New Apple App Store rules just made Steam Link and its ilk viable

As long as they don't sell outside Apple's mobile walls, so-called mirroring apps have been ruled OK in an update to Apple's App Store Review Guidelines.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
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Lori Grunin
2 min read

This may be all you'll be able to access in Steam for the Steam Link app to pass muster in the App Store.

Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET

A new "Remote Application Mirroring" policy in Apple's App Store review guidelines may indicate there's hope for Valve's recently rejected Steam Link app. But in order to comply, the owner of the Steam gaming platform, Valve, may have to water down the app significantly compared with its Android version.

Section 4.2.7 of the rules, initially pointed out by Reuters, say that as long as everything appearing on the screen of an iPhone or iPad is simply mirroring what's happening on a local computer on the same network -- exactly what the app does -- then the app's OK, as long as it's within a couple of other constraints as well. 

One of those constraints is:

The UI appearing on the client does not resemble an iOS or App Store view, does not provide a store-like interface, or include the ability to browse, select, or purchase software not already owned or licensed by the user. 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 Steam Link app in its beta form uses Steam's Big Picture Mode, which is just an interface to the service that's optimized for use with a controller and a big screen. It provides access to all of Steam's features, including that verboten "storelike interface."  

Watch this: The Steam Link app brings your games to the small screen

To make the app comply with this policy, Valve might have to restrict the ability to venture beyond your Library. It depends on how this is interpreted, because the "clarification" doesn't really apply to browsing or selecting.

While that wouldn't be the end of the world, it could make the app a lot less useful than it might otherwise be.

I've reached out to Apple for comment and clarification, but didn't immediately hear back. Valve declined to comment for the moment.

First published June 5, 12:50 p.m. PT. 

Update, June 6 at 10:37 a.m.: Adds Valve's response (no comment).

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