Esports streaming platform Twitch has been banned in China after its website became unavailable last week.
The Amazon-owned streaming service had experienced a surge in viewers tuning in to the Asian Games – where an esports competition was taking place as a demonstration sport at the event hosted in Indonesia.
The sudden rise in viewers saw its application ranked third in China’s App Store, but was made unavailable after days of complaints over a drop in the quality of service.
Twitch had confirmed in had been blocked in the country, in which its government has tightened controls over the gaming industry in recent months.
In August, the government banned the approval of new games, leading to gaming firm Tencent suffering a significant stock market slump, as it looked to address fears over rising myopia cases in young people by imposing restrictions on video games.
Twitch’s platform, which has become key within esports’ rise in popularity, had coverage of the Asian Games esports competition – while the event was not broadcast on state-run media in China.
The development will come as a blow to several big esports organisations. Overwatch League, which has two Chinese franchise teams, is only available to watch in China via Twitch.
China’s government has a history of blocking Western internet services, with Facebook and Twitter both permanently banned in the state. It appears that Twitch’s sudden popularity prompted the government to take the familiar measure of blocking the service entirely, due to its strict censorship regulations.
Chinese Twitch users were angered over the removal of the app, which some say is curbing free speech.
The Chinese city of Hangzhou will host the next Asian Games in 2022, with esports looking to become a medal event – though the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) stated last month that the sport requires a governing body before it is confirmed.