Consequently some fans responded poorly to the news, despite the fact those who’d already pre-ordered the game on Steam would still be able to play it there, and that Metro Exodus is cheaper on the Epic Store thanks to the platform’s smaller taxing revenue split. Members of Metro Exodus’s development team began receiving threatening messages, and other Metro games were review bombed on Steam.
Speaking to Kotaku, Blue claimed the use of the word “unfair” was meant to specifically refer to the timing of the announcement, rather than the decision to make Metro Exodus an exclusive to another store.
“I don’t think that was our intent to upset people,” he said. “It wasn’t the intent of the message. It was more about the timing. The game was about to launch, and then it was [exclusive to the Epic store]. So that was the only goal of that. What came out of that was not what we expected. It wasn’t meant to be this lightning rod.”
However, the Steam store statement did add fuel to the fire. The section Blue’s referring to read, “we think the decision to remove the game is unfair to Steam customers, especially after a long pre-sale period.” Here the phrasing suggests the decision as a whole did a disservice to Steam customers, with pre-sale timing tacked on as an addendum and not as the reason. Some, it would seem, took the first part of that sentence as their main takeaway.
Blue said that from now on Valve won’t post similar statements about Epic store exclusives, and while the company wouldn’t “go back in time” and change their statement, in future Valve won’t speak out on Epic Store exclusives “because our goal is not to upset the community or light anyone’s hair on fire. Our goal is to get developers close to customers, have a really valuable place for people to play games, and stay focused on that.”
Review bombing is a known problem on Steam. Borderlands was recently review bombed after Borderlands 3 was announced as an Epic Store exclusive, and last year Total War: Rome 2 suffered a surge of negative Steam reviews after players felt too many female generals were spawning on the battlefield. However, Steam designer Alden Kroll told Kotaku the company has no plans as yet to combat the issue.
“It’s hard to tell players what to do or not to do in that way,” he said. “I think our approach has been to try and improve the tools so that when players use it in a way we’re not expecting, then we can handle that elegantly so that it’ll hopefully not be as disruptive. But the thing that we find is, players are gonna try to use the things they think will be the noisiest. If we change that in one place, then it’ll move to another place, possibly.”
Blue added that “it’s a work in progress” and Valve wants reviews “to represent where games are at and the status of games as best as possible. If it doesn’t, then we’re like, ‘There’s something wrong we can work on.’”
Alysia Judge is a writer and presenter. Chat to her on Twitter @alysiajudge.