Earlier today, the developers of the horror game Devotion announced it would return to sale via GOG on Friday. It's been unavailable for purchase since early 2019 due to an in-game joke at the expense of Chinese president Xi Jinping. Hours later, GOG have released their own peculiar statement reversing their decision to release it.
In February 2019, Taiwanese studio Red Candle Games released Devotion, their apparently quite good horror game. Shortly after, Devotion was pulled from Steam thanks to a small reference, a poster on a wall in-game, mentioning Chinese president Xi Jinping and cartoon character Winnie The Pooh. The comparison is a sore spot for the Chinese government, who censored mention of Pooh bear in 2017 when likening the two became something of a meme.
Chinese players review-bombed the game on Steam, the studio apologised, and Devotion was removed from Steam not just in China, but globally. Devotion's publisher, Indievent, had their business license revoked by the Chinese government over the issue as well.
Today, Red Candle announced that Devotion would finally return to sale over on GOG. It would be available on Friday, December 18th for $17/€14, they said. Just a few hours later, GOG made their own announcement to say that they've changed their mind about that, actually.
Earlier today, it was announced that the game Devotion is coming to GOG. After receiving many messages from gamers, we have decided not to list the game in our store.— GOG.COM (@GOGcom) December 16, 2020
From what I've seen, folks actually quite like Devotion and are eager to see it available again, making it all the odder for GOG to say "gamers" didn't want it when that really doesn't seem to be the case. It's quite the move from GOG, sibling company to Cyberpunk 2077's developers CD Projekt Red. Despite their attempted anti-corpo sentiments and affected punk aesthetic in Cyberpunk, CD Projekt are, after all, just another huge company likely acting in defense of their bottom line.
It's a real shame, to say the least, that Devotion can't seem to escape the controversy given that it is by many accounts a great game. RPS's Devotion review praises the game for its nuanced, unsetting horror story heavily rooted in genuine East Asian culture. "Horror games set in East Asian folklore are already a scarcity, and it’s even rarer to see one garner such immense attention among western and international players," says Khee Hoon Chan. "In time, perhaps Devotion will be remembered for its distinction within the genre, rather than its association with a misplaced meme."
It seems that time hasn't come just yet, unfortunately.
I've reached out to GOG to find out how they decided to list Devotion on their store and made such a quick about-face on the subject. We'll update you if we hear back.
By the by, Red Candle's prior game Detention now has a Netflix series. They're also working on a new game that's yet to be announced.