Valve plans to bring Steam to China in an official capacity, expanding the reach of its distribution service and games library to a huge additional audience. The plan was announced today in conjunction with Perfect World, a Shanghai-based company that Valve previously worked with to distribute local version of Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Steam can already be accessed in China, but it appears to be more of an unofficial availability that risked being blocked by the government — as some portions of the service recently were. By partnering with a local company, Valve can ensure that Steam remains live. It can also better localize the service and promote it to more gamers in a country where gaming is booming (though that’s largely thanks to mobile). The partnership sounds similar to the one forged between Blizzard and internet giant NetEase, which operates the developer’s Battle.net in China, bringing titles like Overwatch and StarCraft II to a major market.
Steam already appears to be popular in China
It will likely also mean that the Steam store will be subject to Chinese censorship. Details of how Valve will handle this, and how it will approve games for launch in the Chinese store, haven’t been announced yet. The whole endeavor seems like it may not be far along — a press release said there was no date set for the Chinese launch. For the rest of the world, Valve recently announced a very hands-off approach for content curation, saying it would let anything on the Steam store as long as it wasn’t illegal or “trolling.”
Valve says that the launch of Steam China won’t affect its other services in any way. Valve is supposed to collaborate with Perfect World on the platform’s launch, marketing, and game lineup, which suggests there’ll be curation involved. We’ve reached out to Valve for clarification, but a spokesperson didn’t immediately respond.
Though Steam may not be officially available in China, it’s already popular with Chinese-language users. As of last month, a Valve survey determined that just over a quarter of Steam users had their language set to Simplified Chinese. That’s second only to English, which is sits just 10 points higher.