Twitch vanishes in China weeks after spike in popularity
Update, September 21, 2018: Twitch confirms it's been blocked in China.
Last month, Twitch downloads surged in China as netizens flocked to the game streaming site.
Now it’s been blocked in the country.
Earlier this week, Twitch’s website was no longer accessible inside mainland China. Its app also quietly disappeared from Apple’s App Store in the country, suggesting that it’s not a glitch or accident but a deliberate move.
(Funnily enough, while you can’t find Twitch in the iOS App Store in China anymore, you can find YouTube -- another banned service. But while you’re free to download the YouTube app, you can’t connect to its servers from inside China so it’s pointless.)
We contacted Twitch, and the company confirms that it's being blocked in China, but didn't offer any reason why.
It comes just a month after its app skyrocketed in popularity, hitting number 3 among all free apps on the iOS App Store, when a large number of Chinese netizens flooded the service for esports coverage.
More specifically, people tuned in for esports matches at the Asian Games after state broadcaster CCTV didn’t air them. It was a big deal to many because not only was it the first time that esports were part of an international sporting event, but China also took home two gold medals.
With more than 2.2 million monthly unique broadcasters and 15 million daily users, Twitch, owned by Amazon, is one of the fastest-growing websites globally. But its reach in China before last month’s sudden surge was very limited because the platform, while not blocked, was significantly slower inside the country.
Twitch’s disappearance has caused quite a bit of an uproar online in China. A Chinese netizen said the shutdown is a crackdown on free speech: “All things that don’t jive with Xi Jinping Thoughts will be blocked.”
Many are saying online that this supposed crackdown is a sign of the government further tightening its grip on gaming. Some said the banning of Twitch does not bode well for Valve’s digital game store Steam, which is one of the few major Western websites still partially accessible in China
On the other hand, some netizens said that Twitch kicked the bucket because the government has taken notice of how Chinese netizens have been trading barbs with gamers from other countries during the Asian Games. I myself noticed plenty of nasty trash talk aimed at South Korea during the broadcasts.
If it is a crackdown, it puts Twitch in elite company: Facebook, Google and YouTube are all banned in China, along with Reddit, which was recently blocked.