Why Doesn’t Steam Offer Its Own Cloud Gaming Service?

Steam Cloud

One of the very largest video game platforms of any kind is Valve Software’s PC storefront Steam, which hosts hundreds of thousands of games from thousands of developers and publishers. Steam is also already allowing cloud gaming services like NVIDIA’s Geforce NOW and Boosteroid to stream your Steam library to you from the cloud. Steam has developed its own (cloud friendly) Linux OS – which, via WINE and Proton, supports most games on the Steam library. But, Steam doesn’t offer its own Steam branded cloud gaming service – yet at least. Why is this? Let’s discuss.

Steam and NVIDIA Logos

Steam Would Have To Compete With NVIDIA and Boosteroid:

The first point I want to bring up is a simple one: that is the fact there are already multiple other cloud gaming services that let you play your Steam PC games in the cloud. Those include the likes of NVIDIA Geforce NOW, Boosteroid as well as “Cloud PC” solutions like Shadow and AirGPU.

I do not doubt that if Steam rolled out its cloud gaming platform it would be adopted by millions of gamers on launch. But, many of the people most keen to play in the cloud are already using other services to access their Steam libraries. The number of those gamers who would switch to using a Steam version of cloud gaming may not be high if they are satisfied with their current offering.

Steam also has to factor in the costs that would be added to its wallet, as cloud gaming is not cheap. Steam is, however, already an online gaming platform that gives gamers free cloud saves and also free online play for all games on the platform (by which I mean there is no add-on cost like Xbox Game Pass Core or PlayStation Plus to access online games). This generally leaves the actual gaming server configuration up to each publisher, however.

Many Games Are Delisted Or Published By Companies Who Don’t Offer Their Games On Many Cloud Gaming Platforms:

This next point, in my opinion, is the biggest one. There are many, many game publishers that have put their games on Steam, but, for simplicity, let’s focus on Xbox Game Studios and EA, Sega, PlayStation Studios, and Ubisoft. Whilst Xbox Game Studios (and its sister publishers of Bethesda Softworks and Activision Blizzard) have signed many ten-year contracts to bring their games to other services via the cloud, some of the other publishers on our list are not eager to have their titles streamed from the cloud.

Whilst Sega and Ubisoft have both brought their game libraries to new platforms like Netflix Games, Amazon Luna, and Google Stadia they only allow select games to be available on Steam cloud gaming services. EA is one of the more awkward game publishers as far as the cloud is concerned. They have hundreds of games on Steam but also offer their games on their own EA branded PC launcher as well. Only a handful of their games have opted into GeForce NOW so far. They also include their games on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which means select EA games are playable via the cloud via Xbox but not other options.

PlayStation Studios is another tricky publisher due to PlayStation still wanting gamers to buy their games on PlayStation first. The library of PlayStation-owned games on Steam is a mere fraction of what you can get on other PlayStation platforms. For a wonderful and brief period of time, you could actually play some of these PlayStation titles on GeForce NOW. Sony, unfortunately, then pulled these games from NVIDIA’s service. So, don’t expect PlayStation Studios to play nice with a Steam cloud gaming platform, either.

Steam Deck

Launching A Cloud Gaming Service Could Cannibalize Steam Deck Sales

Alongside being the largest PC gaming platform, Steam has also released a handheld gaming PC known as the Steam Deck. The Steam Deck is a system that I own myself, and I feel that its existence could be a reason why we won’t see a cloud gaming platform from Steam. There is a chance that some gamers might pass up spending the hundreds of dollars it costs to buy a Steam Deck if they could just stream their entire PC video games to any device with a screen – e.g. their phone. There is no doubt there will be many gamers who still buy a Steam Deck (and prefer local play) despite the existence of a cloud gaming option. But, the mere existence of an official Steam cloud service could create consumer confusion and a lack of clarity in Steam’s ambitions.

Final Thoughts:

Personally, I feel like Steam is missing a trick by not offering a cloud gaming service. Sure, Steam is already the biggest PC game store and they already offer gamers online play and cloud saves for free, but widening availability of Steam across devices (including Smart TVs in the living room) via the cloud could potentially add tens of millions of gamers to the Steam ecosystem. I do, however, recognize the problem of costs, competition and the issue of publishers who may not allow their titles to be streamed via a Steam cloud service. However, as Steam is my preferred gaming platform, I do hope we will see Steam make a play to try and take on other cloud gaming companies with its own first party cloud offering. Steam innovated the switch to digital gaming on PC back in 2004; so, why not try and innovate around cloud gaming?

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