On Christmas Day 2021, Steam was partially blocked in China!
Did China just ban Steam? Let’s take a look at what’s going on…
Steam Partially Blocked In China, What’s Going On?
On 25 December 2021, while people were celebrating Christmas across the world, the Steam store and API domains (and subdomains) suddenly became inaccessible in China.
According to SteamDB, the global Steam Store and API subdomains appear to experience “connection resets” on some Akamai IP addresses, which is typical for domains blocked by China’s Great Firewall.
However, the Steam client and other subdomains, including partner sites, continue to be accessible in China. So the Steam ban that everyone was reporting about, is only partial and intermittent.
Gamers in China can still play their games using the Steam client, and some users say that they are still able to access the Store and purchase games.
From what we understand, only port 443 is being blocked, and the connection is reset after a period of time. So it is an intermittent interference like what happened to GitHub.
The Steam China Store is not affected, but offers a far limited selection of games and features, as it was built to comply with the Chinese government’s strict regulations on games and Internet usage.
Steam Troubles In China : Warning Or Actual Ban?
The Steam downtime does not seem to be due to a DNS poisoning attack. Rather, it seems to be some kind of action sanctioned by the Chinese government.
The intermittent and partial nature of Steam’s downtime in China suggests that this isn’t an actual ban… yet.
Gamers, for example, can still continue to play games using the Steam client, and some could even access the global store and make game purchases, at least intermittently.
Interestingly, there has been no bombastic editorial from Global Times or any of the other Chinese state media, which suggests that this is a subtle warning to Steam to “play ball” with the Chinese government.
It could be related to the CCP’s crackdown on video games and Internet usage some three months ago :
- Strict limits on how long minors can engage in online games – up to one hour per day, and only from 8 PM to 9 PM on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays.
- Real name registration of online game accounts – gamers must register using their real names.
Or it could be related to the strict approval of online games. China, for example, suspended video game approvals for 3 months in September 2021.
If so, access to the global Steam store may miraculously be restored in full once Steam has made the required “corrections” or at least committed to those “corrections”.
The global Steam store could also end up being banned for real, leaving only the minuscule Steam China Store to cater to China’s domestic consumption.
Either way, many netizens and gamers have expressed gratitude that they are living on the right side of the Great Firewall.
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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.
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