Insel Games’ CEO demanded staff buy the game and submit reviews. Steam found out and pulled all of Insel’s games off sale.
Last week, Insel Games had three titles listed on Steam, as of yesterday, the developer has none as Valve decided to remove the listings and ends its relationship with the company.
As Kotaku reports, Insel Games was caught writing reviews for its own games on Steam. Evidence of this appeared a couple of days ago when a copy of an email sent by Insel’s CEO Patrick Streppel was shared on Reddit. The email was sent to 20 or so employees and asked them all to purchase and review the company’s latest release, Wild Buster.
Streppel explains in the email that sales of Wild Buster had not met expectations and that he viewed a lack of reviews and a review score as a big reason as to why. He states he is “disappointed” with some employees opting not to buy and review the game even though they were specifically asked to. Apparently, “neglecting the importance of reviews will ultimately cost jobs.” A statement which is easily viewed as a veiled threat of job losses if what is being asked doesn’t get done.
The email was sent on Dec. 14 and ties up with a sudden spike in positive reviews for Wild Buster on Steam. Valve took notice when the email appeared on Reddit, investigated the claims, and confirmed in a Steam community post that, “The publisher appears to have used multiple Steam accounts to post positive reviews for their own games. This is a clear violation of our review policy and something we take very seriously.”
Following this revelation, Valve ended its business relationship with Insel Games and removed all the company’s games from Steam. Insel had three games listed (Wild Buster, The Onion Knights, and Guardians of Ember). Ultimately, Streppel’s email did the opposite of what he wanted. Rather than selling more games he can no longer sell any through Steam.
Streppel has since confirmed he wrote the email and intends to appeal Valve’s decision. With regards to the contents of the email, Streppel said in a statement, “It was never intended to threaten anyone but just state the importance of reviews for the whole company. No staff has received penalties for not buying the game or writing a review. There also never were texts or instructions provided for reviews. We sincerely apologize for the misleading wording in the email and the practice in general.”