Valve has removed developer Insel Games and their entire game library from Steam after discovering that the company’s CEO pressured employees to buy and submit user reviews for their latest game, Wild Buster.
Based in Malta, Insel produced a small collection of titles that were far from even moderately well-known. According to Kotaku, in an effort to increase the visibility of its newly released title Wild Buster, CEO Patrick Streppel sent out a company-wide email on Dec. 14, 2017 threatening negative consequences against any employee who didn’t buy and review the game. The date coincides with a significant increase in positive user reviews on the game’s Steam page. The email was made public on Reddit.
“One of the major issues: the fact that we do not have a review score,” the email reads. ”[In] fact we have currently six reviews. If I alone count the people ate IME and Insel … I count more than six people.” Streppel continued to outline the dire financial status as a result of the game’s performance while growing more pressuring in tone:
I had [sent] an email earlier but I was told that some of you announced to colleagues that you do not want to make a purchase of the game and/or review. Frankly, this leaves me pretty disappointed. Of course 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. If [Wild Buster] fails, Insel fails, IME fails and then we all will have no job next year.
The email promises every employee that supplies a receipt of purchase for the game a full reimbursement within 24 hours while informing any one who doesn’t that they will have to explain why they chose not to do so. “So I am asking you either of do the following: buy the game and present me with the receipt until Friday night for which (together with a claim form) you will be re-imbursed within 24h or explain to me tomorrow why you do not wish to do this,” said Streppel.
After the information was made public, Valve announced its decision to strike Insel’s games from their storefront. “The publisher appears to have used multiple Steam accounts to post positive reviews for their own games,” stated the company. “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.”
In a statement to Kotaku, Streppel admitted to sending the email, but claimed that “it was meant to rally people’s support, including advertising the game to their family and friends, in the hope to simply get more reviews.” He further claims that “it was never intended to threaten anyone” and that “no staff has received penalties for not buying the game or writing a review.”
Streppel intends to appeal Valve’s decision.