An update to the code of Valve's popular online video game marketplace, Steam, makes reference to a new function called Steam Cloud Gaming, likely indicating a new cloud-based transaction service. This would allow Steam to compete with Stadia, Google's upcoming cloud-based streaming service.
Cloud-based gaming is a type of online gaming service that allows users to stream video games to their devices and play them without downloads or personal hardware limitations. While there are several providers of cloud gaming, one of the most notable is Google Stadia, a streaming service set to be released on November 19th. Stadia streams games in a manner similar to YouTube and will, in theory, allow the user to enjoy triple-A titles with any device that supports a Google Chrome connection.
The alleged Steam Cloud Gaming initiative was discovered by Steam Database, a third-party organization dedicated to tracking and sharing insight on Steam's data and applications. It uncovered the code on GitHub and posted the info to its official Twitter page earlier today, along with speculation that the service is being set up as a competitor to Google Stadia. The reveal comes in the form of an addendum to the developer portal on Steam's marketplace; the code states that a publisher "must agree to the terms in the Steam Cloud Gaming Addendum before continuing."
Valve has yet to make any announcements about Steam Cloud Gaming, and the code update is not yet live. While Steam users can currently stream their library of games to other devices, this requires both devices to be online at once. Steam has been facing competition from the Epic Games Store, another online video game marketplace that opened last December. Between this and the upcoming launch of Google Stadia, a move toward cloud gaming is a logical step for Valve to take.
Cloud gaming is not without its detractors. Skeptics of the format express concerns over losing ownership of the video games that they're paying for and relying instead on a subscription based service that could totally remove access to a game because of legal and licensing concerns. Game streaming also emphasizes access to a strong internet connection, which is not something that everyone has access to. There are also fears about system latency; even a slight delay between player input and in-game action could be a huge setback to the enjoyment of a cloud-based game. Many players also consider modding to be crucial to their enjoyment of PC games, and cloud gaming offers no options for customizing games in this way.
At the same time, the idea of having ready access to a full library of video games that require nothing but a strong internet connection to play is a tantalizing one, and it has plenty of support from the industry. While there is no small amount of controversy in the world of cloud gaming, it is not without potential. It remains to be seen whether or not Valve can capitalize on that potential and deliver a service that gamers can appreciate and enjoy.
Source: Steam Database/Twitter