Update: Roughly three hours after removing Devotion from Steam without warning, Red Candles has issued a statement on the decision:
"Due to technical issues that cause unexpected crashes and among other reasons, we are pulling <Devotion> off from steam store to have another complete QA check. At the same time we'd like to take this opportunity to ease the heightened pressure in our community resulted from our previous Art Material Incident, our team would also review our game material once 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."
Things have taken a sudden and sharp downturn for Red Candle Games, the developer of the first-person horror game Devotion, which came under fire over the weekend because of the presence of a piece of art that appears to mock Chinese president Xi Jinping. That quickly led to a massive review-bombing campaign (that has now bled over into Devotion's predecessor, Detention), and a multi-paragraph apology and "comprehensive explanation" from the developers.
That apparently hasn't done the trick, however, as the studio posted an even more in-depth statement today addressing, among other things, a forged statement from Red Candles and complaints about other insulting or offensive content that's purportedly in the game.
"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," the studio wrote.
"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."
Unfortunately for the studio, the reaction to the offending art asset—a piece of paper in the game that mocks Xi by way of Winnie the Pooh, which as The Guardian reports is not tolerated in China—goes well beyond a review bombing. The studio's official Weibo account has been shut down (Weibo is a massive Chinese social network, so Red Candles' presence on it is important to its ongoing success) and its relationships with publishers Indievent and Winking Entertainment have been terminated, leaving it solely on the hook for refunds and other "relevant loss" to its former partners.
Worst of all, however, is that the game is very suddenly no longer available for sale on Steam. Red Candles said in an updated statement on February 23 that it had been removed from Steam China, but as of today—literally while I was writing this, a little after 2 pm ET on February 25—it's gone from Steam completely.