Steam Chinese user base surpasses English for the first time

Every now and again, Valve conducts a Steam Hardware survey to find out information about the people using its platform. The most recent one revealed a surprising fact: the Steam Chinese userbase has surpassed the English-speaking users for the first time — but there might be more to the story than it first seems at face value.

As PC Gamer reports, the results of the December 2019 Steam Hardware survey have come out and they’ve revealed all sorts of information. Among the revelations is the fact that the Steam Chinese userbase has jumped up by 14.43%, putting its final total at 37.97% of the platform’s userbase — and well over the 30.43% English-speaking userbase.

Steam Chinese

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Here are the top ten languages as of the Steam Hardware Survey for December 2019 along with their rates of change since the previous survey:

  1. Simplified Chinese — 37.87% — ⯅14.43%
  2. English — 30.43% —⯆ 6.40%
  3. Russian — 9.36% — ⯆3.05%
  4. Spanish (Spain) — 3.59% — ⯆ 0.77%
  5. German — 3.01% — ⯆ 0.62%
  6. Brazilian Portuguese — 2.80% — ⯆ 0.43%
  7. French — 2.23% — ⯆ 0.44%
  8. Polish — 1.61% — ⯆ 0.27%
  9. Korean — 1.35% — ⯆0.59%
  10. Turkish — 1.23% — ⯆ 0.35%

At face value, it seems as if the number of people speaking Simplified Chinese on Steam has nearly doubled in a very short time. However, PC Gamer points out some past issues with the Steam Hardware survey, and those same issues could explain the explosive of the Steam Chinese language user increase.

While most of us in the West own our own PCs, net cafes are far more popular in many Asian countries — China included. This makes tracking the results of the Steam Hardware Survey a little more difficult in those regions and can potentially create skewed results, something that had already happened once from 2017–2018.

It is, however, entirely possible that something recently motivated a heck of a lot of people in China to shift over from using a net cafe to having their own Steam account. A Chinese version of the platform was announced in late 2018. The most recent official news we’ve heard is that the client is still in the works, but its development may have inspired some people to sign up for an account on their own.

So, did the Steam Chinese userbase massively increase, is this a bug, or both? We can’t say for sure. For now, though, it seems that the English language has been dethroned on one of the world’s largest digital games distributors.