New Apple TV Shown Streaming Steam Games From PC Using Unofficial Client

Developer Kevin Smith, who previously demonstrated a version of the MAME emulator running on the new Apple TV, has now made some tweaks to existing open source tools to allow game streaming from a PC to the new Apple TV. Smith took advantage of the Moonlight iOS open source project based on NVIDIA's GameStream, modifying it to run on tvOS.

Using this modified version of Moonlight iOS, Smith was able to stream games from Steam on a PC directly to the Apple TV. Without the need to run directly on the Apple device, streamed games can appear as high-quality as the source computer allows, with obvious Wi-Fi and streaming strength limitations taken into account when used without a wired Ethernet connection. In the video below, Smith tests the Moonlight client out on the new Apple TV with popular open-world game Grand Theft Auto V.

Caution: Gameplay audio includes profanity

With the launch of the new Apple TV at the end of October, Apple took its first significant steps into the world of couch gaming, thanks to a full App Store for third-party apps included on the new tvOS operating system for the platform.

Although the Apple TV supports wireless gaming controllers that account for a few exceptions, most of the gaming apps that function best on the Apple TV remain as iOS-like side-scrollers and platforms rather than more sophisticated console-level games.

While it is still in the early days for the new Apple TV, momentum does appear to be building. For example, Facebook last week announced a new SDK for developers to "build immersive social experiences" on Apple TV with a number of features including a confirmation code login system that can bypass the cumbersome text entry of the Apple TV.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Neutral)


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9 months ago
What? No lag? My mouse lags when I mirror my display from my MacBook Air to my Apple TV 3. It's a slight lag but would be annoying during gaming, especially aiming.
Rating: 3 Votes
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8 months ago

Apple for some reason cheaped out and stuck a 10/100 port on a $150 HD streaming box in 2015...wireless AC gets throughput about on par to a wired gigabit connection, so way more than a 100Mbps connection. It sucks for me because my Apple TV literally sits right next to my router.

You should hook it up! And 10/100 actually makes a great deal of sense.

I'll go into a bit more detail below since Internet networking was my field of research in grad school, but the TL;DR version for why 10/100 is superior to 802.11ac for in-home game streaming is relatively straightforward:
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* Bandwidth doesn't matter*. 1080p streaming typically only requires about 5 Mbps at most, so the extra throughput that wireless provides won't give you any benefit.
* Latency matters a lot. As any online gamer can tell you, lag kills, and wireless connections suffer from lag spikes that are both more frequent and more severe.

* Again, speaking solely with regards to in-home game streaming. Obviously, bandwidth matters in a number of different situations.

And now, to get into more detail...

Video streams come in two flavors: compressed and uncompressed. Uncompressed streams typically only get used in professional settings (e.g. newsroom, sporting event, etc.) or between dedicated video devices (e.g. blu-ray content streamed over HDMI). When it comes to what we typically think of as "video streaming" (e.g. Netflix, YouTube, Steam in-home streaming, etc.), we're dealing with compressed video streams

Compressed streams, as you'd expect, have been reduced in size so that we don't have to send as much data over the network. A compressed 1080p stream typically clocks in between 1 Mbps and 5 Mbps, which is why even a poor Internet connection is sufficient to watch Netflix in 1080p just fine. As for the higher resolutions (e.g. 1440p, 2K, 4K, 5K, 8K, etc.), the new Apple TV can't handle them anyway, so we need not concern ourselves with them.

Now, you might be asking: why not just use an uncompressed stream? After all, it'd mean we could skip the processing needed to encode/decode the stream, along with the lag introduced by the processing. The answer for that is rather simple: uncompressed streams are MASSIVE. An uncompressed 1080p stream starts out at more than a gigabit Ethernet connection can handle and only goes up from there.

All of which is to say, bandwidth won't be a bottleneck, regardless of whether you go wired or wireless, since uncompressed streaming is not an option and they both have far more than enough to handle a compressed stream.

In fact, about the only benefit a gigabit Ethernet connection would provide is that app downloads may go faster, but for that to be true, you'd have to have an above-average Internet connection, given that most Internet connections lack the bandwidth to fill even a 10/100 connection, let alone take advantage of gigabit.

As for latency, I recall that Valve once posted a great graph highlighting the differences between wired and wireless for in-home streaming, but for the life of me, I can't seem to find it. What I do recall, however, is that the graph really showed off why Valve strongly recommends wired for in-home streaming.

The biggest reason is spikes in latency. Even under the best of conditions in a home, wireless connections will still deal with frequent latency spikes. They won't be a problem if all you're doing is watching YouTube, since that content is buffered, but for in-home streaming, you can't be buffering like that. As such, you feel each of those spikes much more acutely.

A lesser reason is that wireless just has a higher overhead in terms of latency than wired. Which is to say, given typical conditions, a wired connection will on average get back to you with a reply a few milliseconds faster than a wireless one. It's small enough to be imperceptible to most people, but those little delays can add up, so for gamers, every bit counts.

Anyway, hope that explains why I'd recommend the wired connection over the wireless one any day when it comes to in-home streaming. And, really, I'd just recommend it in general when it comes to the current Apple TV. Until they upgrade it to handle higher resolutions or app downloads gets prohibitively large, there's really no need for gigabit throughput.
Rating: 2 Votes
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9 months ago
I love the steam link and controller and got mine at launch, but always thought this was a much better solution. Why have two devices when it can be done on the Apple TV? Hopefully Apple will allow this in the AppStore one day if Steam decides to port it over.
Rating: 2 Votes
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9 months ago
Amazing! Steam should bring this to Apple TV!
Rating: 2 Votes
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9 months ago
This sounds awesome but I also think Apple is missing a big opportunity by not offering its own version of the Steam Link functionality into the Apple TV. Microsoft is also working on being able to stream games, both ways, between PC and Xbox One.

While being able to stream Windows content to the Apple TV sounds like a dream, I wish Apple would do this OS X and expand on AirPlay gaming that is closer to lag free, supports controller connection to OS X, and is built into the "Computers" app on Apple TV so I could simply browse my games on OS X and launch them directly from my Apple TV.
Rating: 1 Votes
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9 months ago

If I could play my Steam games on Apple TV that would be sweet! Although, this would of corse possibly dip Steam's "Steam Link" sales. But would be worth having on tvOS for sure!

The only obstacles left soon will be the game studios and the penchant they have for making exclusives for the PS4 and Xbone. Oh and whether we will be allowed to run the Moonlight client without Apple shutting it down.
Rating: 1 Votes
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