In a recent scandal, Insel Games had been suspected of manipulating reviews for their most recent game, Wild Buster. After some investigation, Valve released a formal response to the misconduct, and have removed all Insel Games titles from their store, and they have decided to cease business operations with the company.
Insel Games released Wild Buster back in December on the Steam store, and according to an email from the company’s CEO, sales had not met expectations, and reviews were seriously low for the game, denying it exposure. Further into the email, the Insel Games’ CEO expresses his disapproval and even seems to partially shift blame onto his employees.
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 it. 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 ultimately costs jobs. If [Wild Buster] fails, Insel fails, IME fails and then we all will have no jobs next year.
This email, although from December, was just posted to Reddit on February 12. After it got attention, an employee of Valve took note, and decided to look into the matter. Jason, who made the response on the Wild Buster‘s forums, states that Valve have “identified unacceptable behavior involving multiple Steam accounts controlled by the publisher of this game,” and that the publisher appears to have “used multiple Steam accounts to post positive reviews for their own games.”
Since this is a violation of Steam’s game review policy, Valve has decided to end their business relationship with Insel Games effective February 13. As a result, all games under the Insel Games moniker, including Wild Buster, and the more popular Guardians of Ember, will no longer be purchasable through the Steam store. Individuals who have purchased titles from Insel Games may still continue to access their games from their Steam library without interruption.
During the early morning of February 14, Elder, a developer from Insel Games responded to the controversy, claiming that the email’s purpose was to focus on “how important reviews are in the Steam ecosystem and that a failure of Wild Buster would mean the company was in jeopardy,” and how 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.” The email was never meant to be threatening, and according to Elder, no staff members were penalized during the incident.
“We sincerely apologize for the misleading wording in the email and the practice in general,” says Elder. The developer also states that the company will continue to work on its games and provide ways for players to continue to support the company, hoping to one day regain player trust through its future actions.