Valve has announced that it will be launching a localised version of Steam for China. Which is fantastic news for publishers looking to grow their business in the region.
To do so it will partner with Chinese firm Perfect World. With the move legitimising the service in a region that isn't very welcoming for western companies looking to go it alone. There is no release date at present.
Steam does already operate in China, and though it avoided a total ban, numerous features of the platform are inaccessible. The majority of China’s Steam users instead use VPNs to access the US version of the software. This is based upon nearly a quarter of all Steam users having their language set to Simplified Chinese - a boom that coincided with the massive success of PUBG in the region.
It’s impossible to talk to major western PC publishers without the question of China coming up - a number of large publishers have told us that the market is already in their top five regions and growing faster than any other significant region. This can be seen in the rush to add Simplified Chinese language support to titles.
Despite the upcoming change, broader marketing activity around a title will still be difficult without a good local partner, so though distribution should be simplified, making Chinese gamers aware of your title's existence will remain an issue.
Partner Perfect World has a long history of working with Valve, having worked with the company on its largest properties - Counter-Strike and Dota 2. It will allow Steam to compete more directly with Tencent’s WeGame platform in the region.
Which titles from Steam’s huge library make it across to the localised version remains to be seen, though we’d imagine that the vast majority of localised games will make it, though there will inevitably be some omissions or changes for cultural or political reasons.
Then there remains the question of whether, due to its additional partnership costs, Steam decides to levy a higher tariff on Steam China sales, though that would seem counterproductive at a time when everyone would benefit from a single clear platform to target for putting western PC games in front of a chinese audience.
In a press release, Valve stated that: “Perfect World and Valve will collaborate closely on Steam China, actively promoting its launch, marketing, and game lineup. No changes are planned for Steam’s existing worldwide operations and services as a result of this announcement.”