CD Projekt Red Heaps Bullshit Via Tweet After Removing Game To Appease China

from the pooh-pooh dept

One of the more delightful oddities of 2018, a year that was at least a zillion times better than this one, was the emergence of Chinese President Xi’s razor-thin skin when it comes to being compared to Winnie the Pooh. This all got spotlighted here in America when John Oliver dove into Chinese political leadership, mentioning the Winnie the Pooh thing, and got his name and HBO’s site effectively banned from the Chinese internet. It’s all rather funny until you realize both that this is a symptom of the horrifying restrictions on freedom the Chinese government has put in place and when you consider that the subsequent two-plus years has seen China supercharge its own thin-skin and exert pressure on spineless Western companies to do its censoring for it. All of the sudden, the laughter falls away.

Which brings us to GOG, the video game online store run by CD Projekt Red. At 4am on December 16th, Red Candle Games, makers of the well reviewed horror video game Devotion announced on Twitter that the game would be published to GOG on December 18th. By 9:14am the same day, GOG announced that the game in fact would not be released on GOG, citing “messages from gamers.”

Just so everyone is clear, that tweet is bullshit. Unless, that is, the gamers being referenced are devoted gamers that also happen to work for the Chinese government. See, Devotion has something of a history, specifically because of the whole President Xi and Winnie the Pooh thing.

Devotion is considered one of the finest horror games of the past decade, but it has proved a controversial one. Following its release in the spring of 2019, Devotion was found to contain an unflattering reference to China’s president, Xi Jinping. The discovery sparked an outcry among Chinese players, leading to the withdrawal of Chinese distributors, the closure of Red Candle’s account on Weibo, one of China’s largest social media platforms, and the removal of the game from Steam in China.

Red Candle, which is based in Taiwan, has apologised at length for what it says was a placeholder asset, accidentally transferred to the final release. These comments were not enough to stem the backlash, however, and a week after sale, the developer pulled the game from Steam in all territories to perform unspecified fixes. It never returned.

It is unclear at the time of this writing whether the Xi dig, previously blamed laughably on a stock asset mistake, was in the version to be released by GOG. Still, given the previous freak-out by the Chinese government over the game, that may not even matter. What is clear, however, is that GOG and CD Projekt Red is facing swift backlash over its decision to deplatform the game, its pathetic attempt to hide the reason behind that deplatforming, and for generally shitting the bed on this whole issue.

And there’s plenty more after that.

What’s obvious is just what a self-own this is on the part of GOG and CD Projekt Red. GOG didn’t have to work out a deal to publish Devotion on its store, but it did. Once it did, it didn’t have to bow at the altar of Chinese censorship, but it did. Once it did that, GOG didn’t have to try to obfuscate its reason for doing so in a way that treated its own customers as though they were massive idiots, but it did.

And now it has a backlash on its hands, all of its own making.

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Companies: cd projekt red, gog

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Comments on “CD Projekt Red Heaps Bullshit Via Tweet After Removing Game To Appease China”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Next time just backhand your fans, lot easier than lies

"…from industry darling to unable to go two steps without faceplanting into a cow-pie yet again, and all in the course of a few months."

…and we’ll see a lot more of this happening. China is more than 18% of the world’s population. If you make China happy you can afford to have every last american boycotting a product and still come out ahead. THAT is what the numbers come down to.

Back in the day when the Big Bad was the USSR this issue didn’t exist – because the russian economy was self-contained. China, however, is a pool of consumers open to everyone, at the cheap, cheap price of kowtowing to Beijing and not insulting the Emperor. Anyone choosing to defy the current Son of Heaven will have chosen a future where they cede the competition to anyone who doesn’t.

Meaningful opposition is possible, of course – but it requires that the major shareholders of every company and corporation decides to make a moral sacrifice and order the executives of their property to march the company into a crippling handicap.

Cynyr (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Next time just backhand your fans, lot easier than l

I don’t think this is an issue of tailoring content for China. It sounds like GOG isn’t going to offer devotion anywhere due to issues with the game in China. This isn’t like disney say editing out skeletons for chinese versions of cartoons. Also there is a difference between skeletons, or the number 34(?) and political figures.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Next time just backhand your fans, lot easier than lies

Be nice if the companies involved had the guts to at least be honest about it, but I suppose admitting that China’s leadership is so pathetically easy to offend that they can’t stand people making fun of them in games or other mediums would also offend their micron-thin skin, ‘requiring’ companies to come up with laughably obvious excuses as to why they did something rather than just owning their actions.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Next time just backhand your fans, lot easier than l

"I suppose admitting that China’s leadership is so pathetically easy to offend that they can’t stand people making fun of them in games or other mediums would also offend their micron-thin skin…"

The bit about the dictatorship aside there’s an inherent culture clash here; no matter the current rule or government China has always been about the concept of "face". It’s so central to their culture you might as well say it’s been the unwritten rule #1 for at least 2,5 millennia where that might just be one of the things helping them retain a common culture for that long.
In contrast they are incredibly resilient if you manage to give them a proper beating outside of the limelights where the opposite holds true and they’ll just keep smiling in the face of the camera.

We don’t really have anything similar in the west. Not since we gave up on feudalism and nobility, at least.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
CK says:

Re: Re:

Exactly, I wanted to say this also. CD Projekt is the parent company, they were a local games distributor/publisher in the past, but since then, opened a couple of sub copanies. Red is their game development studio, GOG is their games store, both are more or less independent companies, they’re just owned by one entity.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"The Communist Party of China has essentially successfully weaponized several international markets."

It’d be nice if we could make the claim that the west – or the US – was beyond that. But we’re not. commercial protectionism of one sort or the other has been extensively practiced since the first time some babylonian shepherd received a few ingots for selling sheep to some smooth dealer from the upper Indus.

I’m not sure whether to call China blunt or honest about doing what usually shows up in trade treaties and private agreements under the table when it’s us westerners doing the squeezing.

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