PC gamers have traditionally been tethered to their gaming machines, but Valve’s Steam Link app offered a potential escape. Steam Link lets you stream a PC game to your mobile device, and the Android launch went off without a hitch. Things weren’t so peachy on the iOS side, though. Apple rejected Valve’s app with a vague complaint about business conflicts. After the backlash, Apple has clarified its position, and that might give Valve another shot.
Steam Link is not running any games itself, but rather streams them from your gaming PC. It’s like having a Steam Link streaming box without the dedicated hardware. To use Steam Link, you just need a steam account, a controller, and a gaming PC on your local network with 15Mbps of bandwidth.
The Android version of Steam Link is in beta, but it works surprisingly well. It’s mirroring the Steam Big Picture mode, but you can minimize Steam and see your computer’s desktop. So, it’s actually just a fancy remote desktop app. Apple didn’t like something about Steam Link and rejected it, saying only that Steam Link would conflict with its business. Apple’s updated guidelines shed some light on that conflict with a new section titled “4.2.7 Remote Application Mirroring.”
According to the new guidelines, Apple requires that remote application mirroring apps connect only to host computers over local networks. That host computer also needs to do all the rendering, so the iOS app can’t use any platform APIs or features beyond those required to stream the content. Account creation and management must be done from the host machine as well. Most importantly, Apple requires that mirroring apps only show content the user already owns — it can’t have anything approaching an app store. That means no browsing, searching, and certainly no buying games.
Currently, Steam’s Big Picture mode in Steam Link offers the full experience. You can buy new games and poke around in the store from your connected device. Apple is fiercely protective of its App Store cash cow, so these new restrictions aren’t surprising. It gets a cut of every app sale and in-app purchase on the platform, so it doesn’t want users buying Steam games in the Steam Link app.
With the guidelines clear, Valve may be able to create a version of Steam Link that passes Apple’s review. It would only be able to show your current game library for streaming — anything else you’d have to do from the host machine directly. Valve hasn’t said if it’ll develop a scaled-back version of Steam Link yet.
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