The Helldivers 2 PSN Controversy and How Gamers Fought Back

edited May 31 in Gaming

What is Helldivers 2? 

Helldivers 2, developed by Arrowhead and published by Sony, is a dynamic multiplayer co-op shooter set in a sprawling sci-fi universe and also one of this year top top-selling and most-played games on Steam. Players embody Helldivers, elite soldiers tasked with “defending” Super Earth against alien Termanids and robotic Automatons. Known for its intense gameplay, the game requires tactical teamwork, strategic use of extensive arsenals, and quick decision-making. Each mission offers unique challenges due to varied terrain and enemy tactics, while satirical militaristic fervor adds depth and humor to the experience. 

The recent controversy 

Recently, Helldivers 2 became the center of a significant controversy when Sony introduced a new requirement for all PC players to link their Steam accounts with the PlayStation Network (PSN). This policy change, implemented on May 3, 2024, was a departure from the game's initial launch settings, which allowed PC players to access the game via Steam without a PSN account.

Why are the fans upset?

The mandatory PSN account linkage was met with immediate backlash for several reasons: 

  1. Accessibility: PSN services are not available in 118 countries, meaning players in these regions were suddenly unable to access a game they had purchased. 
  2. Security Concerns: Sony's 2023 security breaches heightened worries about personal data safety. 
  3. Autonomy: Players resented the forced integration with a third-party platform, which they felt compromised their autonomy and convenience.

Community response and key players 

The community's response was swift and coordinated, peaking between May 3-5. Gamers organized through platforms like Reddit, X, and Discord, where they voiced their discontent and planned collective actions.  

A significant figure in this movement was Spitz, the community manager at Arrowhead, who played a crucial role in mobilizing the community. Despite initially downplaying the backlash, Spitz later encouraged players to review-bomb the game and request refunds, emphasizing that such actions would give Arrowhead more leverage in negotiations with Sony. This strategy led to over 150,000 negative reviews in just a few days.

Ironically, Helldivers 2, a game that taught millions of players the importance of teamwork via "Major Orders," ultimately trained its community too well. When faced with a real-world challenge, these gamers united with precision and coordination akin to their in-game tactics, turning their collective focus on Sony and Arrowhead. This not only reflects the power of community engagement but also underscores a profound moment where life imitates art—where gamers applied their collaborative skills from virtual battlefields to influence significant corporate decisions. 

Sony and Arrowhead’s response 

Sony reversed the PSN account linking requirement on May 6, 2024, facing intense community backlash and the prospect of substantial financial and reputational losses. However, the reversal came too late for Spitz, who was removed from his role at Arrowhead shortly thereafter.

Reflecting on his actions, Spitz acknowledged the unorthodox nature of his approach, stating, "Generally it's not a good idea to tell people to refund and leave negative reviews when you're a community manager." While this action was seen as heroic by the community, it was deemed unprofessional for his role, leading to his dismissal from Arrowhead. 

Is the war over? 

Despite the rollback of the PSN account sign-in requirement, the controversy surrounding Helldivers 2 is far from over. The game remains delisted in countries where PSN is not supported, leaving many players still unable to access the game. This ongoing issue highlights the challenges of global game distribution and the impact of corporate decisions on international gaming communities.

To those affected and to those who rally behind your Helldiving comrades, there is still a way to voice your concerns: by using social media platforms to communicate directly with Sony and Arrowhead. Letting these companies know that you want Helldivers 2 to be available again can make a difference. Engaging on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit not only raises awareness but also shows the demand for the game's accessibility in all regions. 

Furthermore, the community has rallied around Spitz, the former community manager, with a petition calling for his rehire, reflecting the significant support he has within the Helldivers community. This petition, which can be found on (Re-hire the Legendary Community Manager General Spitz), highlights the deep appreciation and loyalty fans feel towards Spitz and their desire to see him reinstated to his post.

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Patrick Yu is a Senior Project Manager at Level Interactive and has 8 years of experience writing business, legal, lifestyle, gaming, and technology articles. He is a significant contributor to Acer Corner and is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan.


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