Interesting stuff regarding Steam in China.
Steam was unknown in China until Dota 2 came along a few years back. Valve and Perfect World opened a Chinese server for Dota 2 in the second half of 2013. All Dota 2 accounts needed to be connected with a Steam account to work. Many players saw this as a hassle and complained that the Steam account was like a zombie account since Dota 2 was the only game they owned. But this was how Steam started to acquire Chinese users. Perfect World has done a great job growing Dota 2 in China and the game is still very popular there. In fact, it’s the third largest region in the world for Dota 2 players according to SteamSpy. Perfect World will also be localizing Counter Strike: Global Offensive soon as well which is already a popular title among Chinese gamers on Steam.
Steam is unique in China in that it doesn’t follow the same rules that other game stores must follow. This means that publishing a game on Steam works the same way in China as it does in the West, and there is currently no regulation on the Chinese Steam store from the government. This has led to certain games like Grand Theft Auto V being distributed via Steam in China with no issues when really it would be banned on any other Chinese games service. There is no real reason for why Steam is still allowed in China but many speculate it could be due to Perfect World backing Dota 2, which requires a Steam account. Microsoft doesn’t have the same privilege and were forced to remove Gears of War 4 from the Chinese Windows 10 store for being too violent. Yet Grand Theft Auto V is still on the Steam China store.
It is worth keeping in mind that the Chinese government could very easily impose restrictions and regulations on Steam in China at any time. This could make it harder for games to be published on the platform and many games could be banned from being sold in China if they are deemed as being immoral. Right now, these restrictions are not in place and so Steam remains an opportunity for many indie and larger publishers to target the niche of gamers in China who are willing to pay upfront for games.
The fact that Steam had banned games peaked the curiosity of a few Chinese gamers who wanted to try out this platform and this led to many of them purchasing their second game on Steam, Grand Theft Auto V. Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) already had a huge presence globally and was marketed as the game to experience the American way of life. GTA V had a localized Chinese version and was considerably cheaper than the Western version of the game. The popularity of the game in China led to many live streamers playing the game on their channel and this in turn led to many more creating Steam accounts to buy and play the game.
According to SteamSpy, China is the second largest region for Grand Theft Auto V in terms of owners, which is a huge achievement when you consider just how big the game is worldwide. The game, along with Dota 2, also led to the increase of users in China but there were still a number of barriers to further growth. The first is that games didn’t really support Simplified Chinese or even make their presence known in the region. The second was that a credit card was needed to pay, which is a significant barrier, and the third was that the games cost money (unlike the typical F2P titles, which are downloaded for free).[/quote]