CD Projekt continues its PR offensive. Announces release of censored game Devotion on GOG and then immediately pulls it.

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bigsocrates

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There are two issues here. The first is the obvious censorship of a game from now all digital storefronts because it contains criticism of China's leadership, which should scare anyone who cares about actual censorship in games (as opposed to individual companies deciding to add more clothes to characters in different markets). The second is that CD Projekt Red continues to self-own in various ways after the release of Cyberpunk, including announcing and then withdrawing refunds for the busted console versions of that game and then following it up by announcing the re-release of a beloved but controversial game on GOG without actually having the guts to go through with it.

I think the first issue is much more important and there's basically nothing we can do about it. The mainstream movie industry is already under de facto censorship by China and now video games are too. We may see the release of China critical games by small teams with independent distribution, but we're never going to see a major game or even major game distributor feature a game that substantially criticizes China again. The fact that media can be censored internationally by individual countries is pretty terrifying but it's just a part of our dystopian globalized world.

The second issue is just a head shaker. CD Projekt Red will be fine, and Cyberpunk has already recouped its costs, but that company is in full on Sideshow Bob rake-stepping mode right now. All they need now is to announce a major security breach and everyone's personal information stolen from their storefront to complete their full on 2020 experience.

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chaser324

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#2 chaser324  Moderator

Trying to frame this as a decision motivated by messages from "gamers" is so obviously bullshit, that I don't know why they even tried. As you've pointed out, this is clearly just the company trying to stay in China's good graces by refusing to list a great game just because it was developed in Taiwan and had light criticism of China.

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Gundato

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Hey now, Winnie The Pooh is the most gamer of all gamers, gamer.

Joking (and light racism...) aside, it sounds like at least one set of devs (the skatebird folk?) are actively pulling their game from gog because of this and I am all for that. I get why CDP would do this. Sounds like Cyberpunk sold insanely well in china and that is a VERY large market. But also... fuck that shit. They knew what they were agreeing to when they signed the deal with the Devotion devs and this is just unprofessional on such an obscene scale that it transcends ethics and morality and just becomes an indication of not being a company developers and publishers will want to work with.

Still, curious if this becomes background noise or if people end up caring for more than a week. GoG is a weird beast but I suspect that even with the clusterfuck of cyberpunk, CDPR is still blizzard levels of "I hate them and am going to boycott them and fuck china and... OH SHIT!!! DIABLO!!!!"

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bigsocrates

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@chaser324: I just don't understand how they didn't plan for the backlash before making the decision to go ahead with publishing the game. Maybe China reacted more strongly than they expected and threatened to ban their products or something, but it seems like a situation where you anticipate a response and plan for it in advance.

Anyway the situation regarding Devotion just sucks. It's terrifying that one country can basically dictate what can or cannot be released in the entire world based on their own prerogatives. Especially because Devotion's criticism of China was so mild. Because it's a small game and it's not the kind of thing that triggers the people who normally like to scream about censorship it hasn't gotten a ton of attention but it's pretty scary. It was one thing when they made the bad guys in the Homefront games North Korean even though they were clearly a stand in for China, but this was a tiny little thing and it still not only got the game axed but has essentially made it permanently radioactive it seems.

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Efesell

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Use some of the money they made on Cyberpunk to get absolutely anyone good at social media.

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LapsarianGiraff

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Drinking game: take a shot of something strong every time CDPR invokes "gamers".

You'll fucking die from liver poisoning

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digitaldisco

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One thing is for sure CDPR has squandered the good faith people had in them.

I have no doubt that they will eventually patch up and address Cyberpunk's issues. I also have no doubt that their next game's pre-order numbers and first week sales will be significantly lower.

Even with the game's bugs fixed it's still just not very good. Like Jeff said, it feels like a lot of different people put a lot of different ideas in it but it was always lacking a clear central idea and fun. just my 2 cents of course.

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MezZa

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Man, if CDPR could stop bumming me out with their behavior that'd be great.

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LandHawk

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@efesell said:

Use some of the money they made on Cyberpunk to get absolutely anyone good at social media.

"We'd like to welcome our new director of PR, Alex Hutchinson."

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chaser324

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#10  Edited By chaser324  Moderator

The craziest thing about this is that it's just such an unforced error. They could've easily denied the game listing in private (still would've been a shitty thing to do), but instead they decided to create another PR mess for themselves.

People have fallen over themselves for years to praise CDPR, so seeing them now display this total lack of managerial competency is almost comical.

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clagnaught

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Devotion was my favorite game from 2019 and what has happened to Red Candle Games and their game makes me sad.

CDPR makes me sad for a completely different reason.

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Gundato

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@chaser324: I mean, they've kept their heads down mostly but a great example was the launch of gog. CDP wanted to demonstrate why their 100% DRM Free (TM) model (that is seriously just stardock's goo...) was so great by... claiming that GoG was shutting down in like 72 hours and you needed to download all your games or lose them forever.

That went down so great that they put The Repentant French Monk in The Witcher 2 as a "joke" about what a fuck up that was and how great it was at breaking trust in their service.

Very curious what the internal CDP structure is. This kind of reeks of "Well, this seems like a bad idea but he is the boss's kid so..."

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Efesell

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I mean it doesn’t seem that surprising they’ve largely been riding on a lot of big success. It’s easy to sneak in some weird Twitter fuck ups when at the end of it all you still made Witcher 3. That’s the thing most folks pay attention to.

It’s why if the next game they make is a banger then everything about their current misses will blow over entirely.

Now if the next game is a total clunker they’ll fall into the BioWare abyss.

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TurtleFish

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As much as I hate to give them the benefit of the doubt - I wonder if what actually happened was somebody from the Chinese government contacted them (like a trade attache in Poland) and said "Nice web storefront you have here. Shame if anything were to happen to it." I wouldn't blame anybody for folding if the implied threat was the Chinese Dragon was coming for you. There are some really scary government sponsored Chinese hacking groups, and who knows how well secured CDPR actually is.

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MindBullet

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#15  Edited By MindBullet

I didn't think there was anything CDPR could do to damage it's Godlike status among capital G Gamers, but damn if they aren't trying.

Also,

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Efesell

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@turtlefish: I think it’s more simple than straight nefarious. New game probably stands to make a lot of money there and they’d risk rocking the boat.

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Undeadpool

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@chaser324: I just don't understand how they didn't plan for the backlash before making the decision to go ahead with publishing the game. Maybe China reacted more strongly than they expected and threatened to ban their products or something, but it seems like a situation where you anticipate a response and plan for it in advance.

They live in the same bubble that told those tech guys that releasing a learning algorithm AI onto Twitter to "become more human" was a great, fun idea that absolutely had no potential to backfire within a day.

What's truly shocking is their message of "After receiving messages from gamers, we decided not to."

If that were true (it isn't), good luck EVER RELEASING ANYTHING EVER AGAIN. That just sets a TERRIBLE precedent.

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Gundato

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As much as I hate to give them the benefit of the doubt - I wonder if what actually happened was somebody from the Chinese government contacted them (like a trade attache in Poland) and said "Nice web storefront you have here. Shame if anything were to happen to it." I wouldn't blame anybody for folding if the implied threat was the Chinese Dragon was coming for you. There are some really scary government sponsored Chinese hacking groups, and who knows how well secured CDPR actually is.

I think you are conflating a few things

First, CDP should have known what would happen. I can get random folk in a cod lobby not knowing about Devotion but considering GoG is a storefront and Devotion was one of the bigger examples of a fuck up in the biggest storefront...

Second, I think most people would be "fine" if gog rolled over and just said "We have decided to not put Devotion on our storefront and apologize for any inconvenience". It would be shitty but... we all understand why.

Instead, GoG decided to say "Gamers" reached out to them. That is just such a load of transparent bullshit that is even more insidious in light of so many fanboys insisting it is because of The Gamers that cpdr released such a broken piece of shit.

To riff on a cyberpunk trailer, it is all about that personal responsibility.

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BladeOfCreation

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Censoring games while localizing them in certain regions has always been a thing.

This, though? This is something else entirely. What the fuck. And then framing it as "gamers" calling for this. Since when do "gamers" dictate which games a company sells? Absolute cowardly bullshit.

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BisonHero

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#20  Edited By BisonHero

Interesting Taiwan fact: Matthew Rorie's Alpha Protocol has a fairly long mid-game chapter set in Taipei where the popular Taiwanese president intends to formally declare Taiwan's independence and make a significant political push for the international community to recognize Taiwan as an independent state. The focus of the mission is that the Chinese secret police intend to assassinate this leader at a political rally, and possibly use the resulting unrest to declare an emergency and install a pro-mainland government in Taiwan (or maybe the resulting unrest is just there to scuttle the independence movement for the time being, my memory is a little murky). Alpha Protocol's generally pro-US-interests protagonist is trying to stop this assassination.

When I really think about it, I cannot imagine something like that being put out by a major publisher today. The closest I could come up with is how heavily China figures into the campaign of 2013's Battlefield 4 (banned in China), where a Chinese general performs a coup d'etat which leads China towards outright military aggression, but even that tries to frame the rogue general as the "villain" of the story. In that Alpha Protocol mission, the antagonist just is the Chinese government, sending a state-sponsored assassin to Taipei.

Going forward, I'm really curious to see if any game will risk portraying the Chinese state as a villain, or touch Hong Kong or Taiwan at all, when the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (or whoever) seems extremely touchy about banning the sales of those games in the Chinese market.

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BladeOfCreation

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This news comes on the same day that the International Criminal Court has rejected calls to probe China for allegations of genocide. The reason? China is not a signatory to the ICC.

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NameRedacted

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What?! CDPR bends over for the brutal, totalitarian CCP / China???

Color me not surprised.

In TOTALLY UNRELATED news, I hear Cyberpunk 2077 is selling well in China. Nope, TOTALLY UNRELATED news.

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firecracker22

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#23  Edited By firecracker22

The issue of companies bending to China is much larger than CDPR. Has been for a while, and it will continue to be a problem for a long time. Massive, far reaching corporations like Disney have gone out of their way to entirely alter entire scripts for that reason.

I don't think it's a problem that will be solved just because of how much money would have to be left on the table. And every company is trying to make as much money as they can, after all.

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Humanity

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I've never even heard of this game but this sort of move is a bad look even if it wasn't made worse by the political implications associated with it. I don't know if they are overworked and not able to make rational decisions or if the wrong people weaseled into positions of authority and are now enforcing bad calls but they're certainly on a roll with this campaign to destroy their own reputation.

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Giant_Gamer

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#26  Edited By Giant_Gamer

If Valve, the more established company in the market had taken out the game from the store and still didn't bring it back, then it's only natural for CDPR to do something similar.

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Panfoot

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If Valve, the more established company in the market had taken out the game from the store and still didn't bring it back, then it's only natural for CDPR to do something similar.

From what it sounds like back when this all started, the developer themselves pulled the game from steam, not Valve. It's a bit different to release it again post controversy and then immediately go back on it and blame it on nebulous "gamers" as the reason. Maybe it will pop back up in steam, maybe not, I guess we really don't know the background of who tried to bring it back in the first place. Did GOG actively pursue getting it on the store(before someone from China called them up and told them cut that shit out) or did the devs themselves go to GOG and request to get the game on the store, and have they approached other storefronts like Steam or Epic and get a yes/no?

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chaser324

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#28  Edited By chaser324  Moderator

@giant_gamer said:

If Valve, the more established company in the market had taken out the game from the store and still didn't bring it back, then it's only natural for CDPR to do something similar.

It sucks that the game is still not available on Steam, but at least Valve has never made a public announcement that the game is coming back only to have that fall through hours later.