It’s funny how industries tend towards a small number of massive competitors. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed. Coles and Woolworths. Ford or Holden. Intel against AMD against nVidia. Boeing versus Airbus. But one massive technology giant hasn’t really seen much competition. Steam. The Gaben juggernaut has rolled on, despite EA building Origin, GOG building its Galaxy and Ubisoft…being Ubisoft. But a new challenger has appeared, this time from China. WeGame is an extension of parent company Tencent, which owns and operates the massive Chinese WeChat social network. It brings serious money and capability to a field that has yet to land a big punch against Steam.
In an announcement on its website, Tencent stated (warning, website in Mandarin) it would be making massive changes to its WeGame service to support international players. Given the size of the Chinese market, this could well signal the first proper competition for Valve’s Steam service, which has been chugging along like a champion for what feels like forever. The biggest change of course is that WeGame will soon support both international and Chinese gamers through a single storefront (like Steam). Big news, mainly because Steam has a smaller userbase compared to WeGame, with approximately 125 million for Steam and about 200 million for WeGame.
To put this move into perspective, you must remember that Tencent actually owns Riot Games, the makes of League of Legends as well as Supercell,
which makes most Dragonball Z characters apart from Gohan look bad, the makers of Clash of Clans. Other gaming interests include Glu Mobile, makers of some huge classic games for mobile devices. Tencent even has minority stakes in Activision Blizzard and Epic Games.
While this is a new move, it will be interesting to see whether WeGame takes hold as a true competitor to Steam. The company has yet to announce what games will go on to the expanded platform, and it’s not know yet just how it’ll set prices. We can certainly hope that at the very least, digital games might get priced lower than they currently are. But then, who knows whether sales and distribution platforms like Steam have any control over that? Either way, competition is good for us all.