Game nuked from Steam after Gabe Newell death threats

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As a game developer, you pray for moments like these. Your game has just crawled out of the Early Access pit, ready for people to enjoy the game you actually wanted them to play when they paid you months ago. Better yet, your game is featured as part of a special Steam bundle. Everything is grand, until an incorrect listing threatens to cost you a few sales. What do you do?

There’s a few very good solutions to that question, but also one very, very wrong one. If you’re planning to sell your game on the world’s largest digital platform, you don’t casually post death threats to Valve’s CEO, Gabe Newell. That’s a lesson indie developer Mike Maulbeck learnt yesterday, and it’s ruined his game’s future.

Things were going well for Maulbeck and his game, Paranautical Activity. It was finally out of Early Access, available on Steam and curtiously added to the Halloween-themed section of the store. The game, however, was accidentally listed as still being stuck in Early Access. That was the last straw for Maulbeck, who launched into a scathing public attack on Valve over Twitter shortly afterwards.

That’s pretty fair, given the circumstances. You want your game to sell as many copies as possible, and an admin hiccup is holding it back just after it’s launch. I don’t think anyone can blame Maulbeck for his outburst, and it probably would have remained as just that – had he not carried on.

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That tweet was quickly delete after Maulbeck’s blood had stopped boiling, but not before Valve took notice. Paranautical Activity was removed from Steam not long afterwards, with Valve not taking kindly to the death threat against one of their employees. Never mind their head honcho, good old Gabe.

“We have removed the game’s sales page and ceased relations with the developer after he threatened to kill one of our employees”

Maulbeck tried to get back into the good books with Valve afterwards, telling Polygon that he apologised for all his public statements about them. But, as one would expect, Valve isn’t going to budge.

“I have since obviously replied to them saying that I didn’t mean what I said and pleaded that they consider the monopoly they have on the PC market before totally writing us off, but let’s be real. If they took the game off the store, they’re fuckin sure about their decision. There’s probably nothing to be done.”

It’s a really terrible situation for Maulbeck borne out of a fit of frustration. With his game blacklisted from Steam and his name tarnished, he can effectively kiss any future on Steam goodbye. And in the PC market, that’s enough to kill your career, as Maulbeck pointed out on Twitter when the storm had died down.

Death threats shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially in an age where throwing them around publicly is so easy. Online harassment is a real problem in this industry, and I feel like Valve is making a bit of an example out of Maulbeck. You simply can’t do stuff like that online, especially aimed at the people who are hosting your greatest means to a successful game.

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It’s harsh, but I think Maulbeck has taught anyone hoping to make games a valuable lesson. Sadly, it came at the expense of his career.

Last Updated: October 21, 2014

Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff's a bastard.

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