A few weeks ago, Valve announced that it would launch the ability to play games on your smartphone by streaming them via its Steam Link app. While Valve already offers a set top box for performing this kind of function, the ability to use your pre-existing router (provided it met certain specifications) was a major step forward and the kind of feature that PC gamers of all types might enjoy. As of now, however, it looks as if that benefit will be reserved solely for Android users. Apple is refusing to approve Valve’s Steam Link app for iOS, and Valve isn’t sure what the problem is.
Valve has released a statement on the bottleneck, saying: “On Weds, May 9th, Valve released news of the app. The following morning, Apple revoked its approval citing business conflicts with app guidelines that had allegedly not been realized by the original review team.”
It’s not clear why Apple would refuse to accept the application or why it would view this as a conflict with Apple’s existing business. Apple does not have a device on which to play Steam games, nor has it discussed any such product publicly. As Kotaku notes, there’s a certain irony in Valve, whose own policies on permissible content have often been unclear and vague, being stuck in a situation in which it’s been blocked from submitting its own app on a platform for reasons that are unclear and vague. But more generally, it’s clear that this kind of game-shifting is simply becoming a standard feature — not just from any single vendor, but across the entire industry.
Step back a moment and consider the wider market. Nvidia has both a game-streaming service and the option to stream games from a GeForce-equipped computer to another device. Valve has Steam Link, a device which can perform this task in hardware. Microsoft will stream Xbox One games to a Windows 10 PC. Sony will stream titles from the PS4 to the PlayStation Vita. Nintendo pioneered this capability with the Wii U, and while the Switch doesn’t have a streaming function as such, the entire idea of the device as a handheld and a docked living room console is intrinsically based on the idea that you can pick up a gaming session and walk around the house with it. And since the Wii U’s tablet did include early support for this concept, we’re going to give Nintendo a nod for the feature anyway.
Even proponents of game streaming will admit that the technology is often hampered by the tedious reality of bad Wi-Fi range, low signal strength, interference from other networks, and roommates or family members that forget to throttle their upload bandwidth while downloading torrents. But despite these real-world limitations, local game streaming simply isn’t a crazy idea or far-out feature. The Steam Link application’s ability to stream to smartphones and tablets may not be heavily used — I don’t pretend to know how many people actually intend to use the option to stream to various devices, be they manufactured by Apple or any other company. But it’s clear that it’s a feature companies have decided to offer, in various ways, to their customers.
And it’s not hard to see why. In a world where 5G and next-generation wireless standards are clearing the way for gigabit connections, why should gaming be confined solely to a single room where hardware is physically located? Giving people the option for game streaming clears the way for more flexible enjoyment of a hobby and a greater range of setup options. The future is already here, and Apple throwing a fit about Valve’s Steam Link isn’t going to change that. If anything, it’ll just be another reason for gamers to prefer other products if they care about game streaming.