One June 12, Chinese game company Perfect World announced to partner with Valve, the parent company of the world’s largest game distribution platform Steam, to launch Steam China. According to local media PingWest, in a letter responding to Chongqing-based game studio Pathea (帕斯亚科技) today, Valve said Chinese players can still log in to Steam’s international site. Steam China, as replied, would be just another application.
The letter also clarified that games available on Steam China would be those appoved by Chinese governmental content supervisors. Steam members can access the site with existing accounts.
Like many Chinese players and developers, Pathea studio was worried that the launch of Steam China will keep Chinese players away from the international site. Chinese government is now highly aware of Steam’s influence, and the booming gaming industry in China accelerates administrative actions.
The government’s concerns are mainly from the perspective of ideology and advisory content such as violence.
In March, 2018, the provincial cultural unit of Jiangxi announced that they had punished internet cafes offering banned games including Call of Duty 9: Black Ops II. “The game imitates some WWII scenes. One task asks the player to bomb the Tian’anmen Square [geographical center of Beijing, and the square outside emperor’s palace the Forbidden City].”
Early in 2011, China’s Ministry of Culture banned 4 Call of Duty games for illegally containing violent content. Players and developers also suspected the ban was due to gaming industry’s protectionism. Apart from ideological concerns, 13 Grand Theft Auto games were also banned (in Chinese).
A version of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds’, the Grand Escape (绝地求生: 大逃杀), changed the blood color from red to green to ameliorate the violence. A Chinese server of CS:GO, a shooting game co-developed by Valve, in the meantime, changed the blood colour setting to black to meet Beijing’s standard.
If a Chinese player can still access Steam international, why would the player bother to purchase a Chinese version in the Steam China store?
Two guesses are to be tested. Firstly, the access really means access. As for some games, Chinese players’ actions on Stream International may be limited to browse-only. The players can only get back to the local store to purchase a cleaned version. Or, Steam China will offer unique games that differ from those on the official site. In this sense, Perfect World games and other Chinese games may see more commercial potentials.