Valve has partnered with Chinese company Perfect World to launch Steam China, legitimizing the digital distribution platform in one of the world’s fastest growing gaming markets. Steam China had been running unofficially in the country without much in the way of issues until December of last year. The Steam Community suddenly stopped working around December 15, 2017. Access to the store and other features appeared relatively unaffected, but at least one user had reported that they were facing severely throttled download speeds. Rumors persisted that the launch of Tencent’s WeGame platform might have been a motivation for the changes, as China is alleged to show favoritism in policy enforcement and legislation for Chinese companies when compared to foreign businesses.
Six months later, Valve announced plans to team up with Chinese company Perfect World, a developer and publisher of games largely focused on the MMORPG genre. While they may have to deal with issues of censorship in order to be compliant with local laws, it probably would be better than not being able to operate in the country at all. A quarter of Steam users had their language set to Simplified Chinese as of six months ago.
Steam China hasn’t yet launched in the country, but the partnership between Valve and Perfect World is nearing the final stages of approval with the Shanghai government to get things moving along. Odds are, Chinese gamers will be able to continue playing their games and making use of the Steam Community without having to resort to circumventing the Great Firewall.
It remains to be seen what changes Steam China will need to make to legally function within the country. The company had decided in June 2018 to allow games with adult content on the platform uncensored, the first of which hit the store in September of this year. America’s strong commitment to the principles of free speech will likely mean no trouble for Valve in the West, but China is another story altogether. Steam China will probably be an improvement for those who don’t already know how to get around the Great Firewall. For those who don’t, they probably will still end up missing out on things the government isn’t okay with.