Launching sometime in the near future, Steam China will restrict what kind of games will be offered in China as well as who can develop them.
Name a more iconic duo than Internet Censorship and China. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Established over the course of a decade, given the boom of Internet culture, China’s government hasn’t shied away from the fact that they’re not happy with the Western sites that the world uses, electing to ban them and supplement them with their own sites.
Sites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter have been heavily restricted with many citizens preferring to simply use China-exclusive social media sites such as Sina Weibo and Tencent QQ (take a guess who owns that one). Yet despite all the banning of so many sites, Steam has somehow survived under the radar for some time, allowing Chinese citizens to play games from all over the world. You can’t run from the Chinese government forever as Steam China is now imminent and people are not happy about it.
See, in China, Steam served as a loophole for developers based in the country. Able to get around the harsh censorships and reach a market far broader than most accessible sites in China, developers often leant on Steam to help get their game out into the world. The only thing about Steam that’s censored in China is the community functionality and we aren’t sure if that was Valve’s doing or the Chinese government’s insistence.
When Steam China launches, that lifeline out of the country is severed as the roughly 30,000 games on Steam will be decimated to a measly 40, possibly even less. Steam China will only be selling games that are licensed by the government and meet a suitable standard of ethics and production. Steam China is promising a more enjoyable and straight forward experience for Chinese players with local servers and localised games, but when that only applies to forty games? I wouldn’t call it a win.
Valve’s messaging on how the rollover into Steam China will affect the users has been vague, to say the least. The company has stated that Steam will still be available in China and users will still have access to their pre-purchased games. What has yet to be clarified is how developers will utilise Steam China and whether their games will only be distributed over the China-exclusive version or worldwide. It’s a mess of unclear intentions and murky messaging. Speaking to PC Gamer, many Chinese developers have stated how terrifying the notion of Steam China truly is, disregarding most of the information that’s been provided regarding the perseverance of International Steam.
“Steam China is terrifying,” one anonymous developer said. “It’s horrible. I’m not sure what it will be, but I hope players can still access international Steam.” The general attitude towards the shift away from International Steam was that it was unnecessary and damaging to the video game industry in China.
“I would say 100 percent of China’s indie scene is alive because of Steam,” said another developer. If you want to read more about this scary time for indie developers in China, have a read of this report written up by PC Gamer. It’s a fascinating look into how China markets its still growing video game industry and how threatening these new developments may for indie developers.
Last Updated: February 10, 2020