Chinese Gamers Experienced Connectivity Issues with Steam Store, Raising Suspicions the Platform is Blocked by The Government

By Isabella Jiangcheng
Dec. 29, 2021 updated 05:47
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Chinese gamers have had a sour Christmas. On Dec. 25th, many gamers on Weibo were complaining that they could not connect to Steam Store unless they connected to the store through a virtual private network (VPN). Other games identified the problem as a CDN (Content Delivery Network) failure, perhaps due to the heavy traffic load of Steam's year-end Winter Sales. However, these at-first isolated complaints quickly had the whole community worrying. People were panicking about the potential of the Chinese government blocking the Steam platform entirely. 

Typing ‘Steam’ into Weibo on Dec. 25th, numerous complaints appeared.Typing ‘Steam’ into Weibo on Dec. 25th, numerous complaints appeared.

Steam has always been a touchy subject for the Chinese gaming industry since its 'foreign' status allows it not to need to abide by Chinese regulations. Games on Steam do not require a Chinese publishing license to be released, which means that Chinese Steam users are likely to be exposed to gaming content that the Chinese government might deem to be 'sensitive.' Ever since China released the underage gaming mandate, many have suspected that the government might eventually block the international gaming platform because the platform is unlikely to provide a real-ID authentication system to screen underage users. 

Although Valve, Steam's owning company, has partnered with Chinese gaming developer Perfect World and introduced a domestic platform Steam China. Steam China only showcases games that have got Chinese publishing licenses. Most Chinese gamers still prefer to use the global version of Steam, where more games are available.

The concerns of Steam firewalled by the government have attracted mainstream media's attention. On Dec. 28th, business media Lanjing released a short video on the issue. According to the video, Lanjing's journalist logged onto the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) 's service page and the page identified 'steampowered.com' as a blocked site. The staff from MIIT replied to the journalist that although they are not clear why the mentioned website is 'blacklisted' and have not yet received any notice related to Steam, steam 'must be breaching regulation so that it appears on the blacklist.' The staff also had no information on if Chinese gamers could still access Steam if part of the domain were blocked.

So far, it is still mysterious for the status of Steam. Despite media claiming the platform is blocked, some Chinese gamers can still access the website without the help of a VPN. Neither Steam nor Valve has replied to media inquiries surrounding this issue as of press time.

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