UPDATE 10.44pm: As the controversy surrounding atmospheric horror title Devotion rumbles on, developer Red Candle has made the decision to remove the initially well-received game from Steam across all territories.
However, it appears the move is only temporary, with Red Candle's latest statement explaining that Devotion has been pulled, at least in part, to address "technical issues that cause unexpected crashes" and to have another "complete QA check".
"At the same time," the studio continues, "we'd like to take this opportunity to ease the heightened pressure in our community resulted from our previous Art Material Incident". It will also review all assets again, "making sure no other unintended materials was inserted in."
"Hopefully, this would help all audience to focus on the game itself again upon its return."
ORIGINAL STORY 1:57pm: The developer of Steam hit Devotion has called for calm as the controversy surrounding an in-game attack on the leader of China shows no sign of slowing down.
Over the weekend, Eurogamer reported how Chinese users were review-bombing horror game Devotion over an in-game Xi Jinping Winnie the Pooh meme reference.
Since then, other aspects of the game have been analysed and taken to insult China and Chinese players, and false statements attributed to Red Candle Games, the Taiwanese developer of Devotion, have done the rounds on social media.
Meanwhile, Red Candle Games' official Weibo account was shut down (Weibo is an enormously popular Chinese social media website), and the names of Devotion's two publishers - Indievent and Winking Skywalker - were removed from the game's Steam store page and replaced with Red Candle Games.
Devotion was criticised by Chinese users for including a poster that said "Xi Jinping Winnie the Pooh moron". This is a reference to a popular meme that saw China censors ban Winnie the Pooh back in 2017.
Red Candle Games had issued a statement insisting this poster accidentally made it into the final version of the game, and apologised for the mistake.
"During the early development period, one of Red Candle's member placed the sensitive words into an art material," the developer said. "When the art material was made, each teammate was busy working on one's own tasks while chasing the deadline. None of the other colleagues were aware of this. It was until we received a private report made by a player on 21st February that we realised what was exactly written on that art material. Upon learning of this, we immediately replaced the art material within an hour."
The developer also said its partnership with its publishers - Indievent and Winking Skywalker - was terminated, and it was in line to compensate the companies for their loss.
Now, Red Candle Games has issued a new, impassioned statement that suggests the studio's situation has gone from bad to worse.
"The theme of Devotion is about how cult does harm to people, leading to the tragedy caused by pure parental love," reads the statement. "For the earlier sensitive art material incident, the whole team of Red Candle Games bears the responsibility of this awfully unprofessional mistake. It is not Red Candle's vision to secretly project extensive ideology, nor is it to attack any person in the real world. Even if the sensitive art element was wrongfully placed before, we kindly ask you not to over interpret other game material.
"As a game company, Red Candle Games' only goal is to provide an impressive and good playing experience to all. However, we failed our players' anticipation and offended many others due to the said mistake. For that, we feel awfully sorry and devastated. Again, we would like to reaffirm that the severe art material mistake is made by Red Candle Games. It has nothing to do with any of our partners. Red Candle Games take full responsibility and bear all the condemns. We sincerely hope that this end with Red Candle, and that please do not take it out on all the innocent partners.
"It is our genuine hope that everyone can remain calm and shift the focus back to the game's core message, which can be obtained through playing experience of Devotion. After all, it is a mistake to insert the unrelatable material to the game content. Not only does it destroy how people experience the game, but also affect many more people. It is our regret to say that this is not Red Candle Games' original aim for game development.
"At the moment we are in the process of business mediation. We kindly ask for everyone to remain calm and give Red Candle some time to address the incident. This will be the greatest support for us. Thank you."
Red Candle also addressed what it called incorrect information regarding Devotion sales numbers, "extensive implication about the game content" and Photoshopped statement screenshots made from a "forged" official account.
Devotion is currently sitting on a "mixed" user review rating, having enjoyed a positive reception upon release. Perhaps more damaging for Red Candle, however, is that Devotion was pulled from Steam China, and it's having to deal with refund requests. With no publisher to back it, Red Candle is having to battle back on its own.
It sounds like a tough situation for a game that had enjoyed critical and commercial acclaim. But while it feels like there's no way back for Devotion in China, the game remains up for sale in the west.
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