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Valve pulls games after studio plans to sue critical players

Engadget Engadget 19/09/2016 Jon Fingas
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If you ran a game studio and faced a slew of very negative (and sometimes threatening) user reviews, what would you do? Strive to improve your work? Rig the reviews? Ignore the haters? Digital Homicide decided that it would be better to sue the reviewers... and now, it's facing the consequences. Valve has pulled all of Digital Homicide's games from Steam in response to a developer subpoena forcing Valve to reveal the identities of 100 users who posted harsh reviews, paving the way for an $18 million personal injury lawsuit. Digital Homicide's legal action is "hostile to Steam," a Valve spokesperson says.

The lawsuit, filed by Digital Homicide's James Romine, comes alongside a separate claim against YouTuber Jim Sterling, whose videos have frequently roasted the developer's games. Some of Sterling's fans have supposedly harassed both James and his brother Robert through the mail.

Not surprisingly, Digital Homicide has a different take on the situation. It claims that it's only suing after Valve did little to moderate user game reviews, at least some of which included death threats. The company deserves a "safe environment" to do business, it says, and Valve is reportedly showing a "reckless disregard" for the Steam community.

The truth might be somewhere in between the Valve and Digital Homicide positions. There's no question that at least some of the reviews are uncalled for, and that Valve didn't clamp down on them quickly (even if they weren't likely serious). However, it's not clear that all of the reviews were so hostile, and Digital Homicide doesn't exactly have a squeaky-clean reputation. It has been waging a war against Sterling for many months, including doxxing and questionable YouTube takedown requests, in response to videos that do little more than highlight the studio's shady practices. On top of producing shovelware (it posted 18 games on Steam Greenlight in one year), Digital Homicide has allegedly masqueraded as different developers and offered game keys in exchange for rigging Greenlight votes. The company may have already been on the road to a Steam ban -- the subpoena could just be the last straw.

Rami Ismail (Twitter), Digital Homicide, SidAlpha (YouTube)

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