GOG Backtracks on Releasing ‘Devotion,’ Gamers Up in Arms

GOG Backtracks on Releasing ‘Devotion,’ Gamers Up in Arms
Photo Credit: Red Candle Games

What you need to know

GOG announced yesterday that Devotion, first removed in February, will return to the platform, but it is no longer the case.

Few online game developers have suffered a fate more bitter than that of Red Candle Games — after its game Devotion was pulled from the digital storefront GOG.com for the second time. The decision drew widespread outrage, with gamers bombarding GOG’s Twitter page with scathing criticism and developers delisting their work from the platform.

GOG announced yesterday the game — first removed in February 2019 from the platform — will return on the next day, but it backtracked on the plan “after receiving many messages from gamers.”

Red Candle Games today issued a statement of regret for the decision. “Though regretful, we are willing to understand and respect GOG’s decision,” the studio said in a Facebook post. “For the players looking forward to Devotion’s re-release, please accept our most sincere apology.”

In response, Megan Fox, the founder of Glass Bottom Games, said the studio decided not to list their newly-released game on GOG and has demanded the removal of another game from the platform.

Some Twitter users accused GOG of kowtowing to China and giving in to its censorship regime. “There is no way you're not putting it on the store because of the opinion of gamers,” a user said. “You just don't want the platform pulled from China.”

Others suggested buying Detention in support of Red Candle Games. Founded in 2015, the Taipei-based studio has so far developed two games in house, Detention and Devotion, both horror games set in martial law era Taiwan.

Devotion, first released on the platform in February 2019, stoked controversy for featuring a Taoist amulet that referred to the Chinese President Xi Jinping as Winnie-the-Pooh. Chinese players began to review bomb the game and soon pushed it off of Steam and GOG.com.

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Photo Credit: AP / TPG Images
A protester hangs a Winnie the Pooh wrapped with a Chinese flag at a rally outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019.

The Chinese government is highly sensitive to the fictional bear used to satirize Xi. Two years ago, Christopher Robin, the live-action adaptation of Winnie-the-Pooh, was banned in China due to the censorship of the character.

In Chinese social media sites, references to the bear have been taboo since 2013, when a picture of Xi meeting then-U.S. President Barack Obama, alongside an image showing Winnie-the-Pooh and his friend Tigger, went viral. The government has been censoring images that contain Winnie-the-pooh to prevent users from mocking Xi.

The appearance of such a reference in Devotion, and the fact that the game was developed in Taiwan, might have fueled the nationalistic response from Chinese netizens.

Red Candle Games, at the time of the game’s release, apologized and called it a mistake to include the controversial image in the game. “We failed our players’ anticipation and offended many others due to the said mistake,” the studio said on Steam in a statement.

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Photo Credit: Detention
Detention, released in 2017, is a horror game set in 1960s Taiwan under martial law.

Despite the removal from game platforms, Red Candle Games announced in February, a year after the ban, that the Harvard-Yenching Library will preserve both of its independently developed games in its collection. Devotion, a horror game in which a player navigates hallways in a Taipei apartment complex, is rich in elements of Taiwanese culture and beliefs.

Polygon, an American video game website, called the story behind the game “beautiful and mesmerizing.” “Though I’m always afraid to, I still make it to the other end of the hallway,” the author wrote, “knowing that I’m already steeped in the mounting horrors that this game so successfully provides.”

In June, a physical copy of Devotion was available for pre-order in Taiwan alone. It is unclear when the game will be released again elsewhere, whether in a digital or physical format.

CD Projekt, the owner of GOG, has come under fire recently after Chinese gamers discovered that Cyberpunk Wiki, an online encyclopedia for the much-anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, describes Taiwan as “not really a country and it’s not actually a part of China.”

READ NEXT: Cyberpunk 2077 Accused of Insulting China, but Not Banned

TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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