Launched earlier this week and announced on the Steam site, Valve has started a closed beta for Steam Mobile on the iPhone and Android phones. The mobile application brings a vast amount of core functions found within the PC and Mac version of the Steam software, the most notable being the ability to make purchases through the application. This will allow any mobile Steam user to take advantage of the frequent sales that cut popular games up to 90 percent off. Assuming the user agrees to notifications from the application, Steam will also be able to feed mobile alerts to the user when a game on a user’s wishlist goes on sale. The interface offers the familiar Steam categories of new, featured, popular and specials. In addition, there’s a search interface allowing the user to find games by price, title or genre.
After a user logs into the mobile application, they have the ability to chat with Steam friends, peruse friend activity, read gaming news, check out profiles and groups in addition to looking at screenshots and other gaming media. Within the chat interface, friends are split up into categories such as recent chats, in-game, online and offline. However, group chat is unavailable through this version of the mobile interface. There’s also no obvious link between the mobile device and a PC at home that would allow a user to queue up Steam downloads while away from the computer.
While all of Steam’s features aren’t included within the application, Valve president Gabe Newell believes that this application represents a good start. Newell stated “Seeing which of your friends are online and playing a game, sending quick messages, looking at screenshots for an upcoming game, or catching a sale – these are all features customers have requested. Mobile is changing way people interact, play games and consume media, and the Steam app is part of our commitment to meet customer demands and expand the service functionality of Steam to make it richer and more accessible for everyone.” Newell did not indicate if the Steam platform would start to sell mobile games.
While Steam is moving forward with mobile, Electronic Arts still hasn’t rolled out a mobile counterpart to the Origin download service. Origin also lags behind Steam in terms of the amount of games offer for sale on the service. While Steam offers more than 1,800 titles for sale, Electronic Arts lists less than 10 percent of that figure. Electronic Arts did announce an additional 11 third-party publishers have been added to the Origin service recently, but did not indicate how many games would be added over the coming months.
As reported at CES 2012, Valve is still prepping Steam’s “Big Picture” user interface designed to bring the Steam experience to the television screen. This will allow users to hook a computer to the television and play games on a much larger screen, similar to user experience of console owners. Newell hasn’t indicated if Valve will release a set-top box to offer this feature to consumers that don’t have a computer hooked into their main television in the living room. Some analysts have also speculated that the “Big Picture” mode could utilize cloud streaming technology similar to OnLive and be delivered through an application on gaming consoles or through Internet-connected televisions. However, Valve has said repeatedly that “Big Picture” mode will include controller support.
While the mobile application is currently in a closed beta, Steam users can download the mobile application onto the Android or iOS platform and log into the application to declare interest in joining the beta. Valve plans to roll out new invites slowly while the application is still being tested over the next few weeks.