Cloud gaming services are all the rage these days. Microsoft and Google are both making major pushes into the area, joining services like Nvidia’s GeForce Now and PlayStation Now. The exact features of each service differ, however, and they aren’t fungible — the game libraries you can access and the requirements as far as local hardware are different in each case. Now there’s some evidence that Valve might be looking to get in on the action as well, with rumors of a Steam Cloud gaming service popping up in several places.
Valve is working on “Steam Cloud Gaming” according to partner site code update. Partners will need to sign an addendum to their terms.
— Steam Database (@SteamDB) November 6, 2019
Steam already supports remote streaming if your hardware supports it, and there’s the mobile Steam Link app you can use for streaming to an iOS or Android device, but the company hasn’t taken the plunge into full-on cloud gaming just yet. In theory, the tremendous back-catalog of titles on Steam could allow for unique streaming experiences you can’t get anywhere else, though the requirements of some of those games (from eras when the mouse and keyboard were the assumed standard for PC gaming in all cases) might be troublesome. Then again, Steam has improved its own controller support significantly and would surely provide a compatibility layer for older games as well.
Update: Last Steam client beta update added more references to Cloud Gaming, and the updates point towards support of multiple cloud providers, in addition to Valve’s own.
— Steam Database (@SteamDB) November 8, 2019
The idea that the service might run as a companion over other devices is also interesting. Nvidia has services like GeForce Now, which might be seen as running in competition with a hypothetical Steam Cloud Service. Much may depend on how Steam structures its offering. The one major advantage Steam has, of course, is that Steam users have been plugged into the service for over a decade. The anger at the launch of the Epic Game Store was also a demonstration of how much market power Steam practically wields.
Of course, for now, we don’t have any details on how the project might shape up or what kind of service this would be. Anything from a premium add-on to basic existing Steam accounts or a free over-the-top service that gives you more freedom to play your existing library remotely would seem possible, depending on the kind of arrangements Steam wants to draw.
Whether any of these services can attract customers and build stable long-term businesses is still something of an open question. Stadia will launch next week and give us a look at Google’s idea of the future, but so far, most of the success in this field has been from services directly adjacent to the console business. If US customers start signing up for these services en masse, bandwidth caps in the US may suddenly start seeming awful small. The bandwidth requirements for game streaming, particularly game streaming in 4K, can be formidable.