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Apple blocks Steam's push into mobile gaming

Tim Maytom

Apple has rejected a new free mobile phone app created by Valve Corp that would have brought the company's Steam game distribution system to smartphones.

Steam, which is the biggest distributor of PC-based video games, had planned for its Steam Link app to enable gamers to continue playing their purchased games on mobile devices while away from their desktop. However, Apple has rejected the app, blocking its release, according to Valve.

"The team here spent many hours on this project and the approval process, so we're clearly disappointed," said Doug Lombardi, a Valve spokesperson in a statement to Reuters. "But we hope Apple will reconsider in the future."

Neither Valve nor Apple have revealed a precise reason for the App Store rejection, but Valve did share that Apple had cited "business conflicts with app guidelines" in its documents, suggesting that the clash likely centres on in-app purchases or micro-transactions within the games distributed via Steam.

Apple currently takes a 30 per cent cut of any such purchases made within apps distributed through its App Store, and many industry analysts believe these purchases are the primary revenue driver in Apple's services business, which also includes the App Store, iCloud and Apple Music.

Steam operates a similar model for purchases made within games it distributes. Apple's App Store guidelines ban such practices unless the purchases flow through Apple's infrastructure, ensuring they can take a cut.

It's unclear if Valve are planning a similar app for Android devices, but if Steam becomes available through Google's OS and not Apple's, it could potentially hurt sales for the company, especially among 18-24 year olds, more than half of whom currently own an iPhone.