Valve announced cloud game streaming initiative, Steam Cloud Play

Official integration for services like Geforce Now coming to Steam

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Valve has very quietly shared the first details of their upcoming integration for cloud game streaming services with Steam. They just launched a beta, where developers can configure their games to stream to players via Nvidia’s Geforce Now streaming service.

Geforce Now is to be the first game streaming service supported by Steam Cloud Play, but Valve makes it clear that there may be other services coming down the line too.

“We may add additional Steam Cloud Gaming services in the future. At that time we would reach out to you to opt your games into the new service.”

It would appear that Steam users will be able to compare the services offered by different cloud gaming providers, and the prices they charge and pick whichever service most suits them. I wonder who else might participate down the line? Google with its massive global network of data centers? Amazon’s Web Services division? Microsoft’s Azure network perhaps? Many of the companies with the infrastructure at scale to operate a cloud gaming network for Steam are also to some extent competing with Steam, so it’s going to be interesting to see who they partner with down the line.

Another interesting element is that Valve is clearly trying to sidestep the issues that Nvidia has had of games disappearing from the service. Valve, at least for now, will only be supporting cloud streaming for games that the developer/publisher has opted in to streaming for. Valve seems to want to completely avoid the messy situation of supporting games that the creator of the game doesn’t want supported. This makes sense, since whilst Valve clearly is interested in the potential for how cloud-powered gaming could become more important in the future, they’re not looking to disrupt their existing business model, or cause tensions between them and key game development partners.

So it’s going to be a question for publishers and developers to decide whether they want to support Steam Cloud Play, and whilst many I’m sure will be happy to, there are also plenty of games sold on Steam today from companies that operate or have announced plans to launch their own game streaming service, and it seems perhaps unlikely that these games would opt into the service.

The actual legwork involved in adding support for Steam Cloud Play is relatively minor. Valve recommends that games support cloud saves, either through Steam Cloud or a separate system. This is to ensure that save data is synchronized whether you’re playing locally or via streaming. Beyond that, it’s simply a question of logging into the Steamworks backend and checking a couple of boxes.

It’s going to be interesting how Valve messages this to consumers going forward. This is just a beta, so many details are up in the air for now. Will game’s store pages communicate to players that a game supports or doesn’t support Steam Cloud Play? If I buy a game that supports Steam Cloud Play, is it guaranteed to support Steam Cloud Play indefinitely, or can support ever be discontinued at some point? Will developers be given the ability to negotiate deals with specific game streaming service providers to agree to exclusivity to a particular service, or if a game is on Steam Cloud Play will it be required to support all supported services? We’re going to have to wait and see when the service is launching for users to find out.

There’s no mention of developers getting any kind of financial reward for allowing their games to run on Geforce Now. They don’t get any share of the subscription revenues. Valve says:

“You will still be paid the same way you are paid now for your application sales (both package and in-game sales). Steam Cloud Play is simply giving Steam users more options on where and how to play their PC games.”

There’s no timeline yet for when this feature will launch for users, this is just a beta announcement for developers using the Steamworks backend, but it’s going to be interesting to see how the leading PC game storefront throwing their support behind cloud game streaming will impact its usage. By letting one purchase grant people access to a local copy to play on their own machine, and permission to stream from the cloud with save data synchronizing between the two, I think they’ll be able to appeal to players that have been turned off by exclusively cloud streaming services like Stadia. Plenty of users would love the option to play their games on their own high-end gaming desktop, but access the same game via cloud streaming when on low power mobile devices.

Are you interested in streaming games you’ve bought on Steam via the cloud? Would whether a game provides that option or not impact your purchasing decisions going forward? Are there any particular games that you hope to see supported? Let us know in the comments.