Silly App Store bans have gone too far with Steam Link

Silly App Store bans have gone too far with Steam Link

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Steam Link iPhone iPad Apple TV
Steam Link’s first big update is great for controller users.
Photo: Valve

Apple has decided that it won’t allow iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV owners to play PC games through Steam Link.

Valve’s new app, which is now available in beta on Android, has been banned from the App Store because of “business conflicts.” Apple has also turned down Valve’s appeals.

It’s yet another example of Apple customers being hurt by its often farcical App Store rules. What makes this ban even more ridiculous is that there are so many apps similar to Steam Link already available in the App Store.

Steam Link gives gamers the ability to stream games from their PC to another device. It previously required a set-top box that needed to be plugged into a TV, but with the Steam Link app, you can enjoy your favorite titles almost anywhere around your home.

Steam Link works just like a remote desktop app, many of which are available in the App Store, allowing users to access their Mac or PC while away from home. And yet, Apple won’t allow Valve’s client because it somehow breaches App Store guidelines.

Apple says no to Steam Link

Apple rejected the app on May 10, three days after it was approved in an initial review process. The block is a result of “business conflicts,” according to a statement from Valve:

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.

Valve hasn’t provided a precise reason for Steam Link’s rejection, but it’s likely that it has something to do with in-game purchases or micro-transactions.

Apple demands a 30 percent cut of all sales

Apple takes a 30 percent cut of all revenue developers make from iOS apps and games. This applies to both upfront costs for paid titles, as well as any in-app purchases. The only exception is for subscriptions, for which Apple takes a 15 percent cut.

So that developers cannot sidestep these fees, Apple demands that all purchases must be made through the App Store. It immediately rejects any apps that sell virtual goods or services through their own or third-party stores.

It’s entirely possible, then, that Steam Link was blocked because it would have allowed gamers to make purchases through Steam from inside PC games. If indeed this goes against Apple’s guidelines, then all other remote desktop clients should be banned, too.

Why are other remote desktop clients allowed?

Apps like LogMeIn, Chrome Remote Desktop, Microsoft Remote Desktop, and the beloved Screens all give users the ability to access and remotely control their desktop computers from an iPhone or iPad.

With remote access, those users can purchase all the goods they like from third-party stores — in the same way Steam Link users would have been able to purchase goods through Steam. These transactions take place outside of the App Store, so Apple doesn’t get its cut.

Why, then, is Apple happy to approve these clients but it won’t approve Steam Link? Isn’t every remote desktop service breaking exactly the same rules?

Apple users are missing out

Valve spent “many hours” developing Steam Link for iOS, it says, which could well have been completely wasted. But it’s not just Valve that’s missing out; iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV owners have also lost what might have been one of this year’s best iOS apps.

When Apple’s strict guidelines come at a cost for consumers, it hurts. That’s especially true when we miss out on features and services that are available on Android.

Steam Link’s ban is yet another entry on a long list of confusing and controversial App Store approval decisions. What makes it even more baffling is that Valve disabled purchasing on iOS, and Apple still rejected the app, according to Reuters.

Valve is now hoping that media coverage and consumer backlash will persuade Apple to reconsider. Millions of iOS users will be praying for the same.