Valve has just launched a major update to its Steam Link service: you can now stream and play your collection of games on a desktop or Android device wherever you are. All you need is an internet connection.
That’s an upgrade from nearly a year ago, when Steam Link supported streaming between your gadgets, but required them to be on the same Wi-Fi or wired network. With this, Valve has now joined the ranks of tech firms racing to make game streaming go mainstream.
I tested Steam Link briefly by running Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed on my Android phone with a 4G connection in India (read: generally fast, but can be spotty at times). Things started off smoothly enough, but as the race progressed, the quality of the stream dropped. Sadly, at one point, the video hung completely, while I heard the game continue as if nothing had happened.
That tragic ending to my racing career tells me my mobile data connection is most likely to blame – but it’s also possible that the game stream could be better optimized for delivery across a mobile connection, and it could benefit from being beamed via servers closer to my geographic location. Your mileage with this will probably vary depending on your connection speed and where you’re playing.
Regardless, I’m excited about this, because it means that I can enjoy my collection of PC games while on vacation, or when I’m working remotely and don’t want to lug my gaming laptop around.
Sadly, this doesn’t yet work with iOS devices, because Apple has blocked the Steam Link app on its mobile platform, citing ‘business conflicts.’ Hopefully, the two companies will eventually resolve this issue and make the app available to Steam fans with iPads and iPhones.
These are exciting times indeed for gamers: several firms are working on streaming services, including Electronic Arts and Amazon. Sony’s PlayStation Now has already been around for a bit, and Nvidia’ GeForce Now service is currently in beta.
Meanwhile, Microsoft just showed off a demo of its Project xCloud service streaming an Xbox game to an Android device this week (watch the clip above). And Google is slated to reveal its consumer-ready version of Project Stream, which it trialed over the past few months through January, at the upcoming Game Developers Conference on March 19 in San Francisco.
Gather around as we unveil Google’s vision for the future of gaming at #GDC19. Join us live 3/19 at 10 a.m. PT → https://t.co/rb6fN26PDi pic.twitter.com/Vd242KZAWO
— Google (@Google) March 12, 2019
I can’t wait to see how these services take shape and evolve over the coming months. In addition to supporting large libraries of games, they’ll also need to tackle issues with connection speeds and latency. Hopefully, this bunch of companies will be up to the task.
To try Steam Link yourself, ensure you’re running the latest beta build of the Steam client on your desktop (Windows, macOS, or Linux), then install the Steam Link beta app on your Android phone, and pair your system using a numeric code. If you’re using another computer to play, you’ll need the beta client on that one too, and you can follow these simple instructions to get connected and start playing.
Have you tried Steam Link on a mobile data connection yet? Let us know your experience in the comments.
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