Valve and Perfect World will launch a beta of the Steam China client later this month. The first two games to debut on the platform will be Valve-developed multiplayer classics, with Chinese players possibly required to sign up for the new version of the service to play in the future.
What will the Steam China version look like?
This news comes to us via prominent China gaming analyst Daniel Ahmad, tweeting as @ZhugeEX. Ahmad says that Chinese developer Perfect World will work in tandem with Valve to debut the Steam Chinese beta on February 9th. Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will be the first two games to require Chinese players to sign up to the China-specific version of the client in order to play them. All progress from both games will carry over from the Western version of Steam to the Chinese version.
Perfect World and Valve will launch a public beta of Steam China on Feb 9.— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) February 3, 2021
DOTA 2 and CSGO will be the first titles to start operations on the new platform. Chinese players will be required to sign up on Steam China to play these games, everything transfers over. pic.twitter.com/f2C07M7RhK
According to Ahmad, the Chinese version of Steam will be a totally separate application to the Western one. It'll only offer Chinese-approved games, but Western Steam accounts will still work on the platform. In addition, Steam games will also work on the Chinese Steam client, as long as there is a Chinese SKU for the game. Ahmad says it's unclear whether the Chinese government will block access to Steam International in the future. Steam International offers games that have not been licensed for the Chinese market, so it's possible Beijing could instate a blanket ban on the Western version.
How will this affect Western Steam?
There are a few ways in which this could affect the Western Steam client. For a start, if Chinese users migrate to the country's new native platform, it'll impact reviews and recommendations. This is assuming the Chinese Steam platform is completely separate to the Western one and that Valve doesn't bring anything across other than account details. Suddenly, Chinese users' reviews, recommendations, playtime, and other stats will vanish from Western Steam. Review scores, trending games, and other user-generated data would also change pretty drastically.
This could have both positive and negative effects for games on Steam. Taiwanese horror adventure Devotion was review bombed by Chinese users on Steam due to a "Winnie the Pooh" reference, a derogatory nickname for Chinese leader Xi Jinping. If Chinese users were to migrate to a native Chinese Steam client, this wouldn't happen to games in the future (over this particular issue, anyway).
However, many games might lose positive reviews or recommendations thanks to losing a large proportion of their user base. Games like Chinese Parents and Amazing Cultivation Simulator received huge boosts from Chinese audiences prior to receiving an English patch. Any games released on Western Steam that could appeal to Chinese audiences wouldn't receive this boost in future.
We don't know exactly how many Chinese users there are on Steam, but it's probably a pretty sizable number. In 2018, there were over 30 million Chinese users on the platform. In addition, last month, Simplified Chinese accounted for around 18% of users. Although not all of those users will be based in China, the data certainly suggests that there's a very significant contingent of Chinese gamers on Steam.
How do you feel about Perfect World and Valve testing out the Steam China beta? Let us know in the comments below!