Insel Games, has been banned from Steam and had all its games removed for apparently trying to ‘manipulate review scores’ for their latest indie game release Wild Buster: Heroes of Titan.
What exactly did they do to bring down the mighty hammer of judgement? Well, an email was leaked on Reddit which revealed the companies CEO asked employees to buy the struggling game and write a review.
If you are an indie developer, you are probably a little shocked right now, as I’m sure most indie developers who have made a game, have encouraged family and friends to buy the game and leave a review.
I can’t help but think this decision from Steam was a little heavy handed. No doubt larger studios are likely growth hacking the system in their own ways, not to mention the countless developers who exploited trading card to make profit without immediate repercussions.
It’s speculated that Steam put on the latex gloves for this situation due to the nature of the CEO’s language, which showed forceful coercion. In the email to his studio employees, the CEO wrote:
“I cannot force you to write a review (let alone tell you what to write) – but I should not have to. Neglecting the importance of reviews will ultimately cost jobs,” reads the email.
“So I am asking you to do either of the following: buy the game and present me with the receipt until Friday night, for which you will be reimbursed within 24 hours, or explain to me tomorrow why you do not wish to do this. I would like to discuss this individually and privately with each of you.”
In my opinion, it simply sounds like a desperate studio lead trying to keep food on the table of his employees.
Albeit passive aggressive, but then again it was 3am, and he is likely about to lose his studio.
Either way, to punish a whole studio, many of which may lose their jobs, if not the whole studio, purely on the actions of one person, is a little unusual.
Steam’s reply to the situation was:
“It has been recently reported on Reddit that the publisher for this game, Insel Games Ltd., have been attempting to manipulate the user review score for their titles on Steam. We have investigated these claims, and have identified unacceptable behaviour involving multiple Steam accounts controlled by the publisher of this game. The publisher appears to have used multiple Steam accounts to post positive reviews for their own games. This is a clear violation of our review policy and something we take very seriously.
For these reasons, we are ending our business relationship with Insel Games Ltd. and removing their games from our store. If you have previously purchased this game, it will remain accessible in your Steam library.”
Here are some responses from the community:
So why was Hello games not punished for No Man’s Sky’s false advertising, and deceiving thousands of gamers? Is it because Steam stood to make a lot of profit from No Man’s Sky? To my knowledge Hello Games, or ring leader Sean Murray to this day have not apologised, been held accountable, or even disciplined.
All I am saying is, Steam should not be swinging the ban hammer so freely without warning. Especially considering it appears the Insel studio staff didn’t even review the game in question, and if they did, it would have been half a dozen reviews that would have likely had no bearing on the games sales outcome.