Steam has finally launched in the world’s biggest gaming market, China. Like its peers before it, the Valve-owned service is entering the mainland’s heavily fortified industry through a partnership with a local publisher. In this case, it’s MMORPG specialist, Perfect World.
The country’s strict oversight means Steam China has just 41 titles available at launch, compared to over 48,000 on the global version, with regulations likely to hamper the variety of new additions for the foreseeable future.
China’s gaming authority has previously placed bans on Mahjong and poker, titles based on China's imperial past, and games that feature blood or corpses. It explained the scrutiny as a reaction to violence and video game addiction among younger players. The end result has meant a slow trickle of approved games making it to the masses, with major local developers such as Tencent (which is involved in PUBG and Fortnite) previously caught in the crosshairs.
As such, Steam says that every game on the Chinese service must be vetted for approval by the country’s government. Upon getting the green light, the Chinese publisher of each title is granted an ISBN number that is displayed on its Steam product page.
While the launch represents a major expansion for Valve, as SteamDB notes, the company was already present in China in a limited capacity, thanks to its special launchers for CS:GO and Dota 2. These were essentially pared-down Steam clients also operated by Perfect World and connected to Steam servers.