By now, it’s no longer a secret that Valve is thinking about killing off Steam Greenlight. Until it actually disappears though, it’s still fertile ground for stories like the one you’re about to read. Call it a tale of how social media can be a double-edged sword when trying to drum up support for your indie game.
The game in question is called Zombies. The period is actually part of the name (hey, it did the job for fun.), though there are no actual zombies in it. Plus it’s changing to Corporate Lifestyle Simulator anyway.
Like many indie games, this pixelated action-shooter is a part of bundle deals on several popular sites. Some of them promised that buyers would receive Steam keys for the game if/when it was greenlit (or greenlighted, as I never know which way is proper) – a common though not universal feature of these bundles.
The game was greenlit, but there was a bit of a catch: as explained by NeoGAF user chubigans, the developer had no intention of giving bundle buyers Steam keys, regardless of what the deals stated. At issue was his feeling that he should receive the customer data for everyone who purchased his game, unwilling to hand over “thousands of keys” to the bundle sites.
That’s not entirely unreasonable. He even posted a message on his Facebook page explaining how the Corporate Lifestyle Simulator expansion made his original work into something of a different entity, and as such, people who previously bought Zombies. would not get be getting Steam keys. That stance is harder to defend, but still isn’t completely ridiculous.
Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to explain that kind of thing in 140 characters, leading to this tweet:
As you might expect, this led to some unhappy campers in indie game land. And it got worse:
He apologized later, and he explained elsewhere that he was referring to people who had allegedly threatened him after his initial tweets about people not getting Steam keys. And, even though he was under no legal obligation to provide the keys under deals with several of the sites, he is going to fulfill what IndieGameStand called his “moral obligation” to provide them.
That doesn’t change the fact that the damage was already done. Regardless of how you feel the blame should be assigned between the parties involved, there’s a lesson to be learned here, especially for small dev teams: be careful with all of your messages to potential customers, because once a negative one gets out there, it’s darn near impossible to reel it back in.