Chinese becomes most used language on Steam

Last month, Simplified Chinese bumped off English to become the most used language among gamers on Steam, a digital distribution service where users can buy and install games, interact with other gamers, and host live streams.

The news reflects Chinese gamers’ growing interest in PC games, as well as a broader shift in market dynamics which sees Chinese gamers increasingly driving trends and platform priorities.

According to Steam’s February hardware and software survey, Simplified Chinese was the most used language at 32.84%, a 7.6% month-on-month bump likely influenced by an increase in gaming during the Chinese New Year holiday. Chinese usage only just pipped English, which stood at 32.12%. The other languages in the top 5 are Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese, which all number in the single digits.

This is not the first time Simplified Chinese has topped the ranking, but it is the first time since the launch of Steam China, the dedicated client for China. Developed by Washington-based Valve Corporation, Steam has been around since 2004 but only launched officially in China in 2021. But even by 2018, the platform had 30 million users in China, many of whom flocked to the platform to access games that had not been approved for sale by regulators.

The launch of Steam China in 2021 caused a ripple of concern that the international client would be shut down, cutting off some developers from Chinese gamers. Smaller game developers have little to no chance of securing a license to distribute in China, and so can only tap into the Chinese market if a steady flow of gamers access the international client.

The results of the February survey could suggest Steam Global is still attracting a significant amount of traffic from Chinese gamers, but it will take more long-term tracking of the language usage to know for sure.


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