On Thursday, SteamDB creator and regular dataminer Pavel Djundik he tweeted (Opens in a new tab) a new discovery in Steam’s code: “peer content” in client/server mode. Other programmers soon confirmed his claim: “Valve is apparently working on peer-to-peer Steam LAN.”
Peer-to-peer downloading might make you think of file-sharing software like Bittorrent, but this feature isn’t really about downloading games over the Internet: quite the opposite. The “LAN” item focuses on your local network, meaning one peer could be your desktop computer and the other could be your laptop or Steam Deck. Once the handheld gaming system is up and running, Valve is clearly interested in providing a way for players to transfer their game libraries to it without having to download them again.
If you’re lucky enough to be on an unlimited gigabit internet connection, LAN transfers won’t matter much to you. But for gamers with slower connections or struggling with ISP-imposed bandwidth limits, it could be a real boon.
Considering storage pigs (Opens in a new tab) some games have been converted, you’ll save hundreds of gigabytes of internet usage every month by copying games to your local network. It’s also a win for Valve: it means saving money on download server costs and at least easing congestion.
According to the programmers who tested the new feature, it actually works now, but not reliably. The only way to access it is to start the beta build of Steam in developer mode by adding “-dev” to the shortcut, opening the console, and setting the variable “@PeerContentClientMode” on one device and “@PeerContentServerMode” on another. . I confirmed that the code was there, but I didn’t try an actual transfer; Since that feature isn’t yet available in Steam’s UI, it’s clearly not finished.
“I haven’t gotten this to work reliably – it seems like the client/peer doesn’t want to know each other 100% of the time, or something,” Twitter user Nouv. he told me (Opens in a new tab). “Before I put this to work: uhhhhhh it’s in an early state (or something). I’m seeing it occasionally make connections, but it gives up frequently and doesn’t seem too efficient. It probably needs to mature. A little!”
This is definitely a new feature, until I updated to the latest Steam beta client, the code wasn’t showing up on the console. So it’s not just some leftover abandoned feature that’s been kicking around Steam for years; hopefully, this means that Valve is actively tweaking it, and we should be able to see support a few months from now. If you have multiple computers and wired your house for 2.5 gig ethernet: this is the starting point for a manic laugh.