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Luigi Ruffolo
12-17-2020 at 07:20 AM
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Devotion developer responds to GOG cancellation of re-release

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On February 21, 2019, two days after the game's release, players discovered a fulu talisman decorating a wall in the game contained the words "Xi Jinping Winnie the Pooh" (Chinese: 習近平小熊維尼) in Chinese seal script, referencing a recent Chinese internet meme that compared the Chinese paramount leader and general secretary to the Disney character. Also on the talisman were the transcribed words "ní ma bā qì" (呢嘛叭唭), which sounds similar to "nǐ mā bā qī" (你媽八七) in Mandarin. "你媽" means "your mother (is a)"; and "八七" (peh tshit) sounds similar to "白痴" (pe̍h-tshi, means "moron") in Taiwanese Hokkien. Taken together, this was interpreted by Chinese gamers as an insult to the Chinese leader. As a result, Devotion was heavily review bombed by Chinese gamers on Steam, and the game went from having "Overwhelmingly Positive" reviews overall to being "Mostly Negative".[13] Red Candle Games responded by patching out the offending art material, replacing it with a talisman that reads "Happy New Year" (恭賀新禧), explaining that the original talisman was a placeholder that was supposed to be replaced, and apologizing for the oversight. Nevertheless, other aspects of the game were analysed as insults to China, leading to the game being removed from Steam in China on February 23. Publishers Indievent and Winking Skywalker cut ties with Red Candle Games, with Red Candle Games being liable for their losses as a result of the controversy.[14] On February 25, Red Candle removed the game from Steam globally to fix technical issues, as well as to confirm that no other hidden messages remain.[15]

Taiwan's Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai spoke out in defense of the game regarding the "easter egg", saying: "Only in countries with democracy and freedom can creation be free from restrictions." Red Candle's Sina Weibo account remains blocked, and posts containing the hashtag #Devotion, which had hundreds of millions of views before the controversy, were hidden by Chinese censors. The episode has raised concerns about the future of the Steam platform in China, which did not gain official approval to operate there but remains accessible with up to 30 million users from China.[1]

In July 2019, the Chinese government revoked the license of Indievent. The official statement from the government stated that the revoking was due to violating relevant laws.[16] Red Candle Games released an apology later in the month stating that they have no plans to re-release Devotion in the near term in order "to prevent unnecessary misconception", but would reconsider re-releasing the game in the future if "the public would be willing to view this game rationally".[17]

In June 2020, Red Candle announced that it would begin running pre-orders for a physical edition of the game, available only in Taiwan from June 8 to 15.[18]

On December 16, 2020, Red Candle Games and announced that the game would be available on GOG's store on December 18. However, a few hours later, GOG issued a statement on Twitter[19] that "after receiving many messages from gamers," they had decided not to move forward with the release.[20] The statement rapidly garnered thousands of comments and retweets, the majority of which came from fans who were angered to see the store cancelling the release.[21]

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