Steam Remote Play Raises Questions of Local Multiplayer’s Future

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An announcement by a Steam product designer has been making waves recently as it announced a new twist on split-screen multiplayer. Going by the name of Steam: Remote Play Together, this new system will allow users to play local-coop games at a distance via an active internet connection.

This announcement means that both new and classic local split-screen games will have another lease on life. But what does this signify for the overall falling focus on this same-couch gameplay?

Many of our older readers will have grown up on local coop. This was a simple necessity a few years ago, as the internet in these days was not fast, cheap, or ubiquitous enough to prove a viable option for many.

Instead, many of our purchases were based on the idea of getting the most out of playing with our friends. Since this made local games so popular, this target became a natural trend of the developers and publishers of the time. Since then, this form of gaming has rapidly fallen out of favor.

Instead of couch coop, we now have to use the internet or rely on the hot-swap method. This method, of simply switching turns still works as well as it ever has, at least. Whether through lives in God of War on PS4 or spins on the slot games on websites like Cherry Casino, we still derive enormous satisfaction from this form of gaming, with the latter showing just how much iGaming titles have almost joined forces with conventional gaming. The appeal, in other words, is still there.

We mention this because of the possibilities which Steam’s new feature offers. In essence, this is a game streaming service. The game is hosted on one computer and then sent to the other. This is a similar system to Google Stadia aims to accomplish, and what PSNow has been doing for years.

So, what if we went in the opposite direction? It is entirely feasible that, with the same technology, it could be possible to stream multiple full online multiplayer games to the same computer or TV. In theory, this would allow any online-only multiplayer game to become a split-screen one, and this is an idea we find infinitely more interesting than the alternative.

Of course, such systems would still suffer from the same limitations which affect current streaming services. High bandwidth internet connections such as cable would become absolute necessities. Playing anywhere not close to a data center would incur so much latency as to render the entire operation pointless. However, these are issues which are being solved as technology improves and so they should at least massively diminish in the near future.

The best thing about this type of theoretical technological adaption is that the systems needed for it to exist are already in operation. Today, it would require little more than a HUD/UI redesign, as well as some changes to how the resolution is handled, and it could be in operation.

Standing in the way is the question of appeal. While many of us would much prefer this option to what Valve is trying with Steam: Remote Play Together, there is still the issue of financial pull. No matter how simple this idea is if it lacks the financial appeal, its operation is effectively a non-starter.

Let’s hope enough players get out there and ask for such a system, as we’d love to return to playing games like we used to.