Taiwanese horror game boycotted, removed from China market, company apologizes

'Devotion' was review bombed, and removed from Steam's China market within days of its release for insult to Xi Jinping


TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The new horror video game called “Devotion” created an uproar among Chinese netizens when a poster in the game was discovered to mock Chinese leader Xi Jinping, by referring to him as “Winnie the Pooh.”

In only a few short days, the game has been review bombed, boycotted, and finally removed from the Steam video game platform, due to efforts of enraged Chinese gamers, leading the game’s developer, Red Candle Games (赤燭), to issue a formal apology.

The game was released on Steam on Feb. 19, and by the next day it was discovered and reported by Germany’s Spiel Times, that one room in the spooky game environment included a poster with an ancient style Taoist seal that included the words “Xi Jinping Winnie-the-Pooh,” reports Polygon.

The offending in-game image (From Red Candle Games / Devotion)

Another scene in the game reported by other angry Chinese players is said to reference the name “Baozi,” (包子) another nickname for Xi Jinping, who has been called “Steamed Bun Xi” (習包子). A newspaper page visible in the “Devotion” game environment mentions a criminal called “Baozi”who attacked elementary school children.

Newspaper from the game (Image shared to PTT)

After Chinese internet users were initially alerted to the in-game imagery mocking Xi Jinping, the company posted to its Facebook account on Saturday, Feb. 23, apologizing for “an inadvertent mistake springing from the use of trendy language online.”

However, on Sunday, Feb. 24, after considerable backlash posted in the Steam game reviews, and a general boycott among Chinese gamers, the company issued a more formal apology, in which they also confirmed that the game has been removed from Steam’s platform in the China region.

Polygon reports that the game has over 18,000 reviews on Steam as of Sunday, with about 9,000 thumbs down reviews, and almost 6,000 thumbs up reviews. The report says that among the nearly 600 reviews written in English, the game has wide approval.

Red Candle’s statement also admitted that one of the developers had included the imagery in the games, and that no one else in the company had noticed until after the game had been released and it was discovered by players, reports Channel News Asia.

Polygon notes that the developer in question supports Taiwanese independence, and a search of his online social media presence was easily discovered by the angered netizens.

One commentator suggested that Chinese netizens were not angered over the mockery of Xi specifically, but because they felt they had been tricked into purchasing a game which insulted their nationalist sensibilities, and had been developed by an advocate for Taiwan independence.

“As a game company, Red Candle Games has immense room for improvement. We are deeply sorry for the trouble it caused to everyone, and that we sincerely ask for the forgiveness of our players.”

Reportedly, the partnership between Red Candle Games and its Chinese distributor has been terminated. A Taiwanese investor operating in Shanghai has also cut ties because of the fallout surrounding “Devotion’s” release.

"This is not the position of Red Candle and this is not the intention of Devotion... We are deeply sorry for hurting everybody,” read the Sunday statement from Red Candle Games.