No specific details have been provided as to why Indievent has lost its business license, although the issue has a number of Chinese developers and publishers worried.
The Chinese government has taken against indie publisher, Indievent, following controversy surrounding Devotion, developed by Taiwan-based studio Red Candle Games. As spotted by Iain Garner, co-founder of Another Indie, Indievent has had its business license revoked by the Chinese government. It's important to note that Indievent and co-publisher, Winking Skywalker, cut ties with Red Candle Games shortly after the in-game discovery was made public.
Devotion was removed from Steam in February following the discovery of an in-game poster that reads "Xi Jinping Winnie the Pooh moron." This was in reference to a 2017 Chinese meme in which internet users began comparing President Jinping to Winnie the Pooh. The meme has since been banned.
For its part, Red Candle Games was quick to address the controversy and issued a statement shortly after the discovery (and the game's removal from Steam in all territories): “The theme of Devotion is about how [a] cult does harm to people, leading to the tragedy caused by pure parental love. 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.”
According to an additional statement provided to PCGamesN (as reported by GamesIndustry.biz), Garner noted that Devotion wasn't mentioned as a specific reason for Indievent losing its business license, but that the publisher "broke 'relevant' laws." In the same statement, Garner commented that his Chinese colleagues are worried as a result of this reaction from the Chinese government.
Indievent's Weibo page hasn't been shut down, as it's unclear as to whether or not the company will be seeking to reapply for its business license once the "relevant" issues have been dealt with. But the page hasn't been updated since the controversy came to light in February.
China continues to be a contentious territory to maintain a gaming presence in, regardless of where the studio is located. Publishers must riposte with an alarmingly restrictive censorship policy around video game content. The Chinese government doesn't give out license approvals easily and has slowed approvals to a trickle over the last 12 months. Niko Partners has given us a better look at what publishers and developers can expect from the process, but it's still grim.
Devotion has still not been restored to Steam, although Red Candle Games' other horror title, Detention (also set in Taiwan), is still available on Steam, PlayStation 4, and Switch.
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