Steam’s upcoming launch of the platform’s version designed exclusively for the Chinese market has some independent local developers worried about what this might mean for their future.
The consequences of the move by the gaming platform’s owner, Valve, could reverberate beyond China.
The imminent launch of Steam China was confirmed on Monday, when Chinese gamers were instructed on how to move their existing Steam accounts to the new, Chinese authorities-compliant platform. That’s correct – Steam Global is, and has been easily available in China for a while now, scrubbed only of its social media features.
Not only is the platform already accessible in China, but it has been operating there although the country’s strict online censorship “technically” shouldn’t allow it.
To make matters more curious, Steam has been able to freely offer and publish games that had not gone through the wringer of Beijing’s censorship – that is otherwise strictly applied to domestic platforms like WePlay.
This means that Chinese players had access to “unregulated” games, while developers could publish to an international audience, also bypassing censorship requirements that apply to them as well. No wonder that initial talk of a government-compliant, official version of Steam for the Chinese market had them all worried that the regular version would get blocked by the authorities.
And their anxiety has not subsided since, reports PC Gamer. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one developer said everyone is worried, while he was trying to prepare others for the worst case scenario.
It isn’t only censorship that is a cause for concern among the Chinese independent game developer community; to publish games officially compliant with government regulations, they must pay a license equivalent to between $3,000 and $4,500, and then wait for the censors to complete their audit, that can last one year or even two years.
“No one knows what exactly will happen next and there has been little transparency or insight from either Valve or Perfect World (Valve’s Chinese partner),” the report says.
If and when Steam’s international version gets blocked in China, it would be akin to a catastrophe for hundreds of companies in the indie publishing industry in that country, one publisher cited in the report warned.