Taiwanese first-person horror game Devotion was pulled from sale in February after the discovery of in-game art that appeared to mock Chinese president Xi Jinping. A review-bombing campaign from Chinese state-supporters followed, which led to an apology and explanation from developers Red Candle Games.
Now Devotion's Chinese publisher, Indieevent, has had its business license revoked by the Shanghai city government. While we can't interpret the official documents, PCGamesN confirmed the news via Ian Garner, co-founder of Asia and Europe-based publisher Another Indie, who was informed of Indievent's closure by Chinese colleagues. Garner says that the closure documents do not mention Devotion, only that Indievent broke "relevant" laws.
Red Candle Games employed Taiwan-based Winking Entertainment to publish in territories outside of China, but Winking cut ties with Red Candle after the controversy around Devotion peaked. Garner tells PCGN that even though China doesn't oversee Taiwan-based companies like Winking, the Taiwanese game industry gets a significant amount of funding from China, which makes it difficult for companies like Winking to ignore pressure from the Chinese government. For Indievent, a China-based publisher, ignoring the pressure was impossible.
It's likely that same pressure that explains why Red Candle Games, a Taiwan-based studio, pulled Devotion after Chinese criticism, or why it's yet to return to sale. It is also likely due to contractual agreements between the developer and publishers we're not privy to. With Indievent gone and Winking out, the roadmap for Devotion's hopeful return has likely been blurred and prolonged.
In a statement released to Vice in May, a Red Candle Games representative said, "We have been working our best to bring it back to Steam." Red Candle also told Vice that the plan is to keep the game's content the same. I'm assuming that means the broader concepts and doesn't include any images of Xi Jinping as Winnie the Pooh.
Red Candle Games has otherwise remained silent since that final February 25 blog post. There's been no word on when Devotion will actually return to sale. The recent announcement of an official Detention movie, Red Candle's first game, implies Red Candle is still functioning, if not full steam ahead, but the licensing or sale of intellectual property doesn't guarantee anything.
I've reached out to Red Candle Games for more information on the closure of Indievent, what kind of impact it will have on the return of Devotion, and whether that planned return is still in the works or not. We'll be sure to update this story as any developments occur.