Marvelous AQL's Esteban Salazar has suggested that while Steam is great outlet for Japanese developers and publishers to get their games in front of a wider audience without spending too much money, there are still several barriers to success - most notably Japan's relatively small PC market, and the language barrier.
“My personal opinion is that [Steam] is one of the ways that Japan can still compete, as far as putting their games in front of users, and not having to spend huge mega-budgets," said Salazar. "It can help them compete with Western publishers.”
But the rise of browser-based gaming in the East has meant that traditional PC development has seemingly been largely neglected in countries such as Japan, aside for in niche areas.
“There are a couple things that are barriers. One, [Japanese] developers are like, ‘PC? We don’t really know anything about that market if it’s not browser.
"In fact the PC market is pretty neglected here. Which is a shame, because there is a big business opportunity for it. Some developers just don’t consider the market for PC at all here in Japan. They think that’s a tiny market for fans of porno games.”
The other issue comes in the form of communication. Although the three main platform holders all have Japanese branches, Steam does not, and many of the smaller Japanese development companies don't have the luxury of a fully-fluent English-speaking contact.
“The second is the language barrier,” he explained, “Steam doesn’t really have any support in Japanese. So you kind of need someone who’s bilingual to run things, and act as an intermediary.”
“That’s another thing I do. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have Japanese branches, and have plenty of Japanese speakers, and full Japanese support. But Steam really doesn’t. If you’re a smaller company, you might not even have someone who can speak English that well. So how are you going to contact Valve?” [Gamasutra]