Malta based game studio Insel Games has seen its product line completely removed from Steam's digital platform following confirmation the studio has resorted to ratings-fixing. It gets worse - their CEO threatened workers with unemployment.
In an attempt to generate as many positive reviews for the studio's newly launched game Wild Buster, Insel Games CEO Patrick Steppel sent an email to his employees, enquiring as to why they're not buying and reviewing the game.
He pointed out that if the game doesn't do well, they're all out of jobs in one big chain reaction. To be fair, even though it occasionally bordered on intimidation, he offered to reimburse employees for purchasing the game.
The original mail reads: "If WB fails, Insel fails, IME fails and then we all will have no job next year. So I am asking you either of do the following: buy the game and present me 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."
At this point, Steam ratings blew up, with reviews pouring in. Someone had already leaked the mail to reddit and the entire thing escalated.
Valve pulled the entire Insel Games line-up from their platform, claiming unethical and deceitful practices. Valve did it by the book, so fair enough.
Let us first say - we do not support this sort of behaviour. However, isn't it indicative of wider industry practices, with launch window ratings governing a large chunk of the hype, whose tendency for exponential growth quickly turns a snowball into an avalanche?
Is a small gaming company from Malta really the bad guy we're trying to rid the industry of, or are they just an example to be made of, so that little guys stay away from the cake?
I mean, how many companies could theoretically do the same, just in a smarter way so as to not get caught? How many would? The possibility is certainly there but I'll let you fill in the rest - when there's possibility and chance for profit...