Sony Briefly Snatches ‘Helldivers 2’ From The Jaws Of Victory With Stupid PSN Account Requirement

from the hell-to-pay dept

For all the pissing and moaning I did during the acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft — principally over the latter’s routine desire to talk about non-exclusivity in its games only to make them exclusive — Sony sure does know how to shit the bed when it comes to cross-platform titles and how to treat its customers well. On the more general side, the company has an unfortunate habit of disappearing all kinds of content from its published games and other media on a whim. And while Sony is happy to gobble up console exclusives itself — making the whining over Microsoft’s actions fall at least partially flat — the company also has found itself backtracking on occasion when it takes some dumb anti-customer action that it then has to walk back.

Which brings us to Helldivers 2. If you aren’t at least familiar with that game title, then you clearly have very little interest in gaming generally. The game launched with some issues, certainly, but was an absolute hit from the get go, including for PC gaming. Then, in the last few days, the development studio announced that the game would be patched to require that those playing the game on the PC would, for some reason, need to sign up for a PlayStation Network account or the game would be unplayable.

Last week, Arrowhead Studios announced that an upcoming update to its hit co-op shooter Helldivers 2 would require existing PC players on Steam to make a PlayStation Network account to continue playing. If they didn’t, they’d lose access to their Helldivers accounts, and that news did not land well. The move was bad for a litany of reasons, not least of which was the fact that Steam is supported in more countries than PSN, meaning that many players in some regions of the world would have no viable way to play the game they’d already owned on PC for months. As Helldivers 2 began getting delisted from several countries over the weekend, its community took to the offensive and review-bombed both the game and its ten-year-old predecessor.

Now PlayStation has predictably reversed course on its decision, and Helldivers 2 will no longer receive the aforementioned update. On its face, this appears like a wonderful development for the community, which won a decisive victory over PlayStation. However, this error also spells out that for all its success, PlayStation simply does not know what it’s doing when it comes to cross-platform titles, and will either continue to stumble upwards or accidentally burn itself time and time again at the repeated cost of its developers.

That last bit is really, really important. While there was plenty of ire saved for Sony from customers in this instance, far more of it was directed at Arrowhead Studios. To be clear, the account requirement was always part of the plan for this game and it was documented as such. But, that it was planned this whole time neither means it was ever a good idea, it certainly doesn’t mean it was a good idea given how the eventual rollout of the game went. It’s no exaggeration to say that people have been playing this game on their PCs for months and months. Why in the world you would suddenly press this PSN account requirement on them, the earliest adopters of the game, is beyond me.

And the reaction from the public is both telling and part of this overall problem. Sure, it’s good that Sony eventually decided it didn’t want to be pelted with digital rocks any longer and caved to the review bombing pressure it suffered. But it’s also true that nobody wants to show just how easy it is to weaponize the reviews for games for some vocal minority, or even majority, to get its way in all cases.

And again, this hurts the smaller Arrowhead Studios much, much more than it does a goliath like Sony. With the gaming giant so willing to risk the reputations of its studio partners, this really should cause potential future partners to wonder seriously whether such a partnership is a good idea.

To the outsider who doesn’t know about any of the drama of this weekend and decided to check out Helldivers 2 on Steam on a whim, its reviews likely made it seem like a bad purchasing option. Arrowhead community managers were taking hits in forums and getting chastised for doing a poor job of communicating the terms of PlayStation’s sudden policy change. Arrowhead’s CEO spent the weekend apologizing for initially disabling the PSN requirement to help support a bigger player audience, and he was the internet’s whipping boy for it. Not only did PlayStation force an otherwise beloved studio into this position, but its constant kowtowing to tactics such as review-bombing continues to legitimize bad actors.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is never what you want to be known for, but that is starting to be Sony’s reputation when it comes to cross-platform games and its consumer practices in general. Perhaps the company could actually listen to its customers, rather than trying to dictate to them?

Filed Under: cross platform, helldivers 2, psn accounts, video games

Companies: arrowhead studios, sony

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