Valve recently announced that a Steam Link app would be coming to Android and iOS app stores.
That app appears to have launched at the weekend despite Valve saying it would launch during the week of 21st May.
While we shook our fists at the air cursing Valve’s eagerness to launch the app, we’ve since downloaded it and we are rather impressed.
You are going to need a few things before you can start streaming games to your handset so that you can play Civilization from the couch.
First things first head to the Google Play Store and download the Steam Link app which is currently still in beta.
Then to stream games Valves says you’ll need a 5GHz Wifi network to connect to. The reason for this is because you need to sustain the data transfer between your PC and your device.
Now, while Valve says this is a requirement, we have managed to get a “Fair Connection” in the Steam Link app using a Samsung Galaxy S9 which was connected to a 2.4GHz Wifi network.
It must be noted, however, that the PC and phone we are using are both on the same network and the distance to the router is minimal. Your mileage may vary.
After installing the app you will be prompted to pair your device with your Steam profile. Make sure you are logged into your Steam account on the PC you wish to stream from and then follow the prompts on both your device and your PC.
It goes without saying that your device should be connected to the Wifi network as well.
Once that is done you’ll need to connect a controller to your handset. This can be done with Bluetooth but we managed to connect an Xbox One Controller using USB On The Go.
No Bluetooth controller?
Despite not owning a controller with Bluetooth capabilities I am determined to play games on my smartphone in the bed.
Something I do have, however, is a USB On The Go converter and an Xbox One wireless controller. There are Xbox controllers that have Bluetooth support.
Microsoft says you can tell simply by looking at your controller whether it has Bluetooth support. In the image below if your controller looks like the bottom controller where the plastic surrounding the Xbox button is part of the controller’s faceplate you have Bluetooth.
If you don’t have Bluetooth you’re going to need to open the Windows Store and download the Xbox Accessories app. Once downloaded and installed, plug your controller into the PC via USB, open the app and head to More Options. Check the firmware version and install any updates that are required.
Once complete unplug the controller from the PC and then using a USB On the Go connector plug the controller into the phone.
The Steam Link should pick up the controller and just like that you’re ready to start playing games.
So what is it like?
After much fussing with controllers and kicking users off of my Wifi network I sat down to try out Steam Link.
With Valve insisting my connection could only handle “casual games” I dove straight into Mortal Kombat XL. There is a bit of lag on my 2.4GHz connection but it was so minimal it didn’t negatively impact my gaming.
Things did seem to lag out completely when moving from a game back into Steam but after a few seconds, things came right.
You’re not going to be getting the greatest experience playing Steam games on your phone but the experience is serviceable enough to game on if you can’t sit in front of your PC for some reason.
Outside of phones anything running Android is a new potential place to play Steam games. Some of the most promising are those wtih built-in controllers, such as the GPD XD Plus.