Apple reject iOS Steam Link app

Apple have rejected the iOS version of Valve’s Steam Link app, the doodad which lets people play their Steam games on pocket telephones and digislates, after initially approving it. Valve have appealed the rejection and been shot down, so this is probably the end unless Apple have a change of heart. If you’ve been hoping to park in bed playing Slay The Spire on your iPad, hard luck. The app is still available on Android doodads, mind.

Valve’s statement laid out a timeline:

“On Monday, May 7th, Apple approved the Steam Link app for release. 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. Valve appealed, explaining the Steam Link app simply functions as a LAN-based remote desktop similar to numerous remote desktop applications already available on the App Store. Ultimately, that appeal was denied leaving the Steam Link app for iOS blocked from release. The team here spent many hours on this project and the approval process, so we’re clearly disappointed. But we hope Apple will reconsider in the future.”

The Steam Link app works like the Steam Link dongle for televisions, running games on a PC, accepting inputs from whichever device you’re using, then streaming the output back to you as video over the local network.

Valve don’t explain the “business conflicts” but it’s probably something to do with the app linking into another software store – and one Apple don’t get a cut of. Ah, it’s terrible when a digital store approve your products then turn around and removes ’em.

If you want Steam Link on Android, nab it here. Dominic Tarason didn’t have the best luck with it on his banged-out clapper of a phone, though our Graham has had better luck. Ars Technica got to test a beta version of the iOS app this month but I guess the rest of us won’t see that.

Maybe I should use this so I can play Slay The Spire on my tablet rather than having a laptop by my bedside. Both are clearly unhealthy ideas but a tablet seems at least marginally better?


  1. Vilos Cohaagen says:

    ah arbitrary giant corporations being arbitrary. it warms the cockles of my heart. oh wait, no. the opposite.

    • April March says:

      It… freezes the atriums of your brain?

      Any way, it does warm my heart. This is a story of two big companies ultimately losing money because of the poor practices of one of them, which is also performed by the other. I want to applaud.

  2. Eviscerator says:

    Humbug, poot, shhhh…ugar and other words of frustration. I was looking forward to playing battletech while on the bog. Apple have really **** the bed on this one.

  3. DrollRemark says:

    If I had to be cynical, I might think that the reason for rejecting it would be because people could play their cheaper Steam-bought versions of games that also exist on iOS. Heaven forbid.

    • mike69 says:

      Far from cynical, it’s obvious.

    • UncleLou says:

      Games aren’t usually cheaper on Steam, quite the contrary, actually. Obviously a new release on iOS like Civ VI will be an exception.

      But anyhow, the article explains the problem, it’s the same that amazon has/had with its kindle app on iOS. If an app allows you to purchase digital downloads, Apple wants their cut. This is why you can’t buy books with the kindle app, for example (or the Steam app, for that matter).

      So it might not be what you two think it is. If Steam restricts the app to streaming your existing games without linking to the store, I imagine it might get approved.

      • eric_the_zookeeper says:

        Thing is, last I checked, I could buy Steam games through the iOS Steam app.

        • UncleLou says:

          Hot damn, you’re right, too. I am pretty sure that hasn’t worked in the past.

          I wonder how Steam and Apple handled this? You still can’t buy kindle books in the kindle app, for example, because amazon (understandably) refused to give Apple a cut just because they’re sold via an app rather than the browser.

          • brucethemoose says:

            Steam is a storefront that doesn’t really affect Apple, like Amazon or Grubhub and so on. So the Steam app is fine.

            But when you can play those games on your iDevice… NOW that affects Apple.

      • brucethemoose says:

        I mean, you can browse the Steam Store and buy games from your phone anyway. There’s a iOS Steam app just for that. This ban isn’t about store functionality, it’s about the ability to play games on your phone.

        EDIT : Ninja’d

  4. mike69 says:

    As a lover of games it’s hard not to be disappointed by this news, but at the same time the business conflict is fairly obvious. Steam link is, an many ways a window into a third party software store. It allows you to buy and play games from Steam that are available on the app store and use them on your iOS device almost natively, in a much more direct and compatible way than using remote networking tools. It’s not just another storefront but a competing storefront.

    • Cederic says:

      I can understand Apple not wishing to sell a competitors software in the very store the competitor is competing with.

      I guess Valve will just have to let people install the app from their website instead.

      You can do that on an Apple device can’t you? I mean, it’s your device, isn’t it? Seems pretty basic functionality for a general purpose computer.

  5. HeavyStorm says:

    Walled gardens are fun, aren’t them?

  6. Premium User Badge

    keithzg says:

    “Why would you buy an Android tablet?” people scoffed. Hah, jokes on then!

  7. Artist says:

    Aaand… yet another good example why I dont touch anything “Apple”! Ever.

  8. Quasar says:

    Try using a service like Splashtop. Ive played XCOM 2 through that before, no trouble.

  9. cairbre says:

    Could they just strip out the storefront bit. Anyone who uses Steam wont really be bothered as they will just buy the games the way they always have. I was looking forward to trying this on my apple tv.

    • Kamikaze-X says:

      well, no. As the article mentions, the Steam Link app is pretty much a remote desktop app running on your LAN. You get an instance of the full Steam client running in Big Picture mode.

    • brucethemoose says:

      You can already buy Steam games though the Steam iOS app. Stripping the storefront would make no difference.

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      I would think it’s more an issue of you being able to play games that exist on both platforms without having to buy a copy from the Apple shop isn’t it?

  10. demicanadian says:

    Time for Valve to taste it’s own medicide, I guess.

  11. tristanmike says:

    Isn’t this the basic idea for why EA left Steam so many years ago? EA wanted to skirt Valve’s payment for DLC, Valve said no, so EA pulled everything (mostly).

    • brucethemoose says:

      Apple probably didn’t ask for a cut.

      I mean, what would they ask for? A fee from Valve for every game someone plays that’s available on iOS? Theres just no arrangement that would satisfy both parties here, whereas they could’ve ostensibly worked something out with EA.

      • tristanmike says:

        I guess that’s kind of my point. The fact that Apple can’t get a cut of anything Valve are doing, be it games or media. With Valve at the time, what they seemingly objected to was not getting any cut of things sold directly through the apps which were originally acquired through their service and consequently pulling people away from them.

        I understand that there are key differences, but the basic idea feels very similar. We want a cut, if not, gtfo. Since there is no way for Apple to enforce a cut, goodbye Steam Link.

        I’ll also be honest in that I know very little about how things work on the Apple ecosystem, I actively stay away from it.

  12. Plok says:

    Not exactly unexpected. I guess I will continue to just stream from my PC to my Macbook pro and iMac anyway…

  13. Astaa says:

    Apple just love to give people a choice in how they use a product they have bought.

    No wait, the opposite of that.

  14. MajorLag says:

    “Ah, it’s terrible when a digital store approve your products then turn around and removes ’em.”

    Yeah, Valve earned this one. Be the change you want to see in the world Valve.

    • woodsey says:

      Didn’t they tell the developers to disregard the initial emails, like, a day later?

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        That’s not how internet judgment works. We have to hate them forever because something got screwed up somewhere once.

      • Baines says:

        Most likely only because the negative articles that started getting posted after the VN publishers went public with Valve’s threats. VN publishers were questioning leaving Steam eantirely, people were questioning Valve’s unprofessional behavior, was using it all to promote their competing store front, etc… Does anyone really believe that Valve, even if it felt it was in the wrong, would have responded within a day otherwise?

        And if this whole scuffle was because Apple wanted a cut of Valve’s profits, then that is pretty much no different than what Valve itself did to others some time back. (And is why some EA games were removed from Steam.)

      • Rince says:

        Well, Maidens of Michael is still removed from the store and Valve hasn’t said anything about it.

    • Caiman says:

      I’m fairly sure the outcome would have been the same from Apple no matter how Valve had conducted itself with other companies in the past.

  15. skorpeyon says:

    Gonna be honest, this is enough to steer me away from Apple from now on. And I’m already pretty heavily invested in their ecosystem. Ultimately, though, playing a full-featured game on my phone was something I was looking forward to at least trying out, and considering (as Valve explained) it works almost identically to applications like Chrome Remote Desktop or the dozens of other remote devices the decision is bull.

    Can’t you install apps from locations outside of the ecosystem via systems like buddybuild? That’s how Plex distributes their beta app and I’ve often wondered why more people don’t use that as a way to push apps that Apple has refused to allow in their store. I mean, the obvious reason is the difficulty in using it (you need to install a trust certificate on your device through Safari), but I think most of Steam’s userbase who’d be interested in it would be able to understand how to click a few buttons to get the app installed.

  16. Eleriel says:


    I was really hoping for something less janky than what we have currently.

  17. Nolenthar says:

    When you decide to get yourself into a very closed ecosystem like Apple’s one, well, I guess you have to understand what it eventually means. Hopefully it convinces more people that ultimately Android is where mobile experience is.

    • UncleLou says:

      I personally hope people stay away from Android. I‘ll take a walled garden when it comes to smartphones over what Google does with people‘s data. Frightening.

      You always pay some kind of price, but I know which one I want to pay.

      • Nolenthar says:

        Yop, because Apple stays well away from any of your personal data and does nothing with them, that is known.

      • Premium User Badge

        alison says:

        This is a bit of a misleading comment, considering there are hundreds of millions of people using Android phones in a country where Google services are blocked completely. Not to mention a major player in the US (Amazon) also has its own Android ecosystem. The big difference between Android and iOS is that the base Android system is open source and you can run pretty much anything you want on top of it. You don’t need to load it up with Google services if you don’t want.

  18. bacon seeker says:

    Meh. This a textbook case of “a pox on both their houses” for me.

  19. pack.wolf says:

    That’s a shame, I was looking forward to that. But at least we still get the Bluetooth mode for the Steam Controller, so I guess it’ll be possible to use that and Moonlight.

  20. DanMan says:

    Apple. LOL, amirite?

  21. burmabaines says:

    Disappointing. I too was looking forward to playing Slay The Spire in bed. Still, the thin thread of a sex life that still remains will last a little while longer.

  22. jeffy777 says:

    At least we have the Moonlight app. Works quite well too, so long as you have an Nvidia card in your PC.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Does it heck. It’s awful.

      • jeffy777 says:

        Huh? Smooth as butter for me. Been playing Endless Space 2 on my iPad daily.

        • somnolentsurfer says:

          Yeah, me too. For a while, at least. And when it works it’s beautiful, and a lovely way to play. Or it would be if not for the the dirty great black bars top and bottom because moonlight for iOS will only stream in 1080 or 720, and not in any 4:3 resolutions suitble for the iPad.

          Only, the random disconnects got too frustrating. It defeats the point of being able to play in bed if I keep having to get up and reboot the PC downstairs because Moonlight randomly disconnected and won’t reconnect until you reboot the PC.

          Added to that, the iOS version has no built in keyboard, so if you want to be able to name your ships and save games it means playing with the titlebar of the Windows OSK covering the bottom of the screen so you can drag it up when you need it.

          • jeffy777 says:

            Agreed on the black bars. Haven’t had the disconnect issue though, thankfully.

    • Nolenthar says:

      Which is fun, ain’t it ? Because moonlight does exactly what the steam app would have done (that is, allowing you to play games you bought elsewhere on an iOS device) but was probably overlooked as such where Steam got screwed by Apple directors (after being approved by the review team). Me says, I’m fairly certain if we keep advertising moonlight, it might be banned ;)

Comment on this story

HTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>