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Valve launching Steam China with Perfect World

Partnership likely means leading PC marketplace will be free from the threat of long-rumoured government block

Work has begun on a new Chinese-specific version of Steam, thanks to an extended collaboration between Valve and local publisher Perfect World.

The two companies have already worked together since 2012 to operate two of Valve's biggest hits, Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, in the region but will now be working even closer together on Steam China.

Details on what the final marketplace will actually look like are minimal, with a statement simply claiming Steam China will "provide Chinese gamers and developers with a new way to access Steam's expansive selection of games and entertainment."

Perfect World will work with Valve on the actual games line-up - no doubt geared towards the type of titles most popular in China - as well as the marketing and the launch itself. However, no release date has yet been given.

The partnership will firmly establish Steam in China, the world's most lucrative market for video games. Stricter rules on the Western products and services that can be released in the region have meant that Valve's marketplace has been operating in a 'grey area' for years.

Rumours have persisted that the Chinese government could block access to Steam entirely, allegedly under pressure from local games giant Tencent, which operates its own WeGame platform. Back in December, community functionality was blocked in China, although oddly the ability to buy games remained available.

The least complicated way to release a Western product in China is to partner with a Chinese publisher, hence the increasing appearance of Western games in the portfolios of Tencent, NetEase and, of course, Perfect World. By partnering with Perfect World on a Chinese version of Steam, Valve stands a better chance of creating a product that will meet the approval of the nation's historically guarded government.

Once opened, Steam China could also present an easier route for other developers to release their games to a Chinese audience - depending on what form it takes, of course.