(Update: Devotion has now been fully removed from Steam, and developer Red Candle Games has shared a statement explaining that the decision to take the game down was the result of "technical issues that cause unexpected crashes and among other reasons." The statement, translated by the team and posted on Facebook, also says that the breather will allow for a chance "to ease the heightened pressure in our community" that sprung up in the past few days and give the team time to comb over the rest of the game's assets to ensure no other unintended assets were left in the game.)
What started out as review bombing of Red Candle Games' Devotion has escalated over the weekend, and the Taiwanese developer has issued yet another statement and apology in hopes of calming the situation.
According to Eurogamer, the issue stems from a small art asset used in-game, a poster that references a years-old meme that mocks Chinese president Xi Jinping over the Chinese government’s 2017 censor-driven ban of a Winnie the Pooh movie.
It's not the first time a small art asset like this has stirred up trouble for a game studio--many companies have come under fire in the past for using inappropriate images in a shipped game--but, for Red Candle Games an apology and quick fix seemingly haven't been able to calm the storm.
Shortly after the poster was discovered, Red Candle Games issued a statement on Steam saying that the art in question was a placeholder that was accidentally included in the final game.
However, once the poster caught online eyes Devotion saw its Steam reviews plummet from overwhelmingly positive to mostly negative. Currently, the listing has recovered to ‘mixed’ but has 9,000 negative reviews to 5,800 positive ones.
“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 February 21 that we realized what was exactly written on that art material. Upon learning of this, we immediately replaced the art material within an hour,” reads Red Candle Games’ second statement on the matter.
“This is not what we visioned for, but unfortunately the damage has been made. For that, we take full responsibility. We deeply regret and are awfully sorry for the sensitive art material, and that when the incident first came out, we failed to put ourselves into your position.“
While the fallout started as review bombing, the situation has escalated. Red Candle Games says its relationship with its publishers Indievent and Winking Skywalker has been terminated and the studio is on the hook for “relevant loss” based on the terms of their contract. The studio has seen its account on the major Chinese social media site Weibo shut down as well.
The developer’s third statement on its Steam page mentions that information ranging from incorrectly estimated to intentionally falsified has been making the rounds online, and asks players to “shift the focus back to the game’s core message” while the studio decides how to move forward.