Ooblets Developer Faces Intense Harassment and Backlash After Epic Exclusivity Deal
It wasn't so long ago that we wrote on here about the Epic Games Store and its controversy among recent game releases and pre-orders. The most recent target of this news was the yet-to-be-released Shenmue 3, which jumped from a Steam launch exclusively to the EGS. Epic Games responded to the backlash by promising refunds to all those affected. But with the latest EGS deal comes something a whole lot worse, and a sign that things need to settle: Harassment. For those who keep up with the indie gaming scene, you've likely heard of or seen Ooblets at least once. It's a cutesy simulation game with a colorful art style, often shown at Microsoft's E3 conferences due to its planned console exclusivity on Xbox One. The game was also set for release on PC via Steam, that is until... well, you guessed it.
The developer, Glumberland, made a long blog post announcing that they signed up for Epic Games Store exclusivity. As the devs later revealed, they anticipated some backlash to this announcement, so the style and wording of their announcement post is of a more lighthearted and upfront nature. In it, they reveal that Epic offered the company a minimum guarantee on sales, including significant funding for the development of the game. Not only did this allow them to truly make the game they wanted, but it cushioned their future as indie developers. Unfortunately, the Internet at large took the joking nature of the post too far, viewing it as condescending. It didn't take long before Glumberland began receiving waves of harassment, a lot of which included death threats and falsified images. The two-person team spoke about this in a report published on GamesIndustry.biz. "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."
It didn't take long for Epic to step in and respond to the situation either. Because of all these circumstances, they've vowed to stand behind developers who face any similar kind of harassment going forward. "The announcement of Ooblets highlighted a disturbing trend which is growing and undermining healthy public discourse, and that's the coordinated and deliberate creation and promotion of false information, including fake screenshots, videos, and technical analysis, accompanied by harassment of partners, promotion of hateful themes, and intimidation of those with opposing views," they stated in a post on their official website. They conclude all of this by promising to "support [their] partners throughout these challenges," and build a "healthier and more competitive multi-store world for the future." Despite the intense negative backlash, Glumberland is standing firm with their decision to release exclusively on the EGS at launch.
Looking at all of this, it's safe to say the Epic Games Store situation has really reached a boiling point, one that's straying into some really dangerous territories. While the debate and discourse behind exclusivity deals is a valid one, and one that encourages being looked at, death threats and hateful behavior are no way to respond to the situation. It's a tumultuous time for the PC marketplace, but if we're going to reach some sort of conclusion and compromise, it won't be found like this. Ooblets is set to release sometime in 2019, and you'll be able to play it on Xbox One or Windows PC via the Epic Games Store (no word yet on when the Steam version will release). For all the relevant info, you can check out Epic's response on their website, or read Glumberland's original announcement post that began this storm. Hopefully, things settle down as soon as possible.