According to a video game industry analyst, Steam is getting an official release in a new region soon.
According to Daniel Ahmed of Nico Partners, Perfect World and Valve will be releasing a public beta of Steam China in the country on February 9th. This will be the first official release of the Steam platform in mainland China.
Compared to the international version of Steam, Steam China will have a number of differences. It will actually be its own application, rather than the application all other countries use. The main difference between the two versions is that the Chinese one will only sell games that have been approved by the Chinese government. So games like Fortnite, which has major differences in China, can only be sold in their government-approved iterations. All Steam accounts will work on both versions. So Chinese players who already have a Steam account will be able to use it to log into Steam China, if they want.
Gaming has always been popular in China, although since consoles were banned until recently, PC and mobile gaming tended to dominate. Although that has been changing, the Nintendo Switch is rapidly gaining popularity in the country. Despire Steam having been in a legal grey area before, that didn’t stop players in China from downloading and using it.
This might be still good for casual players in China. Not everyone feels comfortable or has the expertise to download a strange, dubiously legal foreign app to play games on. This will give casual and new Chinese gamers an opportunity to try games they might not otherwise have the chance to. It will give casual gamers something other than the mobile games, like Call of Duty Mobile‘s recent Chinese release, that dominate the Chinese market. Beyond that, it will also help foreign developers get their games noticed in China, and to open the Chinese market up to them.
Of course, this new release doesn’t come with its own issues. This will give China’s authoritarian government more control over over what their citizens can see and play. Before, there were able to play games which hadn’t even be released in China like Cyberpunk 2077. If China bans the international version of Steam, this will no longer be possible for Chinese gamers. Likeiwse, Chinese gamers might lose access to games they’ve already bought, if those games aren’t approved by the government. It will also giver China the power to censor games with messages or imagery it doesn’t approve of.
Steam China will be releasing in mainland China on February 9th.