After a bout of controversy, Taiwanese developer Red Candle Games has stated that their recent game Devotion will not likely be returning for players to experience any time soon. The game was recently pulled from Steam, after it was revealed to contain satirical references to Chinese president Xi Jinping.
The references drew numerous complaints from Chinese players and led to the publisher, Indieevent, to have its business license revoked by the Shanghai city government. Following the issue, Red Candle Games released a statement informing their players they have decided not to re-release the game for the time being.
Greetings, we are Red Candle Games from Taiwan. To all of our players, industry and media friends, we would like to provide an update on ‘Devotion’. pic.twitter.com/wfGTUbHtHx— redcandlegames (@redcandlegames) July 15, 2019
After the game's initial launch on Steam, players review-bombed the title alongside the developer's earlier Detention. The issue was that China has recently censored most images of Winnie The Pooh, as the character has been linked towards criticizing or mocking the Chinese president. In the game, players discovered Easter eggs that made reference to Winnie The Pooh, as well as other nicknames that refer to the president in a ridiculing manner.
The move to keep the game delisted for now appears to be an effort to gain back the faith of the public. As their statement does not indicate a permanent de-listing of the game, we may see a reissue, presumably once the offending components have been removed from the game.
For now, it is not yet clear who added the offending references into the game. When the issue first came to light, the developers stated that they needed to engage in another quality assurance check. It seems that the references might have been done by a single individual without the consent or knowledge of the rest of the developing team.
While this controversy and delisting of the game occurred because of a political reference, developers are working now to comply with the rest of China’s newer video game rules. In December of 2018, the Chinese government listed new rules, including the exclusion of Mahjong and Poker as game genres that can be released to the public, along with any games that deal with the imperial history of the country. Finally, games featuring corpses and blood are also not allowed, nor is changing the color of the blood to something similar, such a green and calling it “ooze”.
Yet developers are obviously still attempting to break into the Chinese gaming market at any cost. With a population of 1.4 billion people, this should come as no surprise for the potential to add a significant stream of revenue to a company.
Blizzard recently made some changes to some of the card art in Hearthstone, leading fans to suspect interference from local governing bodies was at play. Some players were frustrated to see the change and considered it unreasonable, while others understood that the business decision likely helps pad Blizzard’s bottom line by attracting more Chinese consumers. Blizzard, however, claimed that regional rules and regulations had nothing to do with the changes.
In any case, developers in China are likely looking towards Red Candle Games as a dire warning for adding such restricted content. This will probably result in more stringent testing to ensure nothing of the sort slips through, lest the financial consequences prove ruinous to a developer.