Game Developer Tried Threatening Game Reviewer And Posting Fake Steam Reviews To Be Successful; It Didn't Work

from the bye-bye dept

You may recall the rather short saga of video game studio Digital Homicide. That studio attempted to find success with a strange formula: sue game reviewers over negative reviews, sue Steam accounts for likewise negative reviews, find its game suddenly delisted from Steam entirely, and then declare itself dead. Not exactly the end that Digital Homicide was hoping for, certainly. One would have hoped that its story would serve as a warning to other game studios. And perhaps to some extent it has, as another game developer, Matan Cohen, ever so slightly altered the formula in probably the worst way possible.

It still starts off with abusing the DMCA process to take down negative reviews and threatening the reviewer with legal action, of course. In this case, we once again find Jim Sterling, the same reviewer threatened by Digital Homicide, being the victim of a game developer’s abuse. After having first filed a DMCA claim on Sterling’s review of the game Art of Stealth, Cohen then allegedly went on a legal threat binge against Sterling.

These kinds of threats never work, but behaving as though you were specifically attempting to follow the playbook of a now-dead game studio, even mimicking its targets in the game review community, seems like a terrible business strategy. But, as I said, Cohen does indeed deviate from the Digital Homicide playbook at this point. Cohen has by all accounts not attempted to sue Steam users for what have likewise been fairly negative reviews on his game’s Steam page.

Instead, he appears to have decided to simply make up a bunch of Steam accounts and have them post fake reviews for his game instead. It was apparently blatant enough that Steam investigated and decided to push the button on the nuclear option and remove the game from Steam entirely.

We (Valve) have identified unacceptable behavior involving multiple Steam accounts controlled by the developer of this game, Matan Cohen. The developer appears to have created multiple Steam accounts to post a positive review for their own game. 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 Matan Cohen and removing this game from sale. If you have previously purchased this game, it will remain accessible in your Steam library.

When, oh when, will content makers realize that making war on negative reviews of their works is a losing proposition. The focus needs to be on making great content and connecting with people, not wielding legal threats as a cudgel. And, for the love of the universe, attempting to fake positive coverage can only serve to torpedo your career.

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Companies: valve

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Comments on “Game Developer Tried Threatening Game Reviewer And Posting Fake Steam Reviews To Be Successful; It Didn't Work”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

About that...

The focus needs to be on making great content and connecting with people, not wielding legal threats as a cudgel.

Which requires that you a) make great or even just passable content, and b) don’t see your customers as nothing more than wallets filled with money that rightfully belongs to you, and that just happen to have legs and the mistaken impression that said money is not in fact owed you for your ‘masterpiece’.

If on the other hand you have a rubbish game, a burning loathing of your customers, a willingness to act like a thug and the knowledge that most of the time using the DMCA to silence people you don’t like works, then legal bullying is hardly a surprising turn of events.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: About that...

I can’t help but wonder if there’s some kind of benefit that we’re not seeing. That is, maybe there’s some kind of investor contract that has a clause freeing them from some obligation if the game is removed from Steam, whereas they’d be on the hook for it if they simply fail. So, once it’s clear nobody likes the game and sales are low, goad Steam into removing you and you get away with as little damage as possible.

That makes more sense to me than merely throwing a tantrum when people write bad reviews to the point where you kill your own company, anyway.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: About that...


What’s bullshit? The question I asked (“I can’t help but wonder” implies that I’m asking a question, not making a statement)? It would be nice if you just answered the question than calling me some kind of liar for asking a question you don’t like.

“I know few guys that are Steam developers and there is no such clause.”

Apart from the fact that it’s interesting that you’re so familiar with the contents of their contracts (I know a couple of developers too, and I have no idea what their contracts contain), are you honestly saying that everybody has the same contract with investors as the people you happen to know? That’s an interesting assertion to make. Note: I specifically referred to contracts with investors, not with Steam.

Darkhog says:

As a game developer myself I'm appaled.

And deeply ashamed that morons such as Cohen, DigiHom and BadFly Interactive (last of which tried to blackmail small review site, cogconnected into good reviews) dare to even call themselves game developers.

It’s really some piece of shit, you see. These idiots don’t even have love for the craft, they’re in it for the money, suffering from survivorship bias and failing because of that.

You can’t just make some shitgame and expect people to like it. You simply can’t. Gamers aren’t morons and they won’t think twice about calling a shitgame what it really is.

They only have themselves to blame for the poor reviews they’re receiving, their own incompetence.

I, on the other hand, can see constructive criticism. Even if reviewers won’t like my game for whatever reason, I’ll read these reviews over and over again to find out why exactly and fix these mistakes to make it better.

Why, you might ask? Because if you don’t learn from your errors, you’ll never be as best as you can possibly be, you’ll never achieve your true potential.

~~Dariusz “Darkhog” G. Jagielski, @thedarkhog on twitter.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

IP it can do anything, except make shitty games better.
Why invest time improving your game, when you can just DMCA bad reviews… its not like there is any punishment for doing it.
Why leave the fate of your game in the hands of idiot players…just flood the platforms with fake reviews, no one will catch on.

First they killed off demos.
Then they killed off actual gameplay video.
Then they killed QA, and they’ll patch it day 5.
Then they had all of this cool promised expansion content, but pushing it as DLC on the disc works better.
Then they declared war on reviewers.
Then they spammed fake reviews.

Perhaps it is time players demand more than promises of fixes ‘soon’.
The business model doesn’t really work, but like abused spouses the player base keeps coming back after yet another beating from the drunk devs.
Release dates shouldn’t be set by bean counters alone.
Missing a release date, IF YOUR HONEST, isn’t something that shakes fans if you are releasing quality.

No one owes you good reviews, and once upon a time rather than threaten legal action devs would look into what went wrong and work like hell to fix it & get updated reviews.

Ninja (profile) says:

And they complain when people give more attention to negative reviews. To me they are much more important than the positive ones because it’s almost certain they are legitimate. They will often pinpoint which parts of the product are not so great and you can choose whether you will buy even knowing the negative side. This is collateral damage from companies meddling with the reviews. You know, heap what you sow.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It is rare that people feel moved enough to give a review if they are satisfied with the product.
People who are upset (rightly or wrongly) are way more likely to give feedback.

Part of the problem with some of these devs seems to be they take it hyper-personal if someone ‘attacks’ their baby. They can’t objectively read any review that isn’t fawning praise, without their ego getting in the way.

Hell someone could make a pretty penny running a service to go through the reviews, cut the snark, and provide detailed lists of the common issues to the devs. Don’t allow them to engage the fanbase directly (if they are the type to take any criticism as a slap to the face) beyond a general note of ‘we’ve listened, we have a list of issues we’ll be working on fixing. If we get them fixed, please consider updating your review/rating.’

I think part of the problem is that the huge AAA games can release complete crap, and they never see the criticism or stopped caring. People who complain are yelling into a void of moderators looking for a reason to remove negative posts. When you are dealing with smaller companies they imagine they can engage with the players, forgetting that many of them are used to writing things into the void knowing the person who could fix it won’t see it & don’t know how to engage directly with a Dev who honestly cares & wants a happy customer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

When looking to buy a product, like yesterday, I’m looking at TV’s for my Dad. He got one of them ROKU TV’s and hates it and is returning it. So I’m helping look for something better. I always start with 1 star reviews. The clear idiots giving 1 stars you can easily just toss out. It’s who’s left with real issues where I get a good Idea of how good of a product it is, and then I’ll move up to 2 start and 3 star. The 4/5 star reviews, same old I love it, it’s perfect and doesn’t really tell me anything. I also like to check out reviews at more then 1 location. So like the TV my Dad got, I was reading a review after he had gotten it but still in the Box and the review said it’s a “ROKU with a screen attached”. That really turned out to be true. It just isn’t a good thing. For me games are no different. I do the same thing.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Wow, just for chuckles I went to look at this on steam. I see seven positive reviews. These reviews though do a good job of showing what an idiot the developer was. One of the great examples has this to say:

“This is quite an enjoyable game.
I spent a good time on this game. LOVE the survival scenes.
One thing I don’t like about this game is the fact that some missions are very difficult
Honestly a decent enough game, worth the money”

Thing is, the moronic developer forgot that steam reviews post the users play time. In this case it was 0.4 hours.

Of the seven positive reviews NONE had even a single hour of game time on record. This is really pathetic considering all they would have needed to do is let the game idle at the menu over night to rack up some hours, but they were too stupid to even do that.

Anonymous Coward says:

The purpose of Asset flips

is to skate under the radar. You really don’t want much press at all. If I spend 30 minutes and $25 on the Unity store, as long as I can get back $50, I’m golden. The asset flip is the dark underbelly of the “long tail”.

Jim Sterling – being one of the biggest youtube reviewers out there – makes this business model impossible if he happens to pick your particular asset flip. Hence why asset flippers tend to flail about when he aims his channel at them.

John says:


Steam should do a better job of ensuring developers aren’t simply taking advantage of people (like The Stomping Lands which was abandoned for months but Steam never removed the option to purchase it until countless people had fallen victim).

Currently I’m involved in a game called Supraball in which the lead developer bans people for negative reviews and there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it because Steam doesn’t give 2 flying shits as long as they are getting their cut.

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