Digital Homicide are known for two things: releasing a great many janky, junky games; and being fiercely, litigiously protective of those games. The small studio were best known for suing games critic Jim Sterling over his videos tearing into their games, but they’ve probably one-upped that. After Digital Homicide launched a lawsuit against 100 Steam users, Valve have pulled all the studio’s games from the Steam store.
Digital Homicide allege these users were involved in stalking, harassing, and even impersonating them. Valve say they have “stopped doing business with Digital Homicide for being hostile to Steam customers.”
Digital Homicide are a small operation run by brothers James and Robert Romine. They’d released a dozen games on Steam, priced at a few dollars tops, and had more trying to reach the store through Steam Greenlight. Their games are mostly… well, see what John made of Galactic Hitman. They’re cheap and not-so-cheerful and, in another timeline, surely would’ve quietly sunk without a trace.
In this timeline, well! Digital Homicide came to fame after wavy ‘Tube man Jim Sterling made a video mocking their game The Slaughtering Grounds. Digital Homicide reacted by having Sterling’s video temporarily taken down with a dodgy copyright notice, as well as annotating his video with their own review. It sparked a public shitshow. As Sterling kept making videos on more of their games, Digital Homicide tried talking with him but ultimately, earlier this year, launched a lawsuit against him, accusing him of libel and seeking $10 million (since increased to $15m).
It seems to me that Digital Homicide reacted badly and have kept escalating badly. They’ve managed to enrage people (rightly) concerned about censorship through spurious copyright claims, as well as people with strong opinions on who is or isn’t a Proper Developer making Proper Games which deserve to be on Steam, and people who enjoy hooting at drama. Disappointingly but unsurprisingly, some people have taken it way too personally and slung some mighty unpleasant words and deeds Digital Homicide’s way. The studio claim they even received poo in the post.
The lawsuit against Sterling is still in the mix, but now Digital Homicide are going after non-famous people too. As Kotaku reports, the studio are trying to sue 100 pseudonymous Steam users for alleged harrassment, stalking, criminal damage, and criminal impersonation. Their claims include that people said awful things and/or variously alledged that Digital Homicide switched names to shake their reputation, stole assets, are scammers or con artists, toss games off cheaply so people buy ’em to farm Steam trading cards to sell, and so on. It seems some of those also feed a belief that Sterling is collaborating with an organised campaign against them. Basically, Digital Homicide claim these hundred folks are trying to ruin them. They’re trying to subpoena Valve to discover the real people behind the usernames [update: er, the judge already granted it], and Valve are none too pleased.
Games from Digital Homicide are no longer in the Steam store (though people who already bought can still play them on Steam) and their Greenlight submissions are gone too. “Valve has stopped doing business with Digital Homicide for being hostile to Steam customers,” the Steamlords told Kotaku.
Digital Homicide have responded to Valve’s statement, explaining:
“What has actually transpired was a lack of resolution from Steam in regards to moderation of their platform which might sound like a tough job to do, but coming from a company that brags its profitability per employee is higher than Google, it just shows a reckless disregard for for the well being of their community for profits. We submitted numerous reports and sent multiple emails in regards to individuals making personal attacks, harassment, and more on not only us but on other Steam customers who were actually interested in our products.”
They go on to share a few of their collection of comments they’ve received, of the usual ha-ha-hilarious “kill yourself” variety. Which is obviously an unacceptable – not to mention tired – over-reaction to a video game being bad. Digital Homicide continue:
“By removing us they have taken the stance that users have the right to harass me, tell me I should kill myself, and insult my family. If I try to defend myself against said actions then I lose my family’s income. If it wasn’t for 2 years of experience of dealing with Steam on a regular basis, this disgusting stance would seem shocking to me. The only thing that prevented me seeking legal counsel for a long list of breach of contracts, interference with business, and anti-trust issues was the fear of losing my family’s income. Since that has been taken away I am seeking legal representation.”
Oh, it’s all a big stinking mess, isn’t it. Digital Homicide released bum games, as was their right. Sterling ripped the piss, as was his right. Some Internauts over-reacted as if personally wounded by the existence of a bad game. Then Digital Homicide’s attempt to squash criticism made this another flashpoint where genuine concerns were jumped on then drowned out by people itching for a fight, and it all spiralled horribly with poor decisions all round.
In another timeline, Digital Homicide simply ignored Jim Sterling and you’d likely never have heard of them.
All of Digital Homicide’s games are still sold on Itch.