Valve’s Steam Link app has finally been approved by Apple and is available in the App Store for both iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Using Steam Link, gamers can stream games over local networks from Windows PC or Mac to iOS devices. The app also supports controllers MFi controllers as well as Steam Controller, allowing gamers to connect them to their iOS devices and get the full gaming experience.
Steam Link was initially released as a hardware device, which would let users stream games on their TV, through their in-home network. A dedicated gaming PC would be needed to do the heavy lifting. However, Valve discontinued the hardware last year. Users could still stream games from one PC to another using Steam.
A Steam Link app was released for Android as a beta, which supports the same features as the hardware device did. Valve had developed an app for iOS as well but Apple rejected the app, the news of which made rounds on the Internet. Apple’s reason for rejection was that the app was against their policies. Apple does not allow apps to have their own digital stores, without giving the company 30% cut off the revenue through App Store. Valve’s app was basically showing Steam’s Big Picture mode remotely on the device, allowing users to purchase games while bypassing the App Store.
It seems that Valve finally gave in to Apple’s requirement and modified their app so that when using Steam’s Big Picture mode, it doesn’t allow users to buy any games. Users can still browse their library and do everything else.
Now that the app is out, we gave it a test drive using Steam on a MacBook Pro and Steam Link on an iPhone X. This was done using a 5Ghz local connection. However, the results were less than ideal when testing Half Life 2, the old-faithful.
The setup process itself was quiet hit-and-miss. I had to restart the Steam app a few times before the iOS app could recognize it on the network. Once done, I was able to login but the network test failed once. Somehow, after I got in, I was able to use the virtual controller to navigate in the Big Picture mode and launch Half Life 2.
Steam automatically handles controller mapping for most games, specially its own, which helps in making the games easy to play (I own a Steam controller but couldn’t test it while writing this piece). Despite a good network connection, gameplay was choppy, specially for an old game like Half Life 2. The game is so old that it should not tax a modern system but during streaming, graphics used to glitch often and resolution used to go down.
I do not mean to say that this might not have been an issue with my network, but I have read similar reviews by other people.
Fortunately, the app is free. So if you feel that it will fulfill your needs, be prepared for some tradeoffs in performance.
Download Steam Link from App Store