My guess is that they’ll launch this together with their own game streaming service. The only thing that’ll run locally is the Steam Big Picture UI. In fact, they won’t even make it possible to install any apps locally. Anyone wanting to use other streaming services with this would have to use the browser.
The idea of it running games locally just doesn’t make sense to me. A lot of people are already making those portable gaming PCs. They’re pretty awful looking experiences, and far too expensive to ever become popular. Anyone buying one of those will likely be using it mostly for Steam anyway. There’s just no need for Valve to make one more of those.
But a streaming-only handheld? There seems to be nothing in that market yet from third parties, it ties together nicely with the game streaming work we know they’re working on, and I bet they could hit a really attractive price point and battery life with that.
I don’t think they’d collaborate with Nvidia on this. We know that Valve is working on game streaming of their own, so Nvidia is a competitor. No point in boosting them up. The UX for GFN is absolute trash, you can’t sell that in a consumer device. Also, it’d be Valve selling the low-margin hardware and Nvidia raking in the sweet subscription revenue. Doesn’t feel like a great deal.
IIRC the Steam Link was pretty aggressively priced at launch. It’s just that it wasn’t very compelling as a product, there were already good ways of playing PC games on a TV. But a Switch form factor streaming device? If it allows both local and cloud streaming, it’d probably make me toss the Switch permanently in the junk drawer.