WHEN LAST WE LEFT WAR Z…
The War Z did not have its trademark, had effectively universal negative reviews, had multiple potential lawsuits about false advertising and general bad business practices, and had formally painted itself as uncaring about player concerns and more worried about arguing semantics (poorly) than actually addressing or correcting or even admitting their own mistakes and/or outright lies.
Now that the incredibly controversial title is no longer available on Steam, things seem to be largely calming down, since the amount of money changing hands is no longer quite so extreme. This is the time that Hammerpoint Interactive would be expected to either lie low until the immediate fallout from the debacle had passed or make a public announcement addressing it.
Given how poor the last major address from Sergey Titov to the community in general went, one might expect them to go with the former.
One probably would not have made the same mistakes releasing a high-profile game over Steam that they did either.
What the problem was
Sergey composed an email to the players who still maintain active War Z accounts. He starts by thanking the players who’ve stuck with the game, and without even starting a new paragraph explains how many players were not communicated with “effectively”, leading to “some very negative feedback from some members of our community”. He then claims full responsibility for that problem, and says that he let himself become arrogant based on the game’s success.
Yes, he’s serious.
I became arrogant and blinded by the early success and quick growth of The War Z, our increasing number of players, numbers we were getting from surveys, etc., and I chose not to notice the concerns and questions raised by these members of the game community as well as others.
Essentially what the argument comes down to is that he and his staff assumed that the ‘minority’ of players who were displeased were actually an ignorable quantity. He admits that he and his team treated these complaints with dismissal, not taking them seriously.
What the problem still is
Where this email falls apart is that Sergey still never admits that Hammerpoint ever made a single false claim, placing the blame for everything on communication issues and being too successful creating false confidence, rather than on having lied outright about what the game was to generate much of that success in the first place.
He points to problems with community moderation as being a focus on punishment rather than on supporting the players. This is true, but arrogance alone does not excuse behavior that was, even if their best estimations were true, actively harmful to the game itself and its community. The rest of the letter describes plans for moving forward, mostly involving hiring new people to communicate and publish more smoothly in the future.
This email is worded much better to convey Sergey’s apparent meanings than his previous interview was, but it still misses the point. Most people who were angry after buying the game on Steam were not angry that the features they were promised were not described well, and they were not angry because they didn’t think they were being listened to.
They were angry because the features they were promised in The War Z did not exist in any form. They were angry because the game itself was incomplete. They were angry because they were actively prohibited from speaking out against the game or the company behind it in any location where their words might be heard that Hammerpoint could exert any control over. They were angry because Hammerpoint adamantly refused to admit that they had done all of these things deliberately.
Every now and then, a given industry needs a wake-up call. Hopefully this will be one for the developers of video games. We were angry because we were lied to.
But we’re still angry because Sergey still won’t admit it.