Valve has launched a standalone app for Steam Link on Apple’s macOS App Store, adding a new option for Mac users who want to play games on machines that are often labeled as poor choices for gaming.
Steam Link allows users to stream games from a gaming PC to a supported device on the same local network and to play those games with a MFI or Steam controller.
Valve already offered a full Steam app for macOS, but it takes up 1GB of space and has a reputation for being clunky. In contrast, the Steam Link app has a minimalist interface that appears to be designed with game controller peripherals in mind.
Valve has also previously offered a Steam Link app for iOS and iPadOS, but this is the first time the company has released software through Apple’s macOS App Store. (The full version of Steam is offered as a web download, not an App Store app.)
Game streaming has had a somewhat tumultuous history on Apple’s mobile platforms, but it’s been a little rosier on the macOS side. The same streaming features that Steam Link offers were already possible through the full Steam app for macOS, GeForce Now has a Mac client, and Mac users have long enjoyed the ability to stream PlayStation games with a barebones app.
In general, Mac gaming has had its ups and downs over the years, and lately, things have been trending down. Apple’s switch from OpenGL to Metal enabled much better performance for games whose developers put in the effort to support it, but we’ve also seen fewer Mac ports of triple-A games overall lately.
Many indies still support the Mac, though, and with the introduction of Macs running CPUs and GPUs that share an architecture with the chips found in iPhones and iPads, Apple has opened the door for iOS and iPadOS games to run natively on newer Macs.
However, our own tests of iOS and iPadOS games on the M1-equipped Macs that launched last year showed things were quite hit-or-miss, with interface problems and other limitations making for a subpar experience. As a result, macOS currently feels stuck between the two vast worlds of PC gaming and iPhone gaming, without yet leaning fully into becoming an optimal platform for either.
Steam Link lets users play high-end, modern games on a MacBook Air or the like, as long as they have a beefy Windows gaming PC on the same local network.