Steam Link Reaches Apple Devices at Long Last

Credit: ValveCredit: Valve
Valve this week finally released its Steam Link app for the Apple TV and iOS devices. A beta version of the app debuted on Android in May 2018, and Valve had a version ready for Apple devices as well, but having to contend with App Store policies delayed its launch for over a year.

It was clear that Valve was surprised by Apple's decision to block Steam Link from the App Store. The company told journalists in late May 2018 that Apple had approved the app for release, but once it was actually launched, it "revoked its approval citing business conflicts with app guidelines that had allegedly not been realized by the original review team." What app guidelines? That wasn't shared with the public.

Many assumed that Steam Link had run afoul of Apple rules that require developers to offer 30% of revenues from in-app purchases. Neither company ever confirmed that, but they announced in June 2018 that they would work together to bring Steam Link to Apple devices. In the weeks between, Apple updated its App Store guidelines to allow purchases via remote access tools, albeit in a fiddly way.

Valve had also removed the ability to purchase games via Steam Link for iOS in between those announcements. (Beta versions of the app were still available to journalists, which is how that removal was discovered.) If the in-app purchases were really the obstacle to Steam Link's release, it seemed like Valve and Apple had both attempted to overcome it, yet the app still didn't make its way to Apple devices.

That finally changed on May 15: Steam Link is now available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV via the App Store. The app must be connected to the same local network as a PC running Steam, and Valve recommends using an external controller, but there are touch-based controls as well. Just make sure you're near your system when you run Steam Link for the first time--additional drivers may need to be installed.

Valve also recommends making sure the PC is connected to its router via Ethernet (as if most gamers need to be told that) and the iOS device is using the 5 GHz network. Both of those things are true for us, but we were still warned that we had a slow connection. It's not clear what the problem is, but after fiddling with our router in the past, we'd rather not have to deal with its clunky interface.

Still, it's good that Steam Link has finally made it to Apple devices. Valve discontinued the Steam Link hardware in November 2018, leaving software-based solutions the only way for Steam users to access their games when they aren't sitting in front of their PCs. To that end, the company is also testing versions of Steam Link that aren't limited to local networks, which should make the app that much more appealing.