TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwanese horror video game "Devotion" has been taken offline today, exactly one week after its launch and following an intense Chinese gamer backlash over mocking references to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
At 5:51 a.m. this morning, the developer of "Devotion" (還願), Red Candle Games (赤燭), announced on its Facebook page that it was taking the game offline due to "technical issues" and to "ease the heightened pressure" from the "Art Material Incident." The latter is a reference to a Taoist talisman Chinese gamers discovered was hung over a wall carrying a seal script reading from right to left “Xi Jinping Winnie the Pooh”(習近平小熊維尼) in an ancient style of Chinese writing.
Currently, those wishing to download the game from the Steam store will only see the "Devotion" original soundtrack for sale. In the Facebook announcement, Red Candle first cited technical issues that were causing the game to suddenly crash as the reason it was taking it offline, and said that it was going to run another "complete QA check."
Screenshot of Steam store now showing only "Devotion" soundtrack now available.
After discovering the talisman, over 9,000 Chinese netizens posted a negative review of the game on Steam, the main platform from which it is sold. That day, the Red Candle team issued a statement saying that due to "version synchronization problems" not all references to internet terminology used for a prototype had been deleted, which was "really unexpected."
Chinese gamers were further enraged when they discovered reference to 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.
After considerable backlash posted in the Steam game reviews, and a general boycott among Chinese gamers, Red Candle on Facebook issued a more formal apology, in which they also confirmed that the game has been removed from Steam’s platform in the China region. Reportedly, the partnership between Red Candle Games and its Chinese distributor has been terminated, and a Taiwanese investor operating in Shanghai has also cut ties because of the fallout surrounding “Devotion’s” release.
Major gaming community websites in China have since deleted all content related to "Devotion." In addition, all videos of streamers playing the game had been "harmonized" within one day.
All references to "Devotion" and Red Candle Games on the tightly restricted internet in China have completely vanished. No related keywords can be found on any major websites or online platforms.
Some Chinese netizens praised the "strength of the country's execution." Interestingly, Chinese game information websites were showing "Devotion" as being the second biggest seller on the Steam platform in China last week.
However, the website now only shows up as "Taiwan Manufacturer Independent Games (already locked)."
Taiwanese netizens were doubtful that the developer had taken the game down merely because of bugs:
"They're going home after just seven days?"
"They probably want to let things settle down, otherwise, the Steam discussion area wil be washing out into the dark. It's not sustainable. They probably hope things will eventually calm down."