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Steam Play thoughts: A Valve game streaming service

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With the talk of some big players moving into cloud gaming, along with a number of people thinking Valve will also be doing it, here’s a few thoughts from me.

Firstly, for those that didn’t know already, Google are testing the waters with their own cloud gaming service called Project Stream. For this, they teamed up with Ubisoft to offer Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on the service. I actually had numerous emails about this, from a bunch of Linux gamers who managed to try it out and apparently it worked quite well on Linux.

EA are pushing pretty heavily with this too with what they’re calling Project Atlas, as their Chief Technology Officer talked about in a Medium post on how they’ve got one thousand EA employees now working on it. That sounds incredibly serious to me!

There’s more cloud services offering hardware for a subscription all the time, although a lot of them are quite expensive and use Windows.

So this does beg the question: What is Valve going to do? Cloud gaming services, that will allow people with lower-end devices to play a bunch of AAA games relatively easily could end up cutting into Valve’s wallet.

Enter Valve’s Cloud Gaming Service

Pure speculation of course, but with the amount of big players now moving into the market, I’m sure Valve will be researching it themselves. Perhaps this is what Steam Play is actually progressing towards? With Steam Play, Valve will be able to give users access to a large library of games running on Linux where they don’t have to pay extra fees for any sort of Windows licensing fee from Microsoft and obviously being Linux it would allow them to heavily customise it to their liking.

On top of that, what about the improvements this could further bring for native desktop Linux gaming? Stop and think about it for a moment, how can Valve tell developers they will get the best experience on this cloud gaming platform? Have a native Linux version they support with updates and fixes. Valve are already suggesting developers to use Vulkan, it’s not such a stretch I think.

Think about how many games, even single-player games are connected to the net now in some way with various features. Looking to the future, having it so your games can be accessed from any device with the content stored in the cloud somewhere does seem like the way things are heading. As much as some (including me) aren’t sold on the idea, clearly this is where a lot of major players are heading and Valve won’t want to be left behind.

For Valve, it might not even need to be a subscription service, since they already host the data for the developers. Perhaps, you buy a game and get access to both a desktop and cloud copy? That would be a very interesting and tempting idea. Might not be feasible of course, since the upkeep on the cloud machines might require a subscription if Valve wanted to keep healthy profits, but it’s another way they could possibly trump the already heavy competition.

Think the whole idea is incredibly farfetched? Fair enough, I do a little too. However, they might already have a good amount of the legwork done on this, thanks to their efforts with the Steam Link. Did anyone think a year or two ago you would be able to stream Steam games to your phone and tablet?

Valve also offer movies, TV series and more on Steam so they have quite a lot to offer.

It might not happen at all of course, these are just some basic thoughts of mine on what Valve’s moves might be in future. It's likely not going to happen for VR titles, since they need so much power and any upset with latency could make people quite sick. Highly competitive games would also be difficult, but as always once it gets going the technology behind it will constantly improve like everything. There’s got to be some sort of end game for all their Linux gaming work and not just to help us, they are a business and they will keep moving along with all the other major players.

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56 comments
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cdnr1 1 November 2018 at 2:53 pm UTC
Nope don't like it


Last edited by cdnr1 at 1 November 2018 at 2:54 pm UTC
stretch611 1 November 2018 at 2:58 pm UTC
QuoteThink about how many games, even single-player games are connected to the net now in some way with various features.

The problem with this in the past is quite evident... and one of the major companies involved in the new cloud effort (EA) was the worst offender.

Other than possibly a high score board, what features are actually wanted from the internet?

There are racing and FPS games that have been known to contact the internet in order to download new billboard graphics regularly. Of course these are used to sell in game advertising... ok if a title is free to play, but it has been used in purchased games.

We all know of the hundreds of games that require "activation servers" in order to check the licenses while playing. But the reality is that people that pirate games apply a patch to remove the activation code, while the people that are legitimate users are screwed when they have internet connection issues and can't play the game they want to legally use. In addition, if the company decides to turn off activation servers, there is nothing you can do (other than get the pirated version.) There have been titles that EA in particular has turned off one year after a release leaving a player unable to play... (usually after a sequel is released.) In some cases people buying old titles from "bargain bins" are unable to play the game due to buying after the servers were taken down.

And lets just say that the less said about the remake of Simcity the better. It "required" constant internet access from even the single player content. The game servers were overloaded at launch making it a horrible experience. It was later revealed that the online requirement was a forced requirement having no actual bearing on playing the game. (Thanks EA!!)
beniwtv 1 November 2018 at 3:13 pm UTC
NanobangI'm no fan of "the" cloud in general as it continues the trend of further eroding control of what otherwise would be one's personal property.

Just quickly want to chime in here: Games/software are not your personal property. You may own a physical medium the game/software is on though, which is your property. But you still need a license to use that copy.

So, games and software are licensed. Even FOSS software. Otherwise, you would own the right to them, which you do not.

I get what you wanted to say here, though. And I agree, when owning a physical copy without DRM probably nobody is gonna bother you in the future, to take it away or prevent you from playing it.
dvd 1 November 2018 at 3:14 pm UTC
Cloud gaming will never become a thing. It's just like VR. When people have thousands of dollars worth of computers, people won't tolerate latency, and fiber is not really a reality even in the oh-so advanced North America and Europe.

On the other hand, marketing works, so drm sells. I think that regarding games, movies etc. it is not actually for screwing crackers (because there was no kind of drm that really worked), but for screwing the customers.
beniwtv 1 November 2018 at 3:25 pm UTC
My thoughts on DRM/Cloud gaming/Always-Online games is that personally, I have mixed feelings for those things.

I am myself not the type of gamer that goes and re-plays games once I've played the story once. Even with "recurring" games like Rocket League, there comes a time when I leave them for good, when there's no more interest in playing the same game over and over. So on that side, I don't see myself affected by DRM/Cloud/Always-Online in the sense that I do not care if games are taken away from me once I've played them; I have no interest in them anymore anyway.

HOWEVER, on the other side, I am very much against DRM/Cloud gaming/Always-Online - the reason is that I believe games should be preserved for future generations, or players that have never played them. We can not preserve these games if we're actively being hindered by it.

Worst thing is, the industry does not care about preserving games - they actively go against it even years after the game is no longer being sold. I hope for a world where DRM is stripped from games after it's no longer necessary (or not even put in to begin with!), or small server back-ends/offline patches released for Always-Online games, or cloud streamed games getting a downloadable package once it's no longer offered on the streaming services.

It wouldn't be hard for devs to do these tings, and let the gamer community worry about game preservation.
Krogan86 1 November 2018 at 3:38 pm UTC
Nice maybe games which are locked to windows like Fortnite will be availlable to Linux with this also I have an old computer so maybe it will be worth it.
Julius 1 November 2018 at 3:41 pm UTC
dvdCloud gaming will never become a thing. It's just like VR. When people have thousands of dollars worth of computers, people won't tolerate latency, and fiber is not really a reality even in the oh-so advanced North America and Europe.

It's actually the exact opposite to the VR and general situation you describe above. You and those people are not the market for cloud gaming. You might become the collateral if it moves in a direction that makes it less profitable to support existing gaming platforms, but I think with Valve this risk is the lowest (and the highest with Google as they have 0 interest in the existing PC ecosystem).

Cloud gaming is mainly a drive to expand the market to the millions of people out there who either can't effort a gaming PC, or decided since they don't play very often that it is not worth it to buy a fast enough PC. For both groups a cheap streaming flatrate for games that works "good enough" is definitely interesting.

But looking at Valve's previous moves and having had some experience with their less than stellar server infrastructure, I would say that they just don't have nor want to run the needed infrastructure (and even if they wanted, they would probably fail at it badly).

So that leaves them only the choice of looking for a partner with the server clusters. But there isn't much choice there, which would not put them at risk of being dependent of a direct competitor. Microsoft would certainly a bad move as it would make them double dependent. Google is running their own experiments and traditionally doesn't do this kind of business. Amazon is a direct competitor in the sales area and unless this would be a long play to sell the Valve to Amazon, they would be an incredibly bad choice. Then there are some smaller players, all of which probably don't have the needed infrastructure. Last but not least there is IBM and with their recent acquisition of RedHat they would be the only and most likely candidate I think.

So if Valve strikes a deal with IBM/RedHat, then yes there will be a Steam streaming service... otherwise I strongly doubt it.
dvd 1 November 2018 at 3:52 pm UTC
I don't think it's the exact opposite. VR hasn't flown (not in the nintendo days and not now). Sure with the new powerful technology there are probably some niches it can fit into. I think considering how annoyed people get by buffering on youtube/twitch, just imagime that in a new shiny game. And again, the infrastucture is most widespread in the areas (EU, NA), where people are richer and can afford a personal computer. Some firms will definetly try it, i just don't see people putting up with the latency.
Nevertheless 1 November 2018 at 4:05 pm UTC
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I always thought one reason Valve invests in VR technology is to protect their busyness against such streaming services. You'd need a really great internet connection to be able to stream VR. Impossible with current tech.
Purple Library Guy 1 November 2018 at 4:05 pm UTC
On one hand, I find Liam's speculation plausible. Valve might indeed have some ideas in this direction.

On the other, like many here, for reasons they have described, I am not personally wild about the idea of playing games that are "in the cloud" instead of on my computer.

On the gripping hand, I don't think streaming games is the future, at least not the very near future. People have pointed out that in many places broadband is not so broad--and frankly, the big provider companies mostly don't seem interested in investing a bunch of money to improve this. They're all just extracting profits from networks (phone, cable TV) that pre-existed the internet. Even where it's good, hardcore gamers are paranoid about latency. Some people do have concerns about the privacy and "ownership" aspects of the cloud. But above all, people are cheap; we've seen over and over and over again how software companies are just creaming their pants at the ideas of software as a service so they can charge ongoing subscription fees, and we've seen over and over and over again their dreams of endless gravy trains die as they find out people just aren't willing to pay.
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