China’s steam troubles raise concern about a ban

The full story of what’s happening is hazy Steam has existed in a grey area in China, technically not following rules which require all games be approved yet never drawing the ire of authorities. Many have long expected it to eventually be banned, though, especially after Valve partnered with Perfect World to launch the limited…

The full story is unclear

The Steam logo above a background of graphs and charts.

Steam exists in a gray area in China. Although it does not technically follow the rules that all games must be approved, it has never drawn the ire of authorities. It was long anticipated that it would be banned. This is especially true after Valve partnered up with Perfect World to launch Steam China. It might be happening. Maybe. It could be being blocked. It all began with Christmas Day’s big fuss. Some claimed that Steam was banned by the Great Firewall, which blocks access to many sites other than China. But the truth isn’t so clear.

On the 25th of December, 2021, reports went round the Internet that the Steam storefront and community pages were not accessible in China. Many believed that Steam had been banned from the world. Later reports stated that it was “DNS poisoning” which prevented people from accessing Steam, which some believed to be an attack by wrong’uns.

Steam does not seem to be down in China. Access is intermittent. Sometimes it doesn’t load, and sometimes it loads slowly. Game Developer (the site formerly known ha-ha-hilariously as Gamasutra) relay reports that many users are able to get on Steam, they just might have to retry or wait a few minutes. You can see the inconsistency yourself with Great Firewall testing tools; while some quickly declare it’s blocked (stoking belief in a ban), others with more patience might show you it loads sometimes, or after a long delay.

Game developer also pointed out a Twitter thread from David Frank ,, who claimed that what we are seeing is interference using technology called Server Name Indication Detection (SNI). His account suggests that this may be an intentional attempt to disrupt Steam. The fact that it works intermittently could be intentional to make it plausible.

Chinese authorities don’t display a list of banned websites publicly so it is difficult to know what’s happening. They’re known to use a variety of methods to block access too, as well as often interfere with sites and services rather than outright block

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