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Last week, indie game studio Glumberland announced an exclusive deal with the Epic Games Store, an online storefront from the studio behind Fortnite, for its upcoming game Ooblets. Following the announcement, the game’s developers, married couple Rebecca Cordingley and Ben Wasser, received a deluge of threatening messages from angry consumers.
“My wife Rebecca and I have been the target of a pretty big internet storm for the last five days,” Wasser wrote in a Medium post on Tuesday. “We’ve been trying to make ourselves as available as possible to maintain an open discourse with newcomers — some friendly, some extremely aggressive — and unfortunately quite a number of them have decided to cross multiple lines into the realm of harassment.”
Developers signing exclusive timed release window deals with Epic’s online storefront has been a trend this year. Since the store launched last December, a number of games, such as Metro: Exodus and Dauntless, have been released for PC players exclusively on Epic Games Store for a period of time. Fan backlash has been severe, with calls for boycotts of the store and the studios who sign such deals, but for smaller developers, the amount of cash offered by Epic makes the exclusive window an attractive option.
“A game being available on one platform or the other, someone’s tone, or them calling you entitled is not enough to justify a harassment campaign targeting two indie game developers, or anyone for that matter,” Wasser said.
Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney has defended his online storefront’s exclusivity strategy in the past, saying in February, “Love us or hate us, we are certainly fostering economic competition between stores, out of a firm belief that this will ultimately benefit all developers and gamers.”
Epic Games Store also offers an attractive revenue split with studios who decide to use the platform. 88 percent of the revenue is kept by the studio, a much larger margin than what is typically offered by Epic Games’ biggest competitor, Steam, which traditionally keeps 30 percent of revenues.
“What happened to us is the result of people forgetting their humanity for the sake of participating in video game drama,” said Wasser. “Please have a little perspective before letting your mild annoyance lead to deeply hurting a fellow human being.”
In the Medium post, Wasser also included a number of screenshots of the messages he and his wife received, which include numerous racial slurs and references to sexual and physical assault. Wasser claimed the screenshots are “just a sample of the stuff sent only directly to us.”
“I’d challenge anyone to be on the receiving end of this for a few minutes/hours/days to not come to the conclusion that a huge segment of the broader gaming community is toxic,” said Wasser. “People are upset that I’ve said that word. Now imagine someone getting offended by me using the word ‘toxic’ in the context of what this group has been saying and doing to us.”
Epic responded to the controversy on Monday, saying in a statement, “The announcement of Ooblets highlighted a disturbing trend which is growing and undermining healthy public discourse. … We remain fully committed, and we will steadfastly support our partners throughout these challenges. Many thanks to all of you that continue to promote and advocate for healthy, truthful discussion about the games business and stand up to all manners of abuse.”
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