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The Devotion Winnie the Pooh Steam Removal occurred in late February 2019 after the discovery of a poster that read "[Chinese President] Xi Jinping Winnie the Pooh Moron" in the video game Devotion. Following a public outcry against perceived political messaging within the video game, the game's developers apologized and removed the game from Steam.
On February 19th, 2019, the video game Devotion was released on Steam by Taiwanese video games developer Red Candle Studios. Within days, players, particularly those in mainland China, began "review bombing," intentionally leaving bad marks for the game to drive its overall rating down, on the game's Steam page, citing the inclusion of an anti-Xi Jinping art in the game. According to players, the game features a poster of a Fulu talisman that is "the Chinese equivalent of having a stabbed voodoo doll" with the text "Xi Jinping Winnie the Pooh Moron" (shown below). In China, Winnie the Pooh has been used in a series of anti-Xi Jinping memes that compare the president to the fictional character. Winnie the Pooh has since been the subject of a variety of internet censorship controversies as a result.
Following the discovery, reviews for the game saw a sharp decline. According to Polygon, "In 570 reviews in English, the game has a mostly positive reception. There are 18,380 reviews overall, however, a majority of them bad (9,015 thumbs down, versus 5,841 up). That gives it a super-accurate mixed reputation on the Steam storefront page."
On February 23rd, ResetEra user Sushi Reese, explained why players in China were so outraged by the posters inclusion, writing that the inclusion of such material could get Steam blocked in China entirely. Furthermore, they note, that the game, which is set in Taiwan and was developed by a Taiwanese company, "successfully fooled the mainlander into supporting a game to 'mock [People's Republic of China] people and KMT [Nationalist Party of China] supporters (who tend to unify with China)."
According to the Verge, in a since-deleted comment, one Chinese user wrote, "The game developers truly disappoint me when they dare to secretly include such a sensitive bomb while selling their products to Chinese players who, at the very beginning, know nothing about those message until they are revealed as late as yesterday."
Red Candle's Response
On February 21st, the poster was removed from the game.
On February 22nd, Red Candle posted an "Art Material Statement," calling the poster's inclusion an "accident" that was never meant to be left in the game. Rather they meant to remove the poster before the game's release, apologizing for "the trouble it caused to everyone." They write:
"When making the prototype, the team often referred to the then known internet slang as placeholder. However, due to the version synchronizing 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.
However, two days later, the game was removed from Steam entirely. Red Candle Games said in a statement that they pulled the game to complete a quality assurance check, as recent updates had caused a series of technical issues with the game. They cited the pressure from the "Art Material Incident" has led them to make extensive reviews of the game, making sure no other unintended materials was inserted in." The Facebook post received more than 11,000 reactions, 900 comments and 600 shares in 24 hours (shown below).
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