The report that China banned steam international customers seems to be a false alarm, but it raises more questions about China’s possible blockade of widely used video game stores.
Later on Christmas night, the news spread through social media and reddit that steam, an all digital PC game store owned and operated by Bellevue in Washington – based on valve software, which seems to have suddenly been included in China’s national ban list.
This will prevent anyone using Chinese Internet service providers from accessing steam, which will put China’s independent game development in trouble overnight.
A few hours later, take another look. It turns out that the ban is not a ban. On the contrary, an unknown party seems to have launched a domain name system (DNS) attack on steam’s server.
Vladislav tsypljak, co-founder and chief financial officer of Taiwan based video game publisher neon doctrine, said that his team in China was completely blocked for several hours, but then he resumed the opportunity to contact steam. It is reported that a few years ago, at about the same time of the same year, that is, when steam was sold every winter, similar hacking methods were used.
At the time of writing, no one thought steam was subject to an obvious Chinese DNS attack, but now, the safest assumption is that some trolls think it would be interesting to shut down the service during one of the most eye-catching events on steam calendar.
We have contacted valve and will update the story after receiving a reply.
This is a big event at Christmas weekend, because the DNS attack initially seemed to be a comprehensive government attack on steam. This confusion is understandable because many developers and analysts in the space have been waiting for this special hammer to fall for most of 2021.
For whatever reason, China has not banned steam, which is different from other international websites such as Facebook or YouTube. Chinese users cannot directly access steam’s community forum, but they can access the store.
Users reported that there were other restrictions on the client in China, including restrictions on download speed. On the surface, some games can still be sold in China through steam, but they cannot be successfully downloaded due to government filtering. Chinese players usually buy product keys from dealers or change their region to avoid government censorship.
Nevertheless, China has ushered in a small but growing group of independent video game developers, who push games to the international market through steam, thus bypassing the supervision of Chinese media.
Several Western games have a large number of followers in China, such as valve’s own dota 2, but it is unclear why China’s Internet censorship system allows steam to slip through the cracks.
Tsypljak said he believes steam’s international customers will gradually withdraw from the Chinese market.
“This has changed over the past few years,” tsypljak said. “The government is promoting the story of ‘video games are like heroin addiction’. Another story is that games can harm children’s eyesight, which is one of the reasons why the law restricts the playing time of underage children.”
This makes the independent game communities in China and Taiwan generally feel that this is an outstanding issue. Valve, in cooperation with the Chinese publisher perfect world entertainment, launched the Chinese version of steam in February, which features a series of games approved by the Chinese government.
Its existence is seen by China’s Indian islands as an implicit warning that their fragile connection with the international market through steam will be cut off sooner or later.
This is also a major concern for developers outside China, because the Chinese market accounts for a considerable proportion of the total global sales of video games. In response to tweets, some West Indies pointed out that up to 30% of their income comes from Chinese players.