Steam Reaches 30 Million Chinese Users Despite “Video Game Winter”
China’s relationship with video games remains rocky and unpredictable. However, some companies continue to flourish under complicated Communist Party regulations. Steam, for example, has found a true home in the Middle Kingdom. How long that will last, however, remains open for debate.
Steam now boasts 30 million Chinese users, the most users in any country. Having a population of over a billion inflates the numbers, but that’s still an impressive total. Games like DOTA 2, PUBG, and Fortnite dominate China’s gaming scene and rake in massive income for Steam. Valve, inspired by these profits, will launch Steam China in the near future to try to further capitalize on the market.
But why would players use both Steam and Steam China? They’d likely pick their preferred platform. That would be a sideways move rather than a vertical one. Worse still, given the recent history, the government would likely ban the standard Steam altogether. If that happened, they’d still end up doing better than almost every other gaming company in China.
For reasons that remain unclear, Beijing has ceased issuing new video game licenses. Some have dubbed this gaming drought a “video game winter,” which has one major issue: winters end. The government has given no sign that new games will enter the country any time soon. The Communist Party has named near-sightedness as one of the reasons behind their crackdown. Even if the argument had scientific backing (which it doesn’t), that’s a laughable reason to cut down a multibillion dollar industry.
While Steam doesn’t seem to be hurting, other companies certainly are. Tencent, China’s biggest tech company, has seen its bottom line drop by the billions in recent months. When they attempted to challenge the government’s rulings, they received a swift smackdown. Monster Hunter: World suddenly arrived on Tencent’s gaming platform, WeGame. Within a week, it had vanished, and Tencent’s stock dropped 2.4%.
Major publishers aren’t the only ones suffering. Video game streaming sites received the ax in 2017. Those that can be streamed need to be approved games. The list of banned games is extensive and occasionally absurd. Developers, some of whom display exceptional work, struggle to find funding. (OK, that last part isn’t unique to China.) Companies like Steam and Tencent can weather the storm, but independent companies will flounder. Until new games receive licenses, all companies—including Steam—will remain at the beck and call of the Chinese government.
Drew Weissman230 Posts
Drew is a freelance writer for DFTG. He's the former Managing Editor of Haogamers and has been published in the Chicago Tribune and The Paragon Journal. He also edited the novel Three Brightnesses and Artist Journey: Rachta Lin (2016 and 2017 editions).