Insel Games removed from Steam over allegations of planted reviews

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  • Thursday, 15 Feb 2018

Insel Games' titles are no longer on Steam, after the publisher was accused of planting reviews.

In a case of tooting your own horn gone wrong, Valve removed all titles by Insel Games from Steam over allegations that the company forced employees to give positive reviews for their own games.

Valve release manager Jason Ruymen posted on the store page of Insel’s Guardians of Ember that the publisher appeared to have used multiple Steam accounts to post positive reviews for their own games, which was in violation of Steam's review policy.

“For these reasons, we are ending our business relationship with Insel Games Ltd and removing their games from our store," he said. 

According to Polygon, Valve’s investigation into Insel Games’ review scores concluded days after a Reddit user nuttinbutruth brought attention to the publisher's questionable behaviour in a thread, shared an e-mail screenshot from December that they claim was written by Insel Games’ CEO Patrick Streppel. 

The e-mail — in which all personal information, including Streppel’s name, was censored — the CEO said the studio’s most recent game Wild Buster: Heroes Of Titan had sold poorly and made veiled suggestions that employees should buy and review the game. 

In a reply issued by Insel Games, it said the e-mail 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 how to write the review," it said.

The publisher also apologised for the "misleading wording" in the e-mail and were in discussion with Steam about the incident. 

Insel Games added they would keep working on improving Guardians of Ember and Wild Buster, which were still available through other channels. 

Steam owners or those in possession of a Steam key to their games could continue to play normally.

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