Studio Red Candle Games has removed its horror title Devotion from Steam after Chinese users took issue with an in-game joke mocking Chinese president Xi Jinping.
The project was pulled from Valve's platform at 23:14 UTC, according to the game's SteamDB page. The studio saying that this was mostly to deal with some technical issues, but it was going to be looking into the Winnie the Pooh Bear joke in reference to Jinping making it into the game. This content resulted in users from China review bombing Devotion.
"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," Red Candle wrote.
"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.
This follows the studio making an apology to Devotion's Chinese audience in which the company took responsibility for imagery deemed offensive to users from this part of the world being part of the final release.
"When making the prototype, the team often referred to the then known internet slang as placeholder," the developer said.
"However, due to the version synchronising problem, not all of the placeholders were deleted properly. This is purely an accident, and we have no intention for causing harm nor hatred. The said art material has been taken down and replaced at the evening of February 21. This incident indicates the fact that Red Candle Games’ project management has failed to function. As a game company, Red Candle Games has immense room for improvement. We are deeply sorry for the trouble it caused to everyone, and that we sincerely ask for the forgiveness of our players.
"Red Candle Games take full responsibility on the art material incident."
Devotion launched on February 19th and was the second best-selling game on Steam for last week.
Given the political sensitivity of this incident, no doubt the Chinese government is keeping an eye on the situation. Devotion is available via Steam, which is accessible in China in a grey area. More importantly, games don't have to go through the same approval process as official releases.
Once China realises that its population can access unauthorised media via Steam, that could spell bad news for Valve's platform in the region. An official Chinese version of Steam is on the way, with Valve partnering with local company Perfect World.
This isn't the first time that the Chinese audience has expressed its displeasure with a game via the medium of review bombing. In October 2017, users from this part of the world took issue with adverts for a VPN service appearing in the battle royale game.
This came shortly after Valve introduced graphs to user reviews to help handle review bombing. Now we can at what moment a review bombing campaign started - how wonderful.
It's not just Chinese users who review bomb games. The aforementioned graphs were introduced when Felix 'Pewdiepie' Kjellberg's audience took issue with Firewatch developer Campo Santo DMCAing the YouTuber's videos featuring its game after Kjellberg dropped a racial slur during, ironically, a PUBG stream.
Recently Western users review bombed Rainbow Six: Siege after publisher Ubisoft made visual tweaks removing references to sex, violence, drugs and gambling... ahead of a potential Chinese launch.