The gaming industry is most assuredly one of the most competitive, but that definitely doesn’t excuse dirty tactics, and now one such publisher is facing some pretty serious consequences for said tactics. Insel Games, the publisher for titles like Guardians of Ember and Wild Buster: Heroes of Titan, has been yanked from Steam after they were found to be manipulating reviews on the platform.
The decision comes after Valve investigated a report from a Redditor that included an email sent on December 14th from Insel Games CEO Patrick Streppel. According to the email, Wild Buster’s revenue was falling below expectations, which Streppel attributed to a lack of reviews for the game.
The email continued to express disappointment that employees were not buying and reviewing Wild Buster, even going so far as to suggest failure to do so would mean the company’s end. “Of course, I cannot force you to write a review – but I should not have to,” wrote Streppel. “Neglecting the importance of reviews will ultimately cost jobs. If WB fails, Insel fails, IME fails and then we all will have no job next year.”
The email closes with instructions to employees to buy Wild Buster, provide a receipt for reimbursement, or report to him directly with explanation why they refused to do so. Correspondingly, positive reviews for Wild Buster on December 16th.
Upon further review, Valve found Insel Games utilizing multiple accounts to post positive reviews of their titles, and so have ended their relationship with the company and have pulled their games from the store. That said, those who have a Steam copy of any of Insel Games’ titles will still be able to play them through Steam.
Streppel said in a statement that there has been no retaliation against employees who did not purchase or review Wild Buster and apologized for the “misleading wording” in the email along with the practice of manipulating reviews in general.
“We, the complete team behind Insel Games, will keep working on improving Guardians of Ember and Wild Buster while still providing access to our games through other channels,” says Streppel. “We hope to regain the trust of players through our future actions and are further in discussion with Steam about this incident.”
…uhh….yikes. This revelation is most definitely unfortunate to learn. While it would be nice to see games like Guardians of Ember and Wild Buster press on, it’s going to be admittedly difficult for player confidence to return after learning that a publisher’s CEO was trying to press his employees into rating up their own games.