Valve Breaks the Hardware Chain by Discontinuing Steam Link

(Image credit: Valve)

Valve introduced the Steam Link hardware in 2015 to make it easier for PC gamers to play while they're away from their desks. Now the company has announced that it's sold all its units in Europe, is close to selling out in the U.S. and doesn't plan to introduce more hardware in the near future.

The company isn't leaving existing Steam Link owners with nothing. It said that "moving forward, Valve intends to continue supporting the existing Steam Link hardware." But it didn't say it would release new Steam Link hardware or manufacture additional units if, say, this announcement sparks a purchase frenzy. Instead, Steam Link will live on via software offerings moving forward.

This is a long time coming. Valve's hardware never really caught on with most consumers--the convenience of playing on a TV doesn't exactly outweigh the cost of buying a Steam Link, plus the hassle of hooking up the device, which is not hard but is also not as easy as simply plugging in a console. Combine that with the relative dearth of quality living room peripherals, and you have a niche product.

Valve also regularly slashed the Steam Link's cost far below its standard $50 (£39) price tag, practically giving it away during various sales and promotions. This could have been a last-ditch effort to prove the hardware could grow more popular if it was cheaper, but it seems just as likely that Valve simply wanted to sell through its stock. Then it would only have to worry about the units it's already sold.

There was another, more obvious indicator that Valve had given up on Steam Link hardware. Earlier this year the company introduced a Steam Link app for Android (and, after some back-and-forth with Apple iOS) devices. The app did everything the Steam Link hardware was supposed to do--make PC games available elsewhere--while offering even more freedom by living on smartphones and tablets instead of TVs.

It's not clear what Valve plans to do in the hardware market going forward. It's possible the company will continue to make the Steam Controller simply because it's more popular than the Steam Link was and because Steam Link app users could use a Valve-designed gamepad instead of having to rely on third-party solutions. That way Valve would manage the important aspects of the experience, from game sales to gameplay.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.