The Flip-Side: Perhaps Apple Was Right To Reject The Steam Link App

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“I realise my opinion may not be popular,” Larsson began, “but I firmly believe Steam Link would be detrimental to the potential of Apple TV gaming.”

Two of Legendo’s upcoming games – the strategy title Draugablíkk: Serpents in The Mist, and a Dracula Twins reboot – are high on my watch list here at ATVG. Both have been slated for an Apple TV release by Legendo, with Dracula Twins being one of my favourite 2D platform games on iOS. A large screen version on Apple TV would be very welcome, and a great fit for the platform. 

Larsson went on to say how a Steam Link app would act as a disincentive to “tvOS developers from putting in blood and sweat effort in building awesome and unique tvOS native games.” 

It’s a good point. 

While many anticipated the Steam Link app purely as a convenient way to mirror Steam-purchased games to iOS and tvOS, I was seeing it more as a means of increasing the visibility of the Apple TV platform. In my mind’s future I saw many PC gamers purchasing an Apple TV for the lounge room as a budget alternative to buying a second PC to hook up to the TV for gaming. This in turn may have led gamers to noticing that, hey, this Apple TV device has its own native App Store, I wonder what’s available, and thus boosting native Apple TV gaming’s sales and viability. 

But if getting a game up for sale on Steam means it’s also playable via iOS and tvOS hardware, then as Larsson says, there’s no longer any incentive to develop directly for Apple. So despite potentially boosting hardware sales, the result could’ve also meant the end of Apple’s revenue from iOS and tvOS games. Seems simple when you lay it out in black and white. 

“I also wouldn’t want Steam Link on my Xbox One, Switch or PlayStation 4 either for this very reason,” Larsson said. 

Would you want a Steam Link app on your beloved Xbox One or PlayStation 4? The idea of transferring the Apple/Steam argument over to other platforms simply hadn’t occurred to me, but once Larsson planted the seed, my answer was an easy no. 

“When I think about having a Steam app on PS4, not only would I not use it, but I wouldn’t want it there to begin with,” I replied to Larsson. “That’s not what I bought a PS4 for. I bought a PS4 because I trust Sony’s commitment to its brand and to the games on its platform.”

In a similar way, I also trust Apple’s. But Steam’s? Do we want those two distinctly different cultures and brands commingling on our Apple devices? 

Apple is famous – and infamous – for marching to the beat of its own drum, and it seems to have  done alright for itself by doing so. In this regard, the tech giant has a lot in common with Nintendo, which goes a long way to explaining why the partnership between the two companies works. 

“What Nintendo have done with Mario and Fire Emblem,” Larsson said, “and the upcoming Mario Kart iOS, and tvOS too perhaps, strikes me as a more appropriate way to establish Apple TV as a gaming device, by building native quality games tailored for App Store culture.” 

The corporate heads at Apple and Nintendo would call it synergy, and these sorts of select partnerships might be a better way for Apple to proceed, rather than the wholesale approach of allowing a portal to an entire platform such as the proposed Steam Link app. 

“Steam on Apple TV also strikes me as a quantity before quality approach,” Larsson put it succinctly. “And knowing Apple, that’s not in their spirit, although in all fairness, there are a million-plus apps on iOS/tvOS.”

There’s a hell of a lot of filler on iOS, and while discoverability has improved on iPhones and iPads with iOS 11’s revamped App Store and curation, the same cannot be said for tvOS. There’s a lot more that Apple could be doing to promote Apple TV as a viable gaming alternative for your lounge room hours, but whatever it ends up doing, it still needs to fit within the company’s brand, culture, and ethos.

“Speaking of cultures,” says Larsson, “it seems to me each gaming platform, be it Steam or PS4 have their own spirit and digital culture, which I think is great because it offers gamers a choice.”

While many gamers will dip their toes in a variety of gaming platforms, whether it be Xbox, PlayStation, PC, Switch, Android, etc., most will consider one of them their primary go-to device. It will be the one that they most relate to, which can be a variety of reasons. It might be the “culture” that Larsson mentions, as each one definitely has its own unique environment that different players respond to, it may be a technical aspect they’re drawn to, such as UI or connectivity across devices, or it may be the exclusivity of certain franchises. 

“Some days you’re feeling a little more epic and ferocious,” Larsson says. “So it’s good there’s the new God of War and that kind of PlayStation epic single player games culture. Other days I’m all Forza and Xbox, and while travelling I’m usually iOS.” 

Different strokes for different folks. 

One of the major strengths of the Apple TV platform is its ability to work so well across all of Apple’s hardware, with many games being universally compatible, allowing players to continue their progress across iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. It’s such a huge strength, that if Apple threw the right kind of weight and support behind Apple TV gaming, it could easily be a contender among the mainstream console platforms. This universal compatibility brings a unique marketable feature to the table, while still offering decent horsepower in the main device connected to the TV. 

We’re only days away from June, and June is arguably the biggest month of the gaming calendar for gaming-related announcements. Not only does June mean E3, but it also means Apple’s WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference). June means Microsoft, Sony, Apple, PC developers, and Nintendo (although usually from the sidelines) all lining up to give two or three hour keynotes outlining why each is the best place to play. 

Even on stage each has its own describable personality. Microsoft is louder and more in-your-face, Sony brings a quieter, some might say more refined confidence, while Apple welcomes viewers into its reality vortex, usually revealing “one more thing” that hopes to steal June’s show. 

My conversation with Larsson was a valuable one, and having seen the other side, I’m convinced that there’s value in each company retaining its own identity, and not racing for quick tactics that seem like a great easy solution until you take the time to scratch beneath the surface.

If you’re new to The Apple TV Gaming Blog (ATVG), or just new to Apple TV gaming in general, or both, then the best place to get acquainted is our Best Apple TV Games Of 2017 article. You’ll find a great collection of games to play, and a bunch of useful links to our previous site content. Enjoy. 

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