July 10, 2019 According to a Chinese journalist, the government was very specific about its reasons for revoking Indievent’s licence.
Earlier this year, the Taiwanese indie horror game Devotion was removed from Steam. This occurred after a piece of art mocking Chinese president Xi Jinping was discovered in the title. Devotion still hasn’t returned to sale, and Indievent, its Chinese publisher, has had its business licence revoked by the government. The precise reasons for this were previously unconfirmed, but it now appears that – as many speculated – the reason is specifically related to Devotion.
Iain Garner is co-founder of the Asia and Europe-focused publisher Another Indie, and the person who first tweeted that Indievent had had its licence revoked last week. Garner told us that he was briefed on the news by his Chinese colleagues, and that the announcement does not appear to mention the specific Devotion incident – just that Indievent broke “relevant” laws. However, Chinese journalist Khee Hoon Chan (via GamesIndustry.biz) spotted that “the Chinese government was very specific about its reasons on why it revoked the license” – and that it was “100% because of Devotion”, seemingly clarifying any ambiguity on the issue.
Chan adds that “what’s also surprising is that Indievent apparently did not contest the reasons given by the Ministry on why it was going to revoke their license. They basically were given the opportunity to explain themselves, but didn’t release any statement (I think)”
Indievent already cut ties with Devotion developer Red Candle Games in the wake of the incident, as the Guardian reported in February. Winking Entertainment, the game’s other major partner in Chinese publication, also cut ties with Red Candle – however, Winking is based in Taiwan, and thus unlikely to face direct action from regulators in mainland China.
Nonetheless, Garner tells us that the action against Indievent has shaken developers and publishers in the region. Even if the laws of mainland China don’t directly oversee companies like Winking, much of the funding for the Taiwanese game industry originates on the mainland, and that means a big avenue for the industry’s growth could be cut off if government pressure continues.
The reason why it's revoked was definitely, 100% because of Devotion. I thought this distinction should be very clear because I saw several websites saying that it's a bit ambiguous, but I guess the Chinese govt is making it clear that you can't mess with them
— "K̶h̶e̶e̶ ̶H̶o̶o̶n̶" ̶C̶h̶a̶n̶ (@crapstacular) July 10, 2019
We’ve seen significant content changes to international games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in accordance with Chinese laws, and for a brief time “aesthetic changes” to Rainbow Six Siege were set to alter the game’s content worldwide in reaction to those same regulations.
The potential ramifications of the Devotion situation will be most keenly felt in mainland China and Taiwan, but the content regulations could have ramifications worldwide as publishers continue to look toward expansion in the massive Chinese market.