Valve Discontinues Steam Link Streaming Boxby Ryan Smith on November 20, 2018 6:00 PM EST
First launched mid-decade, Valve’s Steam Link was one of several local game streaming products to hit the market, allowing users to play PC games away from their PC by streaming its contents to another room. And while the device definitely made an impression upon its launch, the writing has been on the wall for some time now that Valve hasn’t been completely satisfied with the hardware. Now the company is announcing that they have wrapped up production of the Steam Link, with the streaming box already out of stock in Europe and most of North America.
Initially released back in November of 2015, the Steam Link was part of a multi-pronged Valve effort dubbed “Steam Universe” that focused on getting Steam and its games on to living room TV screens. This initiative included the SteamOS Linux distribution, Steam Machines running SteamOS, and then the Steam Link. The Steam Link in turn was a relatively simple and low-cost set-top box that served as a remote streaming endpoint; gamers could use it to see what Steam was seeing on their PC, and then remotely play their games. Valve kept the box simple – it was little more than an H.264 decoder with network connectivity and a Bluetooth adapter – allowing it to be small and cheap.
Of the three prongs of the Steam Universe initiative, the Steam Link was in turn easily the most successful. While Steam Machines fizzled almost immediately – and SteamOS remains a neat side-project – the Steam Link was sold in volume by both Valve and retail partners. Though not the first PC streaming solution, it was by far the most prevalent. And, if you could get past the inheriant lag and occasional game compatibility issues, it worked pretty well.
However it’s also been clear that while the Steam Link made an impact, Valve has wanted out. The company has offered frequent sales on the hardware in the past year, often selling it for only a few bucks plus shipping (including right now). So the company has been trying to draw down their Steam Link inventory for some time, and with their latest announcement it looks like they’ve finally completed the task.
And while Valve’s very brief announcement doesn’t officially state why they’re getting out of the STB business, the more recent development of the Steam Link App paints a very clear picture. The STB was little more than an H.264 decoder to begin with, and the massive prevalence of smartphones means that pretty much everyone carries one of those in their pocket, never mind the rapid rise of smart TVs. Even with the Steam Link box, the strength of Valve’s play was in the software and integration, so like so many other discrete devices over the past decade, the streaming STB’s functionality has been subsumed by other smart devices.
Finally, for their part, Valve is reiterating that they will still continue supporting all forms of Steam Link, app and STB. So while hardware production has wrapped up, Valve seems prepared to offer what little support is necessary for their most successful hardware product to date.
Post Your CommentPlease log in or sign up to comment.
View All Comments
wrkingclass_hero - Tuesday, November 20, 2018 - linkInsert Fry GIF.
"I'm shocked. SHOCKED! Well, not that shocked."
FwFred - Tuesday, November 20, 2018 - linkToo bad it didn't catch on. Really nice way to play controller enabled PC games--was just playing Super Blood Hockey using Steam Link on my TV today.
stanleyipkiss - Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - linkIsn't there an App that does Steam Link better?
Death666Angel - Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - linkBetter maybe not, considering it needs to support thousands of device configurations and can get into trouble, versus one dedicated piece of hardware for just one thing. But I'd personally never consider something like the Steam Link which is definitely limited vs an android box for the same price of cheaper even with better specs and more versatility.
gerz1219 - Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - linkThe Shield TV has a Steam app that's just as good if not better than the Steam Link. Once I bought the Shield TV there was really no reason to use the Link anymore, so it's sitting in a box in storage somewhere. I imagine Valve saw that to the extent people were interested in streaming games from their home PC to their living room TV (I have to imagine this is already a small niche), it made more sense to just have an app that facilitates this and let the streamer manufacturers worry about making the hardware.
kaidenshi - Thursday, November 22, 2018 - linkSame, I use my Shield TV to stream games (it will stream any game from a GeForce-equipped PC, not just Steam games) and my Steam Link is currently a hobby platform thanks to their SDK. I have RetroArch running on it and it can emulate NES/SNES games fairly well. It struggles a bit with GBA games but that may be due to the emulator core not being optimized for the Marvell chip in the Link.
FwFred - Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - linkI haven't researched this one bit, but do these streaming apps have the controller support that the steam link does? I have an X360 wireless dongle connected to the steam link and it works perfectly.
Manch - Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - linkToo laggy for my tastes. Same as the PS4 streaming box. Meh.
GreenReaper - Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - linkThe Steam Link was OK if you put it on a dedicated wireless channel (2.4Ghz would be fine) - or better, linked it to a router or the machine in question via Ethernet or a good powerline connection.
It was also possible to stream the desktop - so you could, for example, use it as a ghetto network movie player, emulator head, or app interface. H.264 at 25-30Mps was adequate for the resolution, although if you lack hardware encoding or were low on GPU resources you have to tweak settings.
Ultimately though, it was limited to Full HD, which renders it essentially obsolete now. A new 4K version with H.265, VP9 or even AV1 support might work out for some use-cases - though I doubt sure we'll see the latter this Christmas, and as Ryan says it may just be seen as redundant now.
Spoelie - Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - linkObsolete is pushing it, depending on how far you are sitting from your TV, you won't see a difference anyway. In that case, do you really need the increased processing requirements & lag associated with rendering a 4K picture, encoding, transmitting and decoding it on your TV? I reckon a good quality 1080p signal should suffice in most cases.