Mobile Ascendant: Now you can Steam on your Phone

By Joe Robinson 10 May 2018 7

I’ve had the official Steam Mobile app on my smartphone for as long as I’ve had a decent Smartphone. I don’t use it much – rarely do I feel the need to talk to friends on Steam, and I find navigating the store via the app a little clunky and off-putting. It’s easier to just grab my laptop or wait till I’m next on my PC.

But as of yesterday, the words ‘Steam’ and ‘Mobile’ are going to take on an entirely new context.

Valve put out a press release yesterday announcing that they are releasing two apps on the iOS and Android stores; Steam Link, and Steam Video.

If you’re not up-to-speed with what these apps are and why this is kind of a big deal, I’ll start with the more boring of the two. Steam actually has some video content available via the store. I don’t know if any of it is any good – I don’t use it for video – but thanks to this new app you can access all of that content directly on your phone via WiFi or Mobile LTE. The company is offering downloads, so you can watch the content offline, or streaming if your device doesn’t have a lot of storage.

It’s the Steam Link app we’re really excited about, however. This was announced at the same time as Valve originally revealed their ill-fated ‘Steam Machine’ grand plan. The Steam Link is essentially a device that you can use to stream games installed on your PC, directly to your TV. It was meant to combo with the Steam Controller, so you could essentially game on your couch, like the console crowd does, only with your existing PC collection. It was offered as an alternative to the pricier, but bespoke, Steam PC initiative that failed to go anywhere.

The Steam Link app essentially turns your phone into the same thing:

The Steam Link app, slated to launch the week of May 21st, allows gamers to experience their Steam library of games on their Android (phone, tablet, TV) and iOS-based (iPhone, iPad, Apple TV) devices while connected via 5Ghz network or wired Ethernet to a host system (Mac or PC), with Android access initially offered in beta. The Steam Link App will feature support for the Steam Controller, MFI controllers, and more across both platforms.

We’ve been talking a lot recently about how exciting this business is with PUBG, Fortnite and ARK. Valve’s latest move is equally as exciting, but from a different angle. Provided your infrastructure is good enough, you don’t need to worry about developers porting their games wholesale over to mobile. Just buy it on PC (preferably during a Steam Sale for next-to-nothing) and simply stream to your favourite device.

Admittedly, there are already  apps that offer this kind of functionality, but an officially supported piece of software (combined with some of the Steam Link box’s nifty functionality), might stand a better chance of reaching mainstream awareness.

The key difference between the two approaches to ‘Big Games on Mobile’ is of course interface. Titles ported to mobile will be adapted for a touch interface, while games via the Steam Link app will need to either have touch-controls built in already (say for a touch-screen laptop or something) or you’ll need to use a support controller.

Tl;DR

  • Steam Link App coming W/C May 21st. Will allow you stream installed games on PC to your phone. Will probably require a separate controller.
  • Steam Link will need a wired ethernet connection or a 5Ghz wi-fi network to work.
  • Android support across phones, tablets and PCs will initially be a “beta”, but apparently the iOS support (iPhone, iPad or Apple TV) is fine.
  • Steam Video app will come later in the summer.

Of course the real question is, what game are you going to play first?

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