Is Remote Play Actually Good?

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Alexander Gray

A picture based on the Steam Remote Play Together feature. (Photo courtesy of Alexander Gray).

As we move through the years, more companies like Google, Nvidia, and Microsoft are starting to go digital and streaming services for games. Now out of the water, Valve has announced their newest addition to Steam which allows users to stream their games to other devices and users.

Steam Remote Play allows you to stream over 2000 supported games to your phone, other computers, the Steam Machine, and the Steam Link. You will need to be on the same internet when streaming and also need fast internet (around 35Mbps or bitrate speed).

Through my playtime with Remote Play on a 40Mbps hotspot, I was able to play Cuphead and Call of Duty: Black Ops III with relative smoothness with a tiny input lag here and there. I would highly recommend connecting a Bluetooth controller or keyboard and mouse as the touchscreen controls are a little annoying.

Now, Remote Play ships with another feature titled Remote Play Together allows you to broadcast your game to other Steam users. This allows others to hook up a controller and play alongside you, or you could share controller input.

I did four tests with this feature with four different games: Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Cuphead, and Stranded Deep. I also made sure to test in different regions to see how it affects the game.

In my first test that focused on speed, I shared input with Mauldin High School Junior Russel Maldonado on Amnesia and broadcasted through AT&T 30Mbps internet with no UPnP (Universal Plug and Play, essential for a smooth experience with online gaming). We had a relatively rocky experience with the connection; Russel also had trouble with resolution and input lag.

In the second test that also focused on speed, I shared input again with Maldonado on Stranded Deep and broadcasted through Spectrum with a 35Mbps internet with UPnP. We found the broadcast was much smoother than before and running at a higher resolution with occasional dips in quality.

In the third test which focused on split-screen play, Steam user BakuganTJ, who was in Columbia, South Carolina at the time, streamed Black Ops III to me to play split-screen. On the receiving end, I received around a 360p display resolution with a moderate input lag and a varying framerate, a very detrimental experience if you’re playing a fast action game like Black Ops III.

The fourth test consisted of playing as Cuphead and broadcasting the game to people over long distances. The game was broadcasted to Discord user Abigail10x who is located in the UK, Discord user Polslov who is located in Poland, and Envision camp attendee Corwyn Gentry who is located in Massachusetts. This by far was the worst experience I had with it, as the input lag from the other testers was horrendous. It was even worse on the testers’ end, as they were receiving a 144p resolution screen with around 1-5 frames a second, making the game seemingly unplayable.

If you are planning on using the Remote Play Together feature, it is recommended that you and a friend have fast internet and live close to minimize latency.

Now, Valve isn’t the only one who has created a streaming service for a platform. So, how does Steam Remote Play compare to Google Stadia, Microsoft xCloud, and GeforceNOW?

Google Stadia is a new online streaming service for google. Stadia currently costs $129 to jump into gaming with an optional Stadia pro membership for ten dollars a month. Stadia works on Android, IOS, and PC and has over 40 confirmed games coming to the service.

xCloud by Microsoft is the streaming service designed to bring your Xbox games anywhere you go. The service is still in beta and only works with Android and PC at the moment but will come to IOS and other devices at a later date. At the moment, over a hundred games are playable but will expand to your entire library.

GeForce NOW is Nvidia’s launcher streaming service. The service scans installed games you have on other launchers and adds them to a virtual library where you can stream your games. You can stream one hour of any game for free, but to get access to longer play sessions, you need to pay a five dollar a month subscription.

While impressive, Steam Remote Play isn’t accessible to everyone. The required fast internet isn’t available to everyone and the latency with people over long distances makes the feature useless to some people. However, I did have fun with the feature and I will be using it to play games in the future.

7/10 Good