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Cult Horror Game Devotion Will Not Be Re-Released After Joke About Chinese President

Taiwanese game developer Red Candle Games has issued a new statement on the status of its horror game, Devotion, which was pulled from Steam in February over a Winnie the -Pooh joke. And it appears the developers will not be re-releasing the game.In its new statement, Red Candle confirmed it will not be putting Devotion back up for sale, following controversy about an included joke that referenced Chinese president Xi Jinping and Pooh together.

“For the past four months, the art asset incident related to ‘Devotion’ has caused immeasurable harm to Red Candle Games and our partner. We would like to offer our most sincere apology to all impacted teams and personnel,” the Red Candle Games team writes in a public Twitter statement.

And although Red Candle says it’s still in “business mediations” the Red Candle co-founders, “have reached a unanimous decision to not re-release ‘Devotion’ in the near term, including but not limited to obtaining profit from sales, revision, IP authorization, etc. to prevent unnecessary misconception.”

The tweet from Red Candle Games is the first public statement in four months since Devotion was pulled from Steam. At the time of the initial controversy Red Candle Games told players the team was in the process of negotiating Devotion’s return to Steam. But the developers stayed mostly silent after the controversy first broke. Red Candle Games also pulled all of its Devotion trailers from its YouTube channel.

There were also reports from Iain Garner, a Taiwan-based games publisher, that Devotion’s Chinese publishing partner, Indievent, lost its business license since the Devotion controversy. But it’s unclear if that incident is related to Red Candle’s game being pulled from Steam.

Unfortunately, anyone looking to play Devotion again soon may have to wait awhile, if not indefinitely.

Why Red Candle Games Pulled the Critically Acclaimed Horror Game Devotion from Steam

Red Candle Games rose to prominence after the release of its 2017 horror game Detention. Detention takes place in the 1960s during the White Terror period, where political dissidents in Taiwan were suppressed. Critics praised Detention’s scares and originality, and IGN named it one of the best horror games of 2017. Detention was also adapted into a live-action horror movie set to be released later this year.

Red Candle Games followed up Detention two years later with Devotion, which the studio released on Steam back in February 2019. Reviewers again praised Red Candle’s second game, including IGN Japan which scored it a 9.8 out of 10.

But a week later Devotion was pulled from Steam following a review bombing campaign led by Chinese citizens. The review bombing resulted from the inclusion of an art asset with a reference likening Chinese President Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh in the launch version of Devotion.

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The reference to Pooh was found in a poster inside the game, which when interacted with, would flash the words ‘Xi Jinping the Winnie the Pooh moron’ in Chinese. The reference would not be easily recognizable to anyone who can’t read Chinese, so the controversy was almost exclusive to Chinese-speaking territories.

When it was discovered, however, the subsequent backlash from players caused a chain of events that led to Devotion getting pulled from Steam less than a week after its release.

Much ado about Pooh

Winnie the Pooh has become something of a taboo subject on the Chinese internet. Since Xi became the leader of China in 2012, internet users would use images of the cartoon bear as a way to lightly joke about the president. Pooh was used as a physical comparison to Xi, but the meme became mainstream and subsequently censored on Chinese internet services, including social media platforms like Weibo.

The censorship of Pooh in China has been so widespread that the country denied the release of the Disney live-action film Christopher Robin. And in video games, Chinese game websites went so far as to censor Pooh out of images for Kingdom Hearts 3. As far as the Chinese internet goes, Winnie the Pooh is a serious red flag.

The Internet’s Response to Red Candle’s Apology

There’s been an outpour of support for Red Candle Games since its new statement went live earlier today — especially since many see the apology as unnecessary. Prominent video game developers have come out to defend Red Candle Games and to protest its continued absence from Steam.

“This is hard to read. What happened wasn’t fair to the studio and many completely innocent people suffer because of it,” one game developer on Twitter wrote in response to Red Candle’s tweet.

“Reminder to the gamers who promise to “rise up”: this is what actual censorship looks like,” Ubisoft Monetreal programming team lead Gavin Young wrote.

“[S]olidarity and solidarity and solidarity with [Red Candle Games]. [R]eading this twists my stomach up. [M]y thoughts are with them,” Friends at the Table podcast host Jack de Quidt wrote.

“As regretful as the incident was, we have to bear its full consequence,” Red Candle Games writes. In the meantime, the developer asks commenters to not harass any of its publishing partners and reiterated that the studio bears the full responsibility for the controversy. However, this is the latest incident to show how a seemingly innocuous internet meme in China can have dramatic consequences. The historic tensions between Taiwan and China no doubt also intensified the gravity of this controversy.

We reached out to Red Candle Games asking for further details about its ongoing business mediations and whether the studio has seen the outpouring of support from developers and fans.

Matt Kim is a reporter for IGN. You can reach him on Twitter.

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