Valve’s gaming platform Steam will be open to Chinese customers from February 9. A public beta service will go live in the country on that date and will offer both CS:GO and Dota 2 as the first two games to be made available to Chinese customers on the platform.
The release comes a short time after Valve teamed up with Perfect World, with one of the goals of that partnership being the expansion into the Chinese esports gaming market via Steam.
More Opportunities For Games Developers
The move is a slight change of strategy from Valve, but one that could have significant positive impacts for game developers seeking to expand into the potentially huge and lucrative Chinese esports and gaming markets.
The international version of the Steam platform has been widely available, and used, across China for a while now. A simplified Chinese language version is the most popularly used language by customers, which shows that the appetite for Steam offerings is evident within the country.
However, this new and China-friendly local Steam platform will mean that a far greater number of games can be played over the platform. This is good news for developers who wanted the opportunity to expand into the Chinese market via Steam, but who had found that wasn’t an option on the international version of Steam.
Of course, new games available on the local version of Steam in China will still be subject to scrutiny from ruling bodies in the country and will still have to adhere to Chinese gaming rules.
A good example of this is the way that Chinese versions of Dota 2 and CS:GO have had a number of more gory and violent aspects of the content removed to produce what are termed ‘low violence” versions of the game.
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International Version Blocked?
While the idea of a government-sanctioned version of Steam in China seems a win-win situation for all, that may not be the case. A number of game publishers and developers in China have stated that they fear the release of Steam China may mean that the international version is blocked.
The international version of Steam is, as we have already noted, hugely popular but that is partly because it seems to operate within a loophole for Chinese regulations. These developers, whose games have not been regulated, fear that the new China-friendly Steam opening would see their games cut off from their main market.
Given that the Chinese market is measured in hundreds of millions, with the potential for many more, that is a significant chunk of the market that could soon be unavailable to these development companies and studios.
Games affected include the fourth most popular. Game on the International platform, Tale of Immortal. If Steam international is blocked in China with the release of Steam China, then the game developer would need to acquire a government license, which can be a problematic process with no guarantee of success.
One developer revealed that obtaining a license costs $3,000 – $4,000, that the game will have to be modified in line with government requests and that the whole process could take between one and two years to complete.
Chinese customers with Steam International accounts can migrate their games and data over to Steam China, but only on games that have been approved for release on the new platform.
It is going to be interesting to see whether Steam China is the death knell of Steam International in the country, or whether they will eventually co-exist. If they can’t then that could be to the detriment of many gamers, gaming studios, and developers.