On Thursday, SteamDB creator and habitual data miner Pavel Djundik tweeted (opens in a new tab) a new discovery in the Steam code: client/server mode “companion content”. His prescription, soon confirmed by other developers, was that “Valve is apparently working on peer-to-peer Steam downloads on LAN.”
Peer-to-peer downloads may make you think of file-sharing software like Bittorrent, but this feature isn’t actually about downloading games over the internet: it’s the opposite. The “LAN” element focuses on your local network, which means one peer could be your desktop computer and the other could be your laptop or Steam Deck. After launching the portable gaming system, Valve is clearly interested in giving players a way to transfer their game libraries to it without re-downloading them.
If you’re lucky enough to be on an unlimited gigabit internet connection, the LAN transfers won’t matter much to you. But for gamers on slower connections or dealing with ISP-mandated bandwidth limits, it could be a real boon.
Considering the storage pigs (opens in a new tab) some games have become, you could potentially save hundreds of gigabytes of internet usage per month by copying games over your local network instead. That’s also a win for Valve: it means saving money on download server costs and at least easing congestion a little.
According to the developers who researched the new feature, it actually works now—but unreliably. The only way to access it is to launch the beta build of Steam in developer mode by adding “-dev” to its shortcut, opening the console and setting the “@PeerContentClientMode” variable on one device and the “@PeerContentServerMode” variable on another. . I have confirmed that the code is there, but have not tested an actual transfer; since the feature isn’t accessible in the Steam UI yet, it’s clearly not finished.
“I haven’t gotten this to work reliably—the client/partner doesn’t seem to want to meet each other 100% of the time, or something,” Twitter user Nouv informed me (opens in a new tab). “Before you work on getting this working: uhhhhhh it’s in a real early state (or something). I see it makes connections sometimes but it gives up often and doesn’t seem really too efficient. Probably needs to mature. a bit!”
The feature is definitely new—until I updated to the latest Steam beta client, the code didn’t show up on the console. So it’s not some trailblazing abandoned feature that’s been kicking around Steam for years; hopefully that means Valve is actively tinkering with it, and that we could see support for it a few months down the road. If you own several computers and have a house wired for 2.5 gig Ethernet: this is your cue for a crazy laugh.