Valve is adding a new feature to Steam that will allow you to play local multiplayer games with friends online.
The feature, called Remote Play Together, will enter its beta period on October 21. The basic idea is that any game that offers split-screen play or any other versions of local multiplayer will soon be playable with your Steam friends via online play. Here’s Valve’s detailed explanation of how the feature works:
“Much like a traditional split-screen experience, the host’s computer is running the game, but with Remote Play Together friends can join using their own controllers, voice, audio, and display — regardless of whether they also own the game on Steam. Any controllers connected to the second player’s computer will act as if they’re plugged directly into the first computer. The player hosting the game can also choose to allow or block inputs to their shared keyboard and mouse.”
It sounds like the feature will enforce a four-player cap, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem considering that most local multiplayer games usually top out at around four. It’s also interesting to hear that you’ll be able to play these games with your online friends regardless of whether or not they own a copy of the game. That’s a pretty generous feature that should enhance the appeal of purchasing such games without relying on your friends to do the same.
At the end of the day, we think that’s why many devs will go along with this feature. Yes, playing multiplayer games with friends in the same setting is an often irreplaceable experience, but it’s also wildly impractical for many gamers (especially older gamers). Besides, this feature limits you to playing with Steam friends.
The good news is that local multiplayer is more about the spirit of an idea than the logistics. Local multiplayer games are among the most underrated multiplayer experiences of all-time, and the best ones offer a form of gameplay that you just don’t get with online-focused multiplayer games. The spirit of such experiences should survive this new technology.