All at once, game companies seem to be tiptoeing their way out into the cloud this fall. Google is readying Stadia for launch next week. Microsoft is working on its Project Xcloud initiative that would combine cloud gaming and home game streaming. Now it seems like Valve is looking to get into the game streaming space, too, if references to “Steam Cloud Gaming” are anything to go by.
Last week, Twitter account Steam Database noticed a change to the form that Valve partners use to sign distribution agreements with Steam, which reference a “Steam Cloud Gaming Addendum.” A follow-up tweet suggests that this is a service that Valve might share with other streaming providers, and calls out Nvidia’s GeForce Now as a specific one.
Such a deal wouldn’t necessarily be the first of its kind. Steam recently put together a deal to let EA sell games on its platform. Ubisoft’s Uplay Plus service will be playable through Google Stadia, too (both the free and paid tiers of Stadia).
Shreds of Information
There isn’t much information about what this could be just yet. Valve has shied away from providing paid services, preferring to let gamers provide the hardware themselves.
Google could be looking to expand its home streaming services. It started with in-home streaming via Steam Link a few years back and introduced Steam Link Anywhere earlier this year. The latter allows players to make their home computer a game streaming source anywhere. Steam also recently introduced Remote Play Together, which allows two people to play a local multiplayer game together over Steam. Valve could be looking to formalize this into some kind of software package, though Steam Cloud Gaming seems like a misleading name for that.
On the other hand, Valve could be looking to compete directly with Stadia and offer gamers a way to stream games to a low-spec laptop or mobile phone. If Valve were to somehow let you access your whole library as a streaming service, it would be game over for Stadia right from the start. Then again, that seems unlikely, and that Valve has developers signing up for something suggests that it might not be every game – whatever it ends up being.
The Steam Cloud Gaming name is certainly evocative, and the confluence of companies getting into game streaming all at once (five years after PlayStation Now) makes it feel like a likely move.
PC hardware enthusiasts are the first to decry game streaming, and for good reason. It’ll never be as responsive as a home system, even if you can crank the settings to ultra. And then there are those data transfer requirements. But a library of potentially hundreds of on-demand games is tantalizing, and we’ll be watching Valve closely.