Steam Link for iOS went from being dead in the water to receiving more life rings than it could possibly use. Valve and Apple have both taken steps in the last few weeks to help the app, which lets you play Steam games on your iPhone or iPad, finally make its way into the App Store.
Valve announced the Steam Link app--not to be confused with the Steam Link hardware released in 2015--on May 9. The company had received approval from Apple two days earlier, yet shortly after it made the announcement, Valve was informed that the app ran afoul of an App Store rule. Instead of being able to launch on iOS and Android devices like it planned, Valve could only release Steam Link for Google's platform.
The specific rule violated by the Steam Link app wasn't originally disclosed. Most figured it had to do with the ability to purchase Steam games via the app, which is something Apple historically prohibited from iOS software. There are two options: offer a 30% cut of in-app purchases or remove purchases from your app. That's why you can only read books you already own in the Kindle app, for example, and not buy new ones.
A month after the Steam Link app's rejection, Apple changed its App Store guidelines to allow screen mirroring apps to offer purchases as long as the transaction actually occurred on the PC being mirrored instead of the iOS device itself. It's a bit of a convoluted workaround, to be sure, but it would let things like Steam Link support iOS devices without cutting in to the revenues Apple draws by effectively taxing in-app purchases.
That alone should have let Valve get to work on releasing Steam Link for iOS. But it seems like Valve didn't think so--according to Touch Arcade, beta versions of the Steam Link for iOS app have removed the ability to purchase games entirely. Users are instead directed to make purchases using their PC, though apparently in-game purchases using funds already in a Steam wallet still worked, so there are some grey areas involved.
The whole thing seems a bit like being told you could bring a snack to a movie theater, getting kicked out for doing so, and then deciding to throw the snack away even after the movie theater's policies were changed to allow outside food. Sure, the end result is the same, but the journey couldn't have been weirder if anybody involved had tried to make it so. But hey, at least it seems like Steam Link for iOS isn't dead after all.