In what will undoubtedly be a blow in gamers’ confidence in Steam’s Early Access games, Valve has removed one such game, Earth: Year 2066 from its roster after numerous complaints that the game was dishonestly marketed and downright awful even for Early Access standards.
A statement by Valve on the game’s forum page reads:
On Steam, developers make their own decisions about promotion, features, pricing and publication. However, Steam does require honesty from developers in the marketing of their games. We have removed Earth: Year 2066 from Early Access on Steam. Customers who purchased the game will be able to get a refund on the store page until Monday May 19th.
The announcement was greeted with approval from numerous gamers who paid the $20 price for 2066 and suffered the consequences. The game got started on Steam Greenlight an went on sale for $19.99 on April 17 this year.
On its Steam page, Earth: Year 2066 was promoted as “a first person sci-fi apocalyptic open-world game where your main aim is to survive.” The game supposedly took place in the aftermath of a nuclear war between the U.S. and China, and the player, a humanoid robot with strange walking animations, had to make his way to a safe haven called “God’s House.”
As a playthrough by The Escapist’s Jim Sterling shows, 2066 was a barely playable mess, with ugly textures, uninspired art design and a tiny game world with little for the player to do:
A Gamespot Early Access review also concurred, stating:
Perhaps there’s a message in there about the futility of human endeavor or even a cynical view of how the world will fare under the increasing pressures of overpopulation and the threat of wars. More likely, however, it’s just that the build released to Steam is a barely functional disaster without any signs of potential. You can experience the entirety of the game in 10 minutes tops.
Further compounding the problem was the fact that “Muxwell,” the lead developer of 2066, displayed an unbelievable amount of arrogance and hostility towards players posting their complaints on the game’s forum page, writing in one topic:
To all spammers, trolls and provokers, we will delete all insults, troll comments/threads, spam and provocations, and we have full and legal right to do this. This is a game discussion, not a garbage tavern. The game looks and plays just like it’s shown in trailer and description + it’s an early access, so there is no [scam] at all.
Muxwell also regularly deleted negative posts, at one point deleting every topic in the forum, which was quickly being flooded with complaints from angry Early Access users. A video by Jim Sterling chronicles this public relations meltdown, including the presence of fake positive reviews by users who were friends with Muxwell on Steam.
Additionally, the developer used a picture of a post-apocalyptic Manchester by artist James Chadderton for 2066‘s cover art without seeking his permission:
There was also speculation that the mysterious Muxwell was in fact Aaron Bishop, the lead developer of Kickstarter-funded game Lords of Uberdark, which, like 2066, received the ire of many gamers who had collectively spent over $20,000 to fund a game that had barely made any progress. Bishop has since stated that he had no involvement in 2066 whatsoever.
Earth: Year 2066 is yet another game to be removed from Steam, after Ashes Cricket, Dark Matter, and the notorious The War Z, another post-apocalyptic survival game, albeit with zombies. The War Z has since resurfaced on Steam, but under a different title: Infestation: Survivor Stories.
It is uncertain if 2066 has any future on Steam, but it will undoubtedly serve as a cautionary tale for those seeking to dabble in Early Access, whether as a developer or gamer.