The makers of Devotion today said they might re-release their really-quite-nice horror game at some point, if the controversy dies down, but Red Candle Games have no plans for a re-release "in the near-term". Devotion was pulled from sale after some Chinese players were upset by it containing a forbidden meme comparing Chinese president Xi Jinping to fictional honeyguzzler Winnie the Pooh, which has since led to that government cancelling its Chinese publisher's business license. It is a good'un so fingers crossed we'll get another chance to play it. And fingers crossed for the government retribution to end, obvs.
Devotion, to remind you, is a first-person horror game from Taiwanese studio Red Candle Games, first released in February 2019. It visits 1980s Taiwan to wander through a family's apartment, where things just ain't right. And it's good, Khee Hoon Chan said in our Devotion review. The problem is that, at one point, one of the many talismans papering a wall insults Xi Jinping and compares him to Winnie the Pooh. This sparked a review bomb on Steam from upset Chinese players. Red Candle hastily patched the talisman out, but soon they (or the publishers?) removed it from sale entirely. And its Chinese publishers, Indievent, lost their business license.
In a statement posted to Twitter today, the developers apologise for "the art asset incident" which "caused immeasurable harm to Red Candle Games and our partner." Before anything, they say, they're still dealing with the aftermath.
"While mediation is still in progress, Red Candle's co-founders have reached a unanimous decision not to re-release Devotion in the near term," they said. But after that, mmmaybe?
"As we reflect on the situation, we notice many players, industry friends, and the media are starting to understand that the incident was indeed a malfunction of project management, not a deliberate act. If, in the future, the public would be willing to view this game rationally and allow us the opportunity to rebuild trust with our players, Red Candle would reconsider re-releasing Devotion."
That's a fairly big and loosely-defined 'if'. And one that would seem to be a fair way away, given that the Chinese government punishing Indievent has given the controversy a fresh wave of attention.
"It saddens us that the focus of the game has shifted drastically since the erroneous art asset was found," Red Candle say. They insist that they have "absolutely no intent to stage a publicity stunt," hence the patch pulling it, but claim "some still possess different speculations about Devotion."
It seems unlikely Devotion will get to be just Devotion again, seeing as it's at the heart of several layers of controversy from several perspectives, but if more people get to play it might shift or at least expand the focus. As Khee Hoon Chan said, "In time, perhaps Devotion will be remembered for its distinction within the genre, rather than its association with a misplaced meme."