The war between Epic and Valve has quickly escalated in a short amount of time. Thanks to the Unreal developer’s enticing 88/12 percent revenue split, the fledgling storefront has snagged several high-profile titles to release as timed exclusives - some of them from right under Steam’s nose. Metro Exodus, Borderlands 3, The Division 2, World War Z, and Outer Wilds are just a few games that PC players can/will only purchase through Epic. This paradigm shift has been cause for both celebration and frustration the PC community. Some agree that Steam’s dominance has only hurt PC gaming and that competition ultimately benefits everyone. Others have been annoyed at the Epic Games Store's current lack of features compared to Steam, as well as how abruptly a game previously sold through Valve gets yanked away to sell with Epic.
As reported by Eurogamer, the battle has a new eastern front with the Epic Games Store going live in China with next to no fanfare. The lack of preamble is surprising given that cracking into the Chinese gaming market is no small feat. Upon comparison, the store appears to be largely the same as its US counterpart (including holding a similarly large sale that's happening in the states). A major difference is that the Chinese Epic Games Store does not accept credit cards, but instead local payment services Alipay and Wechat. In a translated interview with Chinese news site TechWeb, Epic compared the legality of its operations within the nation to Steam’s, going as far as to call Valve’s approach “illegal”:
“The way our competitors (Steam) operate overseas in China is actually illegal, it is a product of the gray area, and they do not have offices in China. But our Epic is different, we have employees there, so we are quite sensitive to what is legal and what is illegal - more for the benefit and safety of our employees. We just don't want to risk any risk of getting them involved in legal disputes.”
Epic’s statement references how Steam has been available in China in an unofficial capacity for some time. In Valve’s defense, Steam’s presence is set to become more legitimate thanks to a recent partnership with Shanghai company Perfect World. Still, it seems Epic wants to carefully navigate the government's notoriously short leash on the video game industry. China’s launch of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, for example, was axed in favor of releasing a very similar shooter promoting peace instead. Though not directly related, it's still worth nothing that Chinese mega corporation Tencent already owns a significant share of Epic.
Competing with Valve in the biggest possible market only makes sense for Epic. China has an incredibly active and gargantuan PC community, so gaining a foothold there will further position the Epic Games Store as Steam’s equal. It’ll be fascinating to watch how Chinese players take to having a new (legal) alternative for enjoying their favorite pastime.