Valve May Soon Introduce Peer-to-Peer Steam Downloads Across LAN

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PC gamers almost never use game discs anymore with all the sources for downloadable titles, but what if you didn’t have to download them every time? Code from the latest beta builds of the desktop Steam client points to an upcoming feature that would let you move game files from one device to another on your network, potentially saving you a ton of time and bandwidth. You can tinker with this feature now, but be warned, it’s still very early in development.

News of the “peer content” mode was first broken by SteamDB developer Pavel Djundik, who tweeted about the apparent feature last week. The name probably evokes the image of peer-to-peer file sharing, but both of the “peers” in this case are on your local network. Thus, one system can act as the server, and another is the client downloading game content from it. This makes it possible to shuffle a game from your desktop to a laptop or Steam Deck. Or, it could be the other way around.

Game sizes continue to increase, ballooning to well over 100GB in many cases. If you’ve got an unmetered gigabit connection, you probably don’t mind downloading the same 100GB on multiple machines, but those on slower connections with bandwidth caps would really appreciate this feature. You could burn through 10 percent of Comcast’s standard 1.2TB monthly data cap downloading a game once. If you have multiple gaming machines, you’re looking at a significant chunk of your monthly allotment gone. This also helps Valve, which saves bandwidth on its end.

This feature is available in the most basic way if you’re running the latest beta of the desktop Steam client. After launching it with the “-dev” attribute, you’ll be able to use the console to set “@PeerContentClientMode” on one machine and “@PeerContentServerMode” on the other. Gamers around the web say this is working but not reliably. Once this feature is complete, there will be a UI and no need to tinker with the dev mode.

Since the feature is only available in the latest beta, that shows it’s not an abandoned feature of yesteryear — Valve is working on this, but we have no idea when it will be available for real. Given its current state though, it could be a while.

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