Valve has quietly dipped its toes into the waters of cloud gaming with the beta rollout of Steam Cloud Play, which introduces GeForce Now streaming integration, but may include other services in the future. For now, it allows publishers to opt into GeForce Now streaming for their games through the Steam backend.
Presumably, it will also let users launch GeForce Now streaming through Steam for supported games. Only a limited number of games will be supported at first, and users will need to download the GeForce Now client and then connect their Steam accounts to it, like they already do.
"Customers will continue to acquire games on Steam the same way they do today, and partner payouts will remain the same," the page explains, which was already the case. In part, Valve seems to be helping Nvidia explain what GeForce Now is and isn't, and how it affects Steam publishers.
It could be a big help for GeForce Now. A variety of Steam games are already playable through GeForce Now, but on a piecemeal basis and with some big bumps in the road, as multiple developers and publishers have requested that their games be removed. With the ability for publishers to opt-in by flipping a switch on Steam, Nvidia's library of supported games should have an easier time growing.
This seems to be just the beginning as far as Steam's cloud features go: Valve said that it will "continue to build features and server capacity for players," and when developers opt into GeForce Now, they are also opting into cloud streaming "hosted by Valve," suggesting that the company may have plans for its own cloud streaming service. It has already built technology for livestreaming, Remote Play, and Remote Play Together, so it's not much of a stretch to imagine Valve building its own cloud streaming service.
The Steam integration is part of a broader change to GeForce Now: It's moving to a new opt-in model across the board, giving developers and publishers direct control over whether their games are accessible through the service. Valve may also be feeling a little pressure from the Epic Games Store on this front: In early March, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said that Epic will "wholeheartedly" support GeForce Now, for its own games and "Epic Games Store titles that choose to participate (including exclusives)."
Update: In response to our inquiry, Nathaniel Blue of Valve issued a statement indicating that it is looking ahead to more deeply integrating cloud-based gaming into Steam.
"At this time, the Steam Cloud Play Beta only supports Nvidia GeForce Now. Steam users in North America, Western Europe and Asia Pacific can download the Nvidia GeForce Now client and play supported games they own on Steam," Blue said. "On Wednesday, we updated our documentation and sent email to a small group of developers with details on how to opt into the program. We are working with Nvidia to make the experience as smooth as possible for players and developers."
"We are always testing additional ways for customers to play the games in their Steam Library. To that end, this is something of a pilot for cloud-based gaming via Steam. Although we have no further announcements at this moment, we are open to adding additional Steam Cloud partners over time."