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Publisher of indie game that mocked Chinese president loses business rights

Devotion’s mainland partner immediately severed ties, was still punished

an image of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger walking together, juxtaposed with a photo of Chinese president Xi Jinping and U.S. president Barack Obama walking together
Comparing Chinese president Xi Jinping (third from left) to Pooh (left) isn’t a good idea in China.
Disney, Pool Photo via Weibo

The Chinese publisher for a Taiwanese studio that mocked Chinese president Xi Jinping in its environmental assets has lost its business license, according to another publisher.

Iain Garner, co-founder of the publisher Another Indie, which is based in Asia and Europe, tweeted what is evidently the text of the order stripping publisher Indievent of its rights to do business. This follows by about four months a flap over the horror game Devotion, whose earlier versions contained background art (a poster in an apartment) saying “Xi Jinping Winnie-the-Pooh moron.”

Red Candle Games, the Taiwan-based developer of the game, quickly apologized for the incident and called it the accidental inclusion of placeholder assets. As a Taiwanese company, Red Candle or its employees face no official sanction from Chinese authorities. However, the developer quickly apologized after Devotion was review-bombed by irate Chinese gamers, and a day later the game was removed from Steam. It is still not available there.

Comparisons to Pooh are said to be especially angering to Xi and the government, in light of a meme spread after a visit by President Obama in 2013, which compared a picture of Xi and the taller Obama walking to that of Pooh and Tigger. The mere sight of A.A. Milne’s roly-poly bear is deeply problematic in China, to the point that the 2018 film Christopher Robin was denied release and Pooh’s appearance in Kingdom Hearts 3 made for a fraught launch there, too.

Garner said (via PCGamesN) that the announcement he posted does not specifically mention the Devotion incident. Indievent severed ties with Red Candle Games almost immediately after the blowup. At any rate, the Chinese action is expected to have a chilling effect on developers even in Taiwan, Garner said, as most of the funding for their work comes from the mainland.

China is a huge market everyone wants to exploit but not offend, a tricky proposition given the tight control its government exerts over anything sold there and the trigger-happy censors who examine creative works.

In early November, the makers of Rainbow Six Siege announced that all versions of the game would change assets in order not to breach Chinese laws against depictions of gambling, sex, and the undead. Western gamers responded angrily, causing Ubisoft Montreal to roll back the changes in versions released to those territories.

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