Recent reports and activity from Valve have revealed their potential next direction – a move into game streaming. The company once famous for making games has been largely content to sit on its laurels for the last few years, acting as the de facto leader in digital gaming sales. With services such as Google Stadia now entering the wild, it looks like Valve’s Steam might be once again on the move. The news of this development comes from a partner site code update, as revealed in this tweet:
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
What this means is an outsider was able to view code for a partner website Valve works with. Within this code were references to “Steam Cloud Gaming”, which is believed to be related to an as of yet unannounced service.
A Predictable Twist?
Game streaming is an immensely promising technology, though few in traditional gaming have come close to capturing its potential. So far, the biggest success stories in-game streaming come from the related iGaming sector.
Many online casinos have found their way by including live streaming options for table games alongside their regular offers. That means you can play all of your favourite games in HD as well as claim bonuses such as free spins and deposit matches within self-contained systems. In essence, this level of total integration appears a likely path for Valve to follow, with game-streaming being offered alongside their regular services.
For years now, Valve has largely abandoned its focus on game development in favour of monetising Steam. While much of the longstanding success of Steam had owed their virtual monopoly on online sales, the increasing prevalence of systems like the Epic Games Store has challenged this monolith. This very well might have been what prompted this coming expansion.
As it currently stands, Valve offers a couple of avenues related to game streaming. They first came about through their Steam Link, which launched back in 2015. This allowed players to use their computer as a host device to stream anywhere else in their home network. Eventually, this would allow for play over the internet as well.
More recently, Valve has released a system called “Remote Play Together”. This system allows a similar level of game streaming, but for local multiplayer games. Effectively, this allows them to be streamed, taking what used to be confined to couch play to the internet.
Are we Ready?
An issue we have seen with game streaming for years comes from the viability of connection speeds. While those who have fibre and live in or near major cities should be able to use streaming technology easily, many won’t have that opportunity.
As internet plans continue to get cheaper, we expect the bandwidth side of this equation to be more easily addressed over time. Latency, however, is a different beast. Without a major data centre close-by, the delay on inputs can render game-streaming frustrating or impossible. Some games, like turn-based RPGs, will only suffer slightly from this problem. Fast-paced games like FPS online offerings, however, could be ruined entirely.
The next year or two should reveal a whole lot more about this technology as a whole, and its current viability as a mainstream gaming option. This could be a game-changer, but only time will tell.