Apple has revised its App Store rules and policies with slightly looser restrictions that could pave the way for Valve's Steam Link streaming app to take residence on iOS devices, after it was previously blocked. The relevant wording in the revised rules has to do with how remote mirroring apps like the Steam Link are handled. Depending on Apple's reviews process going forward, the change means that Valve's app could end up on iPhone and iPad devices, after all.
First, a little background on the topic. Last month, Valve launched its Steam Link app in beta for Android devices. It works similar to the hardware version of Steam Link, only instead of beaming games in a user's Steam library to a television or any other HDMI-enabled device, the Steam App allows users to play PC games on their Android handsets and tablets. For it to work, the mobile device must be connected to a nearby PC via a 5GHz wireless network, and the PC has to be hardwired into a router with an Ethernet cable—the Steam Link app doesn't function over cellular connections like 4G LTE.
Valve also submitted its Steam Link app to Apple's App Store, and initially it was approved. However, after further review, Apple reversed course and denied the app entrance citing "business conflicts with app guidelines." Valve tried appealing the decision, but that was denied as well.
"On Monday, May 7th, Apple approved the Steam Link app for release. On Wednesday, 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 said in a statement. "Valve appealed, explaining the Steam Link app simply functions as a LAN-based remote desktop similar to numerous desktop applications already available on the App Store. Ultimately, the appeal was denied, leaving the Steam Link app for iOS blocked from release."
It was not immediately clear what the big deal was, though it was speculated that it had to do with the Steam Link app allowing access to another online storefront, that being Steam. Later on, a user on Reddit posted an email from Apple's Phil Schiller, who confirmed that in-app purchases played a role.
"Unfortunately, the review team found that Valve’s Steam iOS app, as currently submitted, violates a number of guidelines around user generated content, in-app purchases, content codes, etc. We’ve discussed these issues with Valve and will continue to work with them to help bring the Steam experience to iOS and AppleTV in a way that complies with the store’s guidelines," Schiller said.
His wording seemed to leave the door open for the Steam Link app to be allowed in the App Store, and it looks as though the revision of Apple's rules is geared towards making that happen. Under the revised policy, remote mirroring apps are now allowed to facilitate purchases outside of the App Store, so long as the transactions occur on the desktop and not the mobile gadget.
"For the sake of clarity, transactions taking place within mirrored software do not need to use in-app purchase, provided the transactions are processed on the host device," the rules state.
The host device in this case would be the PC. By implementing this rule change. it seems that Valve's Steam Link would be allowed in the App Store, with Apple protecting its 30 percent cut of in-app purchases that it collects. What's not clear, however, is what other guidelines the Steam Link app supposedly violated that led to it being blocked.