With zero fanfare, the Epic Games store has released in China

The surprisingly quiet arrival of Epic's storefront suggests it's attempting to occupy an noted legal 'grey area'

The Epic Games store is now available in mainland China. Despite almost no fanfare from Epic, the company’s storefront can now be accessed, and almost all games available on the platform can be purchased via two different payment methods.

According to Chinese news site Techweb (translated via Google) earlier this week “the Epic games store quietly unlocked” in China, allowing players in the region to purchase and play games. Customers aren’t able to use Chinese credit cards on the store, but two local payment methods, WeChat and AliPay are both being accepted on nearly all games available on the platform. China appears to be a low-cost region, and the prices of games like Borderlands 3 and Metro Exodus are both substantially lower than in North America.

Given the fanfare attached to other local releases, Epic’s near-silence on the Chinese launch of the store is surprising. Given the size of the Chinese audience, allowing players to stumble across the store rather than making an outright announcement doesn’t seem like a particularly business-savvy plan, but there may be a reason for that decision.

China’s videogame approval process is relatively strict, and as such, digital distribution services such as Steam exist in what’s referred to as a legal ‘grey area’. Some players have suggested that Epic’s stealthy rollout could be part of an attempt to keep a relatively low profile.

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Speaking at GDC, Epic Games store boss Steve Allison said (via Venturebeat) that “the way our competitors offshore is not legal in China, and they don’t have an office in China. We
have employees there, so we are very sensitive to what is legal and what is not – more for the benefit and safety of our staff. We just don’t want to take any risks that can put them in any legal fire.”

We reached out to Epic for comment, and were told that “we look at Epic Games store as a global service and want to make it available to players in every region we can.” That would appear to line up with this new release, but makes no comment on the approval process that may have made a quiet launch a necessity in the first place.