After the Ooblets development team announced an exclusive deal with the Epic Games Store they were expecting hostility. So much so that the announcement post explained the decision in detail and urged fans to stay calm about it. Now, the sadly inevitable harassment has hit, and Epic have stepped up and made a statement about how they will support partners through these challenges.
Backlash against studios announcing exclusive deals with Epic has been widely reported but this is the first time a developer has gone into so much depth about their reasons for the move, as well as the extent of the backlash.
The Ooblets team comprises just two people, designer Ben Wasser and programmer and artist Rebecca Cordingley. In Wasser’s post he was honest about the fact that Epic would guarantee an amount of revenue that allows the pair to not only finish the game but also to continue their studio going forward. It removes a huge amount of uncertainly and risk for the developers, meaning that it’s a very smart choice for such a small studio.
Very quickly the hate started and it’s been difficult for Wasser and Cordingley to cope with. Wasser, who goes under the handle Perplamps on Twitter, was forced to quickly address a faked screenshot that caused him particular distress. Reading the comments underneath, many of which attack him for trying to defuse the situation with humor and a touch of snark, you can see the scale of the problem.
Gotta quickly address the faked screenshot going around of me supposedly saying "gamers would be better off in gas chambers". Obviously never said that, and as a Jewish person, this one really hurt to see being spread around.— perplamps (@perplamps) August 3, 2019
It'd help if you could report people spreading it.
It seems that the “tone” of the original post has provoked a tidal wave of extra chaos, which Epic have called a “disturbing trend.”
In a post on Patreon, reprinted by gamesindustry.biz, Cordingley and Wasser said "We really misjudged how angry so many people would be. This whole thing has just devastated us. We've been getting thousands if not tens of thousands of hateful, threatening messages across every possible platform nonstop. It's especially hurtful since we've had such a positive, supportive relationship with our audience throughout development.”
The scale of abuse has prompted Epic to release its own statement. In it Epic says that it “supports the entire game community’s right to speak freely and critically” but states that this does not mean harassment. It concludes by offering support to all involved by saying, “Epic is working together with many game developers and other partners to build what we believe will be a healthier and more competitive multi-store world for the future. 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."
The Epic Games Store has been heavily criticized since launch and it appears that the abuse of those who chose to use it sadly shows no sign of fading.