Of all of Valve’s future forays into hardware - the Steam Machines, Steam Controller, Steam Train and Steam Iron - it’s Steam’s in-home streaming that I can most easily foresee bridging the gap between my study and living room, which in any case lack even a wall to differentiate them. I’m sat at my desk, less than a metre from the couch.
Which means it’s a relief to hear Valve chatting just as much about the service as they are their boxes. Today, they’re explaining why in-home streaming will be “a way for people with good home networks to seamlessly play their Steam games anywhere in the house”, with no cups or strings attached. Simple as that.
“Many Steam game developers are currently working on native SteamOS titles, which will result in the best possible living room experience being delivered to their customers,” they explain in an update to Steam’s in-home streaming group. “In the meantime, we believe it’s important to make sure that the existing catalog of games is also available to Steam users in the living room.”
Here’s how it’ll work: game audio and video flows from the remote computer to the player’s PC, and game input - keyboards, mouse or gamepad - returns the other way.
A computer otherwise incapable of running meaty games suddenly can - and in this way, Valve ensure their Linux-based Steam Machines a healthy back catalogue of Windows-based games.
“A graphically intensive game could be streamed from a beefy gaming rig in the office to your low powered laptop that you are using in bed,” continue Valve. “You could even start a game on one computer and move to a more comfortable location and continue playing it there.”
Good idea. And in keeping with Valve’s ethos, players remain in “complete control” of the hardware on both ends of the invisible cord, not to mention the network between them. That's in contrast to services like OnLive, which very nearly shut down last year.
“There is no data center, no subscription, and it's completely free!”, exclaim the developers.
The question of connection speed remains. Valve suggest that depends entirely on your hardware, networking configuration and “how fast you want it to be”. They note only one caveat - the computer you’re streaming from can’t be in use at the time.
Valve are planning to randomly select beta participants from the Steam in-home streaming group community before Christmas, so get yourself there. Or perhaps you’re more interested in the irons? Let us know in the comments.