Here’s hoping that you don’t have a lot of gaming friends in China, because it appears that you will probably no longer be able to play with them. Everything on Steam aside from the Steam storefront itself has been blocked in China. This includes messaging, forums, user profiles, inventories, and more. Anything that isn’t directly involved with the purchase, download, or playing of a game is now completely taboo in China.
The ban, which currently limits 96% of all of Steam’s services, went into effect on December 15 for China users. While it remains unclear exactly why this change has happened, it likely has to do with the shift in the gaming market as well as how it ties into China’s own unique political climate. The country has already had a well-established history of making decisions that benefited Chinese businesses more than any other type; and given the free speech potential of Steam’s social services it could have also cracked down on it as a means of censorship in the region.
Western games have often struggled in the Chinese market. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds for instance very nearly faced a ban not too long ago and Overwatch was in danger of doing the same unless it disclosed its loot box award percentages. While both of those cases were resolved, they do help to illustrate the extreme crackdown measures the country has taken to gaming in the past.
For now it is still uncertain whether or not this is a response to anything, a stop-gap measure, or an indication of behind the scenes turmoil, but only time will tell how the situation further develops.