For the last decade, Valve hasn't had much competition in the PC digital distribution space. Various stores have popped up over time, including Kongregate and GamersGate and Direct2Drive, but none of them have been able to match the might of Valve's Steam. That is... until now. One company is hoping to give Valve a run for its money by opening up a once regional digital distribution outlet to the global audience. This could end up giving Steam some serious competition in the near future if things begin to take off.
GamesIndustry.biz picked up an article from the South China Morning Post that reported that Tencent's gaming division is preparing to launch WeGame for a global audience. The digital distribution platform launched last year, in September of 2017, for the mainland China audience, and featured only 220 games, most of which are local Chinese-made games, but a few of which come from Tencent's partnerships with international game development studios.
The WeGame platform replaced the Tencent game launcher, but in doing so also became a digital storefront of sorts. So, how exactly is this going to rival Steam?
Well, according to the reports, Tencent plans on launching WeGame in Hong Kong. For those of you who don't know, any piece of media released in mainland China has to go through the scrutiny of China's Ministry of Culture. There are a lot of restrictions and regulations on launching certain kinds of media -- especially foreign media -- in the mainland. When Sony and Microsoft wanted to launch the PS4 and Xbox One in China, both companies had to make sure the software adhered to China's 10 rules of censorship.
For Tencent, the company has been abiding by these rules already, but launching WeGame in Hong Kong means that the company would no longer have to abide by the rules in mainland China, and it could then start hosting games that might not normally be allowed in the mainland. Typically, launching software or media in Hong Kong is a precursor for a global launch for the rest of the world's markets.
Tencent confirmed that the Hong Kong version of WeGame is currently in development, and that the company plans on using the Hong Kong version as a distribution corridor to deliver Chinese-made games to the global gaming audience.
GamesIndustry.biz notes that Tencent's move to reach a global audience with WeGame is in response to Valve opening up Steam to the Chinese market. The report indicated that nearly a quarter of Steam's current users are already Chinese, so adding official support for the region could grow Steam's numbers significantly.
Of course, some people might assume that Tencent would launch WeGame and choke on the market similar to Origin or Uplay, both of which still pale in comparison to Steam when it comes to sales. However, the big difference is that Tencent has access to a startling catalog of software already, given that the company has a stake in Epic Games, the makers of Fortnite and Unreal; Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends; Activision-Blizzard, the makers of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Overwatch; and PUBG Corporation, the makers of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.
WeGame also already has a number of high-profile games available for it, including the popular Monster Hunter Online, Call of Duty Online, and Blade & Soul. So, the WeGame launcher could end up having a small but very powerful line-up of some of the most well known games currently available on the market.