Helldivers 2 may have triggered a wave of bans for 20,000 Russian and Belarusian Steam accounts

helldivers 2 gunships
(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

Steam appears to have been cracking down on rule violations recently, particularly towards users who attempt to bypass regional restrictions by the use of VPNs and Steam code and gift reseller sites. 

The immense popularity of Helldivers 2—in combination with a large number of users attempting to subvert pre-existing restrictions on Sony game activation in Russia and Belarus—appears to have kicked off a wave of bans, with an estimated 20,000 Steam accounts facing the wrath of Valve in response.

Russian and Belarusian Steam accounts were no longer able to activate games developed by Sony as of February this year, mirroring a pre-existing 2022 ban on PlayStation sales in Russia as a response to the Ukraine war. Still, that doesn't appear to have stopped many from turning to less scrupulous means to acquire Sony-published games like Helldivers 2, released in the same month.

VPN providers and reseller sites often advertise easy ways to circumvent regional restrictions on a variety of platforms. To bypass the current restrictions, Russian and Belarusian users have been turning to location spoofing, third-party Steam gift purchases, and other methods to allow them to play banned games.

However, attempts to subvert the restrictions appear to have been triggering Steam bans en masse for accounts deemed to be violating Steam user agreements (via Overclockers.ru).

It's not just Russian and Belarusian accounts that have been subject to Valve's latest crackdown, either. Several cases have been reported of accounts with gifts from multiple regions being blocked, while others report that accounts with suspected activation of "global" keys bought from reseller sites have also been banned.

Steam users who believe their account has been wrongly penalised are advised to contact a Steam support agent via the Steam support help site.

This month, Steam services were also banned in Vietnam, for reasons that currently remain unclear. While some have been quick to recommend VPNs for Vietnamese Steam users to bypass the new restrictions, this latest wave of bans suggests that it might put those accounts at significant risk of becoming locked.

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Steam is currently in the enviable position of dominating the online PC game marketplace, and is the primary port of call for many as a repository for their personal digital game libraries. However, as these recent account bans show, Valve is well within its rights within the current Steam subscriber agreement to deny access to your games if it detects what it deems to be suspicious activity.

We've reached out to Valve for comment on the most recent bans and will update this article if we receive a response. In the meantime, if you've been considering buying reseller keys, or using a VPN to bypass Steam restrictions, these latest developments suggest that it's really not a good idea.

After all, Steam does indeed giveth, but at a moment's notice, it can taketh away, too.

Andy Edser
Hardware Writer

Andy built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 12, when IDE cables were a thing and high resolution wasn't. After spending over 15 years in the production industry overseeing a variety of live and recorded projects, he started writing his own PC hardware blog for a year in the hope that people might send him things. Sometimes they did.

Now working as a hardware writer for PC Gamer, Andy can be found quietly muttering to himself and drawing diagrams with his hands in thin air. It's best to leave him to it.