Steam Is Unavailable In China, But It's Probably Not The Government's Fault

International Steam client was reportedly targeted by a "DNS cache poisoning attack."

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor December 27, 2021
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Steam Store

The Chinese government is notorious for restricting what its citizens can view on the internet. The "normal" versions of many popular websites, such as Google, Wikipedia, and Twitter, are heavily censored, while native Chinese versions of those sites, or similar ones, are promoted by the government so as to diminish the influence of the foreign sites.

Case in point: There's a Chinese version of Steam that has in its library only a tiny fraction of the games that the Steam you and I use -- 103 versus 110,000, according to The Verge. Obviously, most Chinese gamers use the "real" Steam, but that wasn't an option recently, as that version of Steam became unreachable for several days over the past week.

Initial headlines unsurprisingly took this to be a "ban" from the restrictive Chinese government, which is no stranger to cracking down on video games (or entire companies) it deems culturally inappropriate (or forcing big games to adhere to their rules, even when the companies swear they aren't). A little digging, however, would seem to indicate that this isn't the case.

According to dataminer PlayerIGN, the source of the problem is a "DNS Cache Poisoning attack," which started around December 22, or the start of this year's Winter Steam Sale. It's happened before, around the time of the 2017 Winter Steam Sale. The South China Morning Post has also erred on the side of caution, saying that some Steam users are "facing intermittent connectivity issues in different parts of mainland China, with some users saying they had no problems connecting."

In other words, this seems to be an attack from a random person, rather than something mandated by the Chinese government -- though that country's recent shifting attitudes toward video games has led some to believe that the "attack" was actually caused by the government. I think that's unlikely. Say what you will about the CCP, but it's not usually shy about announcing that it's cracking down on Western influences, and we've heard no official announcement from it (or Valve) yet. We'll update this piece if we learn otherwise.

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In this article: Steam, Valve.

About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

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