Valve Bans Developer On Steam For Cheating Their Own Review Score, Original E-mail Included

Valve Bans Insel Games

Valve bans are typically reserved for players actively cheating and ruining game experiences for others, though sometimes the digital distribution company has to lay the hurt on some deserving parties. Valve’s latest target of the ban hammer is Insel Games, which has now been officially cut off from the Steam network. The developer was, of all things, caught reviewing its own game, titled Wild Busters. This is, of course, against Steam’s review policy, and as such Valve has removed Insel Games from Steam and is in the process of ending its “business relationship” with the developer.

Insel Games may have been able to get away with manipulating the review system had it not been for one Redditor who posted an email from the CEO of the developer studio, Patrick Streppel, in which he implies that there would be severe consequences should his employees choose to not purchase Wild Busters and leave positive reviews for the game. Reading through the email, it is entirely understandable why the Valve bans for both the developer and its games are justified.

Valve Bans Insel Games

The text is extremely difficult to read, so here’s the email in full:

Hello, everyone,

It is passed 3AM in Malta now and I am wrapping up my work day to get some sleep. Sadly, Wild Busters revenue has so far not met expectations and it will be even more difficult to turn things around during the weekend as the first day is usually the strongest. We are trailing at 50% of Otherland and 25% of Guardians of Ember.

One of the major issues: the fact that we do not have a review score. In fact, we have currently 6 reviews. If I alone count the people in IME and Insel … I count more than 6 people. 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 a 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 WB fails, IME fails and then we will all have no job next year.

So I am asking you to 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 24 hours, or explain to me tomorrow why you do not wish to do this. I would like to discuss this individually and privately with each of you and will follow-up.

The above email was dated for December 14th, 2017, after which Wild Busters saw a significant spike in positive reviews. The Valve bans started occurring once the company caught wind of Insel Games’ antics, and a representative from Valve took to the Steam forums to issue an announcement regarding the situation:

It has been recently reported on Reddit that the publisher for this game, Insel Games Ltd., have been attempting to manipulate the user review score for their titles on Steam. We have investigated these claims, and have identified unacceptable behavior involving multiple Steam accounts controlled by the publisher of this game. 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.

For these reasons, we are ending our business relationship with Insel Games Ltd. and removing their games from our store. If you have previously purchased this game, it will remain accessible in your Steam library.”

Of course, that’s not the end of the story. After incurring Valve’s wrath, Patrick Streppel confirmed that he had written the letter and that Insel Games plans on appealing Valve’s decision to ban the developer. Here’s the full statement:

At the day of EA launch in December an email was sent to everyone in the company telling staff (about 20 people including freelancers) how important reviews are in the Steam ecosystem and that a failure of Wild Buster would mean the company was in jeopardy. 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.

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.

We, the complete team behind Insel Games, will keep working on improving Guardians of Ember and Wild Buster while still providing access to our games through other channels. We hope to regain the trust of players through our future actions and are further in discussion with Steam about this incident.

Until then current Steam owners or those in possession of a Steam key can continue to play normally.”

As stated above by the CEO, those that already own any Insel Games titles on Steam can continue to play them normally, though they are now unavailable for purchase via the Steam store. There are still other ways of getting Wild Busters on Steam, such as subscribing to the Humble Bundle, though Valve may take further action in ensuring that the Valve bans on both developer Insel Games and its titles on Steam cannot be bypassed.

So, thoughts on the latest batch of Valve bans? Have you played any titles from Insel Games? Let us know in the comments section below, and as always, stay tuned to Don’t Feed the Gamers for all the latest gaming and entertainment news! Don’t forget to follow DFTG on Twitter for our 24/7 news feed!

Ryan "Cinna" Carrier3026 Posts

Ryan is the Lead Editor for Don't Feed the Gamers. When he isn't writing, Ryan is likely considering yet another playthrough of Final Fantasy IX. He's also the DFTG cinnamon bun.


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