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Steam Deck may be getting Xbox Cloud Gaming support — this could be huge

Steam Deck being played
(Image credit: Valve)

It looks like Valve’s Steam Deck will be getting Xbox Cloud Gaming support. Microsoft’s Phil Spencer confirmed that he has been testing out how the streaming service functions on the machine after getting hands-on with the portable gaming device last week.  

If you're out of the loop, the Steam Deck is a handheld gaming device from Valve currently scheduled to launch in December. It will give owners access to their entire library of Steam games while on the move, and the machine has recently been put through its paces by some journalists and persons of influence. 

Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of Gaming, was among the select few to get hands on and tweeted out that it’s a “real nice device.” While it’s good to know that the device itself is enjoyable to use, the most interesting part of Spencer’s post was confirmation that “xCloud works well.” Spencer also confirmed that he’d used the Steam Deck to play both Halo and Age of Empires. Presumably, he played these through the Xbox Cloud Gaming service.  

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Xbox Cloud Gaming (formerly known as xCloud) is a video game streaming service from Microsoft. It allows users to stream high-quality games directly to a range of compatible devices including mobile phones. It would appear that Steam Deck will be added to that list, although whether the service will be available via a native app at launch is currently unknown. 

It’s already been confirmed that Steam Deck won’t limit users to solely playing games through Steam. It will be possible to play games using VR headsets via the Oculus Quest 2 or other headsets, shop on alternative gaming marketplace like the Epic Games Store and install entirely different operating systems such as the upcoming Windows 11. Xbox Cloud Gaming support would add even more versatility to the mix. 

Furthermore, the ability to stream games could be significant for the Steam Deck as there has been some concern about performance on the device. While Valve is targeting a minimum benchmark of 30 fps for any games played on Steam Deck, as several Nintendo Switch ports have shown downscaling a game for a portable device can require coding wizardry. 

While there will likely be plenty of graphically impressive games that'll run remarkably well on the Steam Deck, others could struggle on the portable’s weaker hardware. That’s where Xbox Cloud Gaming could really come in handy. The service is able to run big-budget Xbox Game Pass titles even on mobile devices as the game is only being streamed to the device rather than natively played from it. 

Hopefully, official confirmation of Xbox Cloud Gaming being available on Steam Deck will follow Spencer’s tweet as the technology could help make the machine an essential gaming purchase. Though, anyone hoping to get hold of a Steam Deck soon may face disappointment as the device is already sold out of its first wave of pre-orders

Rory is a staff writer at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics including tech news, deals, gaming, streaming and more. When he’s not writing hot takes on the latest gaming hardware and streaming shows, he can be found watching a borderline unhealthy amount of movies and being thoroughly disappointed by his terrible football team.