A recent update to Steam's code includes signs of an upcoming new login method: Scanning a QR code with the Steam mobile app. That's according to a tweet by SteamDB creator Pavel Djundik.
The feature isn't live yet, but seems likely to release alongside the Steam Deck later this year to make logging in on the handheld more convenient. The Deck's touchscreen should mean typing in passwords won't be too onerous, but logging in by scanning a QR code sure sounds better to me.
The code Djundik highlighted shows two login options: one with account name and one with QR code. Login lines like "Awaiting your confirmation via the Steam Mobile app" indicate how the system will work. Djundik shared another screenshot from the in-development Steam build with a QR code box positioned alongside the typical Steam sign-in fields.
Valve's Steam Guard feature already supports two factor authentication using the Steam mobile app, so this makes sense as an extension of that functionality. It's a nice alternative to Steam Guard's ancient email verification option, which inevitably ends up getting buried in some Gmail folder full of advertisements, at least in my inbox. The Steam mobile authenticator is more convenient, as long as you don't mind opening up the Steam app on your phone.
Presumably the QR code sign-in will be available on Steam's desktop client as well as on the Steam Deck. When is the real question—Valve has said the Steam Deck will begin shipping in December of this year, and we'd expect its overhaul of SteamOS and the desktop Big Picture mode to land at the same time.
QR code signing in will be used on the Steam Deck, here's a work in progress screenshot of the login screen. pic.twitter.com/ydPJVzjHtYOctober 23, 2021
Valve's handheld gaming PC will bring with it a new version of SteamOS and a big push for Proton, Valve's solution for running games built for Windows on the Linux-based Steam Deck with little effort on the part of developers. In recent weeks we've gotten a peek at how the new version of SteamOS could look on desktops and seen Valve reaffirm that it plans for every game in the Steam library to be playable on the Steam Deck.
To ensure players that their games will work, Valve is introducing a Verified badge that indicates good performance, controller support, and no other compatibility issues. Every game on Steam won't be vetted by launch (there are a lot of them), but it seems like they're already off to a good start.