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Helldivers 2 Steps On Rake, Rams Stick In Bike Wheel, Makes Wet Fart Noise [Update]

None of this needed to happen, and yet, it has happened

I was only just talking about how Helldivers 2 has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. Now it's not, and in an incredibly sad (if also predictable) development, its downturn has absolutely nothing to do with the game itself.

UPDATE 00:10, May 6: Sony has backed down! Update is at the bottom of the story, original post follows:

Helldivers 2 came out in February, and instantly became a huge hit. It was funny, it had some cool co-op ideas, it did some really interesting stuff with its live story (thanks Joel!), everybody--including us--loved it. Now, just three months later, the game finds itself in a smoking crater, its developers and publisher facing backlash all over the internet. Why? Business fuckery, that's why!

Helldivers 2 was developed by Arrowhead Game Studios, but it was published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, and aside from its very popular PC release also came out on the PlayStation 5. As a Sony-published game, it was supposed to force PC players on Steam to also sign into the PlayStation Network in order to play online, a deeply annoying practice but also a fairly common one, since everyone from EA to Ubisoft does the same thing for their multiplatform releases.

Thing is, Helldivers 2's PSN signup was never fully implemented due to some technical hiccups at launch, and so from February until now everyone around the world has been able to buy and play the game on PC just by logging into Steam. Even if you lived in a country where the PlayStation Network wasn't supported, because why would you worry about that, the game was available on Steam, everything was fine!

Last Friday, that changed. It was announced that this had been a "grace period", and that from May 6 everyone buying the game and playing for the first time on PC would also need to be connected to the PlayStation Network at the same time. Everyone who was already playing would have a little longer, until May 30. Here's the thing, though: while Steam is available pretty much all over the world, the PlayStation Network--and this is news to me!--is not supported in a lot of places. The Steam notification about this move is extraordinary:

Understandably, this announcement has not gone down well with the game's fervent and passionate community! Not only has Helldivers 2 been review bombed on Steam, but the mob are so thirsty for justice that they've started review bombing the original Helldivers, which came out in 2015 and has nothing to do with any of this.

It's a stunning turnaround for a game that had until this point been an absolute darling! It was being held up as an example of the type of games that can succeed in a new world where people are tired of AAA gaming's bullshit! And's a victim of bullshit!

Arrowhead CEO Johan Pilestedt has taken to Twitter to say "We are talking solutions with PlayStation, especially for non-PSN countries...I am doing everything I can to speak for the community - but I don't have the final say."

He adds that, while the decision to reimplement PSN logins is clearly at the behest of PlayStation, he isn't without blame. "I do have a part to play. I am not blameless in all of this - it was my decision to disable account linking at launch so that players could play the game. I did not ensure players were aware of the requirement and we didn't talk about it enough."

Interestingly, when asked in the same Twitter thread why the game was then sold in markets where the PlayStation Network isn't supported, Pilestedt says "We do not handle selling the game."

What a mess! Arrowhead should have communicated it better, definitely, but what are Sony doing selling the game in regions they knew it would have to be later pulled from? What happens to everyone who bought the game living in regions the PSN isn't supported? Some say Valve is giving out refunds, but those are anecdotal stories, and at time of publishing there hasn't been a statement on what's going to happen to those customers once the PSN logins become mandatory.

Things are in such a state that the team behind Ghost of Tsushima, another Sony game soon to be launching on PC, had to get out ahead and say--before their game is even out--that a PSN account won't be needed for its main singleplayer campaign (you will need one to dabble in multiplayer, though).

PC game launchers are a huge pain in the ass, I've been moved to write about them before. If we've bought a game through Steam and are playing it through Steam, nobody wants to have to log in to a separate platform. You don't need to control everything, AAA game publishers!

In hindsight I guess it was inevitable that the unnecessary intrusion of PC launchers was always going to lead to a moment like this, when a publisher totally whiffs it and doesn't just annoy people, but completely tanks a game's reputation in the process. It's just a huge bummer that it had to happen to Helldivers 2, a game whose entire deal was that the whole world--not just some select territories--came together to blast some aliens.

UPDATE 00:10, May 6: Sony has backed down! In a statement issued on social media, a PlayStation representative says:

Helldivers fans -- we’ve heard your feedback on the Helldivers 2 account linking update. The May 6 update, which would have required Steam and PlayStation Network account linking for new players and for current players beginning May 30, will not be moving forward. We’re still learning what is best for PC players and your feedback has been invaluable. Thanks again for your continued support of Helldivers 2 and we’ll keep you updated on future plans.

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