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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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kokoko3k 25 May
If this is the final Valve bet on Linux, what will happen to Linux gaming if this will not succeed7
Well. If it's a success, that's huge for us. I think it's possible for it to be a success. But they'll have to get a bit more serious than they were for the Steam Machines. And, you know, not fuck up. I won't say I think it's a sure thing, or even that I think the chances are excellent. But they're not tiny either. I will definitely be watching this space with interest.
Mar2ck 25 May
The only way shipping the device with ARM would make sense is if it came bundled with an Apple Rosetta-like emulator so that x86 games could still be played on the device. If it ships and any effort at all is required from game developers to make their games work then Valve will have thrown away the selling point of having the PC's enormous catalogue available.
Something similar to this already happened to the Steam Machines with the Windows vs Linux games situation but Valve have since remedied this with Proton. Going with ARM but not having backwards compatibility with x86 games would be reliving that situation all over again
Mohandevir 25 May
Reading the Ars Technica article you linked, I just remembered the patents for a Steam Controller V2... I look forward to see if it will get incorporated into the SteamPal with switchable inputs like being able to replace the sticks with trackpads...
Quoting: kokoko3kHow many games do you own on steam right now?
Does a bell ring?

780 games. None of which I have any interest in playing on a mobile platform.

I think Valve is pretty adventurous, and I wish them luck, but the probability that this device will outlast Stadia is about 50/50 in my book.
Lomkey 25 May
I would say have to do something with cloud gaming. Having a console have the option to run low end games and being a cloud gaming mad house. Valve have not worked on steam OS for abit, so I don't know.
Mohandevir 26 May
Thing is, Gabe Newell talked about the end of the year and consoles, related to VR... If this is what he had in mind, it should be minimally in the range of an XBox Series X and PS5 hardware specs.

Hopefully, same price range too...

If that's the case, I'm getting my budget ready.


Last edited by Mohandevir on 26 May 2021 at 12:26 am UTC
CatKiller 26 May
Quoting: kokoko3kIf this is the final Valve bet on Linux, what will happen to Linux gaming if this will not succeed7

They still need to support their existing Linux customers; it's easier to do that if you have future sales to fund it. The risk of Microsoft cutting them off from Windows customers is still there, and Linux support is something that their competitors don't offer.

So if their new project is a success it might have a virtuous cycle relationship with desktop Linux gaming, but if it's a flop I don't expect anything to get worse on that front.
kokoko3k 26 May
Quoting: CatKiller
Quoting: kokoko3kIf this is the final Valve bet on Linux, what will happen to Linux gaming if this will not succeed7

They still need to support their existing Linux customers; it's easier to do that if you have future sales to fund it. The risk of Microsoft cutting them off from Windows customers is still there, and Linux support is something that their competitors don't offer.

So if their new project is a success it might have a virtuous cycle relationship with desktop Linux gaming, but if it's a flop I don't expect anything to get worse on that front.

So you don't think all the investments valve put on Linux gaming were finalized to this (still hypothetical) handheld console?
Microsoft store thing never convinced me too much.


Last edited by kokoko3k on 26 May 2021 at 4:33 am UTC
CatKiller 26 May
Quoting: kokoko3kSo you don't think all the investments valve put on Linux gaming were finalized to this (still hypothetical) handheld console?
Microsoft store thing never convinced me too much.
Not really, no. A decade of investment predicated on things that didn't exist at the time, for a product that we don't really know anything about, isn't out yet, and might still be a flop, isn't a great plan.

Microsoft muscling them out of Windows would be an existential threat to them, even if the probability is low; having an escape plan, and visibly having an escape plan as leverage, is in Valve's interest. It doesn't cost much, and their work on it is probably sufficiently supported by Linux sales even with our small market share (if not, they're getting money elsewhere); open source development is incremental, so they can add bits as and when, so they don't have to go all in at once, and it lets them do things that they couldn't do otherwise (they can't change Windows' shader compiler, for example); and I expect that the work is interesting in itself for their engineers.

I'd imagine that they thought they'd come up with something, and success of a handheld console and success of desktop Linux would be mutually reinforcing if it happens, but I don't think they were driven by this as a Grand Plan, no.

Small improvements to help more people buy more games is entirely how they approach things. This could be one of them. Or it could be a massive hit, or it could be a massive flop. Whatever happens, Steam is trucking on with minimal risk. And they'd still need to support existing Linux customers, which is easier if Linux customers keep giving you money than if they don't.
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