over some new appearances that raise some eyebrows.

New appearances are seen mentioning a "Neptune" controller along with things like "GameList_View_NeptuneGames", "SteamPal Games" and more curious entries that mention things like quick access and a power menu - all of which point to something quite a bit more than just a new controller. Not only that, there's also earlier mentions of a "Callisto Developer Program" and "Device Optimized Games" going by what Djundik found.

Recently, Valve's Gabe Newell spoke at Sancta Maria College in Auckland, New Zealand that was highlighted in a since deleted Reddit posts (but you can find the video on the likes of YouTube) where Newell was asked about Steam on consoles to which Newell replied "You’ll get a better idea of that by the end of this year". Initially, we thought that might mean the likes of Half-Life: Alyx on PlayStation VR 2 but now we're not so sure going by this new set of leaks.

It would make sense for such a device to be powered by Linux, so Valve has no licensing fees to deal with and can heavily customize it to their needs. It could easily leverage all the work Valve has put into Linux graphics drivers, Steam Play, perhaps Gamescope and much more that Valve has done for Linux. Perhaps their work on sorting out "new ways for prospective users to get into Linux gaming" and the "live USB media" that we mentioned here were all efforts towards this in some way? Would be a given for it to use an AMD GPU of some kind, considering Valve's investments into the open source Mesa drivers too.

Imagine if "Device Optimized Games" were those specifically ported to Linux to work with this device, that would also work well across desktop Linux with the Steam Linux Runtime dealing with any possibly library incompatibilities. Oh the possibilities. Throw in the idea I recently brought up of a Steam Game Pass…quite exciting.

Then again, it could end up just being a Steam Controller 2 and these optimized games are just setup for it ready. I would be happy with that anyway, not quite as happy as a full Linux-powered handheld Steam console but I do love the Steam Controller. Possibly even something standalone for future VR kits and of course possibly nothing as some leaks turn out. However, with the hints mentioning an "AirplaneMode", that would only be useful for a full handheld.

Bundle a new Valve game with it like they did with the Valve Index and Half-Life: Alyx and you could get plenty of sales.

What are you thoughts on all this?

UPDATE: the website Ars Technica has reportedly spoken to "sources familiar with the matter" who have confirmed it's real and will be Linux-powered. It may even launch by the end of this year. We've reached out to Valve Press to see if they have anything to say about it for us.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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99 comments
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Eike 25 May
Quoting: elmapul0)any one trust valve to make an game console again after the steam machines flop? anyone would trust then with your money?

You don't need lots of trust. The difference to those Kickstarter machines would be that you get actual hardware offered and can judge if you want it for the price or not.
Julius 25 May
I hope / guess it will take some hints from the Switch and be both a handheld and have a docking station. They might also allow connecting a VR headset, but for that to work well they probably first need to roll out inside-out tracking in the SteamVR ecosystem. Although a smart combination of a VR base station with the dock might do the trick.

Edit: the docking station could also have a stand-alone mode as a Steamlink.


Last edited by Julius on 25 May 2021 at 11:55 am UTC
scaine 25 May
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Quoting: Liam Dawe
Quoting: elmapul4)people will just install windows on it anyway to get more games, so why bother.
That does bring up a good point but if Valve only supported some form of Linux on it, more might keep it that way. Either way, it would be a boost to Linux gaming if the main way to use it is with let's say SteamOS 3.0.
I love the idea of this. For years, the Linux crowd has taken Windows or Mac devices, handhelds, consoles and more, and put Linux on them. Can you imagine if Valve knocked out a killer device, running Linux, and people had to hack it in order to put Windows on it? Lovely. Stupid, but delicious.
FauconNoir 25 May
I see it that way : one console to rule them all.

A Steam machine you can order with options like a VR headset or a Switch like console. The Switch like would be able to stream games from the Steam machine.

So you can play like it's a PC, a sofa console, or a portable one. And it is a plug n play VR pack too.
Mal 25 May
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Am I a boring uninspired person if all I want from Valve is a new steam link device? A new Controller would be nice I guess but not a game changer.

Apart from that, there is actually a healthy market of handheld PCs right now... kind of like the nintendo switch but without the switcheroo things attached. I guess having a steamOs or just a steam client optimized for such devices would open interesting perspectives for tinkers and brave OEMs alike.
Linas 25 May
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Quoting: Liam Dawe
Quoting: elmapul4)people will just install windows on it anyway to get more games, so why bother.
That does bring up a good point but if Valve only supported some form of Linux on it, more might keep it that way. Either way, it would be a boost to Linux gaming if the main way to use it is with let's say SteamOS 3.0.
This being Valve, they would probably do nothing to prevent people from installing another OS on the device, if they so desire.

But consider that Linux can very easily be slimmed down, and configured to run in a resource-limited environment, like removing unnecessary services and installing on F2FS (Flash-Friendly File System) for example. Windows 10 on the other hand is (comparatively) bloated and inflexible, and would most likely not even boot from vanilla installation media without some unofficial hacks.

Windows tends to work better on commodity hardware, because it is made with Windows in mind. But when you are developing custom software for custom hardware, Linux really is the way to go.
libgradev 25 May
Well I'd love a new Steam Controller

For handheld gaming I'm currently using my Note 8 with a Kishi controller and streaming from the desktop PC using the link app...
TheSHEEEP 25 May
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Quoting: Liam DaweWell, thinking on it, look at how popular other handhelds like GPD Win has been and the excitement around things like the Alienware Concept UFO prototype and others. There's probably a good market for it, probably more so than VR I would say honestly.
Is it really popular, though?
This is the first time I've even heard of GPD Win and while I know lots of people with VR gear, I don't know a single peep (I invented that singular, u like?) with a handheld other than Switch.

But that is purely anecdotal and I'm clearly not the target audience. As I said, I simply don't know if there is a market.


Last edited by TheSHEEEP on 25 May 2021 at 12:41 pm UTC
Liam Dawe 25 May
Quoting: TheSHEEEPIs it really popular, though?
GPD are massive, and have done quite a few models now that huge websites and YouTubers have covered ;)
Sil_el_mot 25 May
Well, no interest in handheld gaming at all. Hope we get a console or better like steamos on an usb-stick.
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