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What we want to see from the possible SteamPal handheld from Valve

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You've all seen the rumours by now, and apparent confirmation from Ars that Valve has been working on the SteamPal, a Linux powered handheld that could be released this year. Here's a short list of what we want from it.

Steam Machines and SteamOS were ultimately a failure, for many reasons. The whole thing was confusing for both users and consumers with multiple models, and most of them wanted far too much money. What will be different this time? How can Valve actually make it work?

This time around at least, it looks like Valve are entering a market that's still relatively in its infancy. However, it's clearly popular with more hardware vendors showing prototypes and the GPD Win series continues showing how a smaller vendor can make it happen. If Valve really do enter, they would be positioned well considering they know how to produce their own hardware after the Steam Controller, Steam Link and now the Valve Index too. Doing it directly with only one model or perhaps two with a higher model would already solve a lot of their original Steam Machine issues. Let's say that's the first thing we want: make it clear. Get the marketing right this time, and actually continue marketing it unlike before.

Game support is something that suffered originally. We had porters like Feral Interactive and Aspyr Media come onboard thanks to Steam Machines but they simply weren't enough. This time, we have a vast library of supported indie games, a couple AA/AAA and then there's Steam Play Proton too. However, realistically, we still need that direct support and porting effort from developers to ensure the games work as good as they can on the hardware, especially since this won't be top-end stuff. Still, with Proton, there is at least that ability to play more than what's supported and the ability to is vitally important to make a SteamPal actually worth even thinking on to purchase.

Having good game support is the single most essential thing. People don't want to wait around for shaders to compile when you hit play, stuttering while Proton/DXVK builds up a cache will be very noticeable on the hardware too and no doubt be the source of many poor reviews. Having developers build and optimize for it will end up essential to making it a win overall.

Another serious point to think on is online gaming. This is a sore spot right now. I can only imagine the reviews of "you can't play x or y, the most popular online games" which will be due to the likes of Easy Anti-Cheat and BattlEye. Perhaps though, since Valve will fully control the kernel they can have it all signed in a particular way that anti-cheat systems can hook into it. However, that could then split things between desktop Linux and a SteamPal. It's both exciting to think on for support and concerning.

A Steam Game Pass, yup, something like that I think would be in some way needed. Other consoles have a form of it, Valve allows it on Steam already with the likes of EA Play, it would make sense for Valve to have one to not only pull in even more money but to give users access to a library of games right away for a SteamPal when they signed up. Either that, or team up with a bunch of developers to give free copies to those who buy one.

Keep the desktop mode. Please. That was actually a highlight of SteamOS originally. You get the console-like experience, with the option to dive into a normal desktop if you want to do other things. That would extend the possibilities of what you can do with a Valve SteamPal. I think removing that would be a mistake, as long as they lock-down the SteamPal SteamOS side of things so that users can't break it and as easy system-refresh option to set things back to normal.

Send loads out to developers long before release. Gosh I hope they're doing this. How do you get people interested in supporting it? Give them developer kits. Other console makers do this for good reason.

Some form of external streaming media support out of the box. Yes, I know, that the main point is gaming but we're long past the point of such single-use devices. People will expect the likes of Netflix and others to work. So get it sorted before release. It was a sore spot for the original Steam Machines.

I don't think I really need to put down "use a Linux operating system" as a thing we want from it do I? It's pretty obvious it will be. So, SteamOS 3? Let's say I want that to be real and to still allow others to download it and install it just like they could before. Oh, and duh: please don't be a failure.

Don't be too big. I can't stress this enough. The Nintendo Switch is just about right (except the terrible to hold Joy-Cons that is when in portable mode). Any bigger and it would be far too unwieldy and likely defeat the point. That is one thing I am genuinely worried about. Valve could get a little too screen-happy with it but I hope they're being smart about this one.

Just a few thoughts to get it out there to stop the mind from spinning on it, no doubt we will all have more we want and expect from it over time. They key though is to not expect too much. It is, after all (if real), a handheld! We can't expect magic from it, as it will be limited in terms of what power it can cram into the casing.

Over to you in the comments: what do you want from it?

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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66 comments
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CatKiller 3 days ago
Quoting: HoolyWith Thunderbolt coming to AMD boards, I could even imagine them selling a docking station with an AMD GPU in it.
From what I've heard, GPU hot-plugging might work better with Wayland compared to X11.

That's a good solution, actually.

If people are going to be able to plug it into a telly, they're going to want to be able to plug it into a 4K telly. Either they're limited to 1080p gaming with upscaling, or the SoC is a unicorn that can scale performance up to 4K if given sufficient power. Even if the SoC were capable, you'd need to cool those 100-200 W in a chassis that was designed for 15 W.

Having the rendering power coming from the dock itself, with its own entirely separate cooling, sidesteps the problem.
Hooly 3 days ago
Quoting: Mohandevir
Quoting: HoolyWith Thunderbolt coming to AMD boards, I could even imagine them selling a docking station with an AMD GPU in it.
From what I've heard, GPU hot-plugging might work better with Wayland compared to X11.

This is quite what I hope for too. Like Liam said, it would become the laptop killer I've been waiting for.

"Gaming on the go", in the bus/train to the job, with the 8", 720p screen (from what is reported) and comfortable 1080p or 4K gaming on my TV with the optional docking station (Doubtfull they would be able to sell the whole package for 399$).

If that's the deal, it's an instabuy for me. My wallet is ready.

They could very well just sell the dock separately. (Btw, FreeSync please :D )
Mohandevir 3 days ago
Quoting: Hooly
Quoting: Mohandevir
Quoting: HoolyWith Thunderbolt coming to AMD boards, I could even imagine them selling a docking station with an AMD GPU in it.
From what I've heard, GPU hot-plugging might work better with Wayland compared to X11.

This is quite what I hope for too. Like Liam said, it would become the laptop killer I've been waiting for.

"Gaming on the go", in the bus/train to the job, with the 8", 720p screen (from what is reported) and comfortable 1080p or 4K gaming on my TV with the optional docking station (Doubtfull they would be able to sell the whole package for 399$).

If that's the deal, it's an instabuy for me. My wallet is ready.

They could very well just sell the dock separately. (Btw, FreeSync please :D )

In that case it could be a custom GPU optimized for the SteamPal (which would be my favored solution), but they could probably also supply an "empty" docking station that gives a minimal "overclock boost" with an option to "bring your own AMD gpu".

Yeah, it's all speculations, but it's fun brainstorming about the possibilities.


Last edited by Mohandevir on 11 June 2021 at 1:38 pm UTC
ObsidianBlk 3 days ago
Quoting: CatKiller
Quoting: ObsidianBlkhobbiest
A mild nitpick, because this really annoys me whenever I see it. That word would mean that you were "the most hobby." The word you're looking for is "hobbyist" - someone who participates in a hobby.

Fair enough
ShabbyX 3 days ago
Quoting: MohandevirEdit: And your Stadia exemple is a bad one... I'm quite satisfied with it.

I was mostly referring to people speculating and arriving at the assumption that it would be the netflix of gaming. The dissappointment was immense for most people, even though Google never said it was going to be the netflix of gaming.

I'm not saying steampal is not a device that runs games locally, it probably is, jusy advising against assuming stuff :)
Julius 3 days ago
VR does work reasonably well on a PS4 and mobile VR ports from the Quest2 should work as well. I don't think Valve will make the SteamPal "VR-first", but I could imagine it being possible to connect an inside-out tracking HMD sometimes in the future.

However I would like to see a nice docking station that can also work as a SteamLink in stand-alone mode.


Last edited by Julius on 11 June 2021 at 3:29 pm UTC
Appelsin 3 days ago
Quoting: jrtI think it needs to be on store shelves and on Amazon if they want to get some share of the console/mobile game market. Advertising it on steam is limiting the success because people who have steam, probably already have a PC that can run games.

Advertising it on Steam, and then not even selling it to you, like they did with the Controller and Link, will have people pass it by in sheer frustration over not being able to buy it.

Valve needs to either include some sort of system where clicking the SteamPal page will also tell you where you can get it in your region, ()and/)or distribute it themselves.
If I, in Norway, were to click the SteamPal page, and then be told I'd have to buy it from Amazon, I'm not buying one. Buying an ethernet cable from Amazon is OK, but you don't buy anything expensive which might require the use of warranty. Also, you'd likely pay a shipping premium costing half as much as the console itself. And it would arrive with a hole in the middle.

They need to be in *normal* stores. Everywhere. Being only on Amazon (and barely there even, at that) is what made the Steam Link and Controller a mere bog unicorn. You'd heard of it, but not really.
gradyvuckovic 3 days ago
5 Essential Successful Ingredients Here:

  • 'SteamPal Games' store section on Steam

  • 'SteamPal Compatible' label on Steam.

  • SteamPal itself and SteamPal games need to be available to buy in both physical and digital retail stores.

  • Proper support from game developers ensuring a high quality experience for 'SteamPal Compatible' games.

  • Proper support for game developers from Valve, including a SDK.



If SteamPal has all of those things, it could be a huge hit.

Of course under the hood, SteamPal compatible would just mean a Linux game that runs well on SteamPal/Linux, and 'SteamPal' games would just be basically Linux games, and games sold 'in physical stores' would just contain a key to activate on Steam, but there has to be that 'console/handheld like' experience, otherwise you won't get 'normal' people buying it, like mums and dads buying it for their kids for Christmas.
Julius 3 days ago
Quoting: AppelsinThey need to be in *normal* stores. Everywhere. Being only on Amazon (and barely there even, at that) is what made the Steam Link and Controller a mere bog unicorn. You'd heard of it, but not really.

Experiences obviously differ from country to country, but in the EU the purchase of Steamlink and Controller worked perfectly fine via the Steam store itself.

Oh and funny to read your experience of Amazon in Norway, because at least in Germany even people that don't like Amazon grudgingly admit that ordering from them is fastest, most convenient and returning anything is super easy and customer friendly. So ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
spacemonkey 3 days ago
I would like it to be a combo of 3 excellent devices:
  • a standalone Steam Controller
  • (a standalone) Steam Link
  • a portable gaming device (just for indie games is fine for me)
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