Ooblets developers Rebecca Cordingley and Ben Wasser announced last week that their long-awaited farm life sim Ooblets will be an Epic Games Store exclusive (opens in new tab) at launch. The message, written by Wasser, was lighthearted and unapologetic: He said that threatening to pirate games because they don't appear on a particular storefront is the epitome of "immature, toxic gamers," and that while getting mad is "cathartic," people should remember that "this is all low-stakes video game stuff we’re dealing with here" and it's "nothing to get worked up about."
Unsurprisingly, some got very worked up in response. In an update posted to Cordingley's Patreon (opens in new tab) (via USgamer (opens in new tab)), the developers said that they seriously misjudged just how angry the response to their message would be.
"We've been getting thousands if not tens of thousands of hateful, threatening messages across every possible platform nonstop," they wrote. "It's especially hurtful since we've had such a positive, supportive relationship with our audience throughout development.
"I couldn't have guessed the scale of what it would feel like to be the target of an internet hate mob. I already had a lot of empathy for other targets of previous hate mobs, which is why we wanted to address that sort of thinking in our announcement, but I had no idea it was this bad."
Wasser said on August 3, for example, that someone had faked a screenshot of him saying that "gamers would be better off in gas chambers." The day after, a video claiming to show him posting the message, and then deleting it, began to make the rounds—not hard to fake, either.
Gotta quickly address the faked screenshot going around of me supposedly saying "gamers would be better off in gas chambers". Obviously never said that, and as a Jewish person, this one really hurt to see being spread around.It'd help if you could report people spreading it.August 3, 2019
Cordingley also addressed an "out of context" quote about Ooblets Patreon that was being presented as a dismissal of backer concerns, saying that it was part of a response to claims they were "scamming" Patreon supporters by the timing of the announcement, which was being inaccurately reported.
"We actually really love and appreciate the vast majority of our patreon backers and so far they've been super understanding," wrote Cordingley. "The majority of anger we've seen around patreon money is from people outside of our backer community."
The Ooblets Patreon update also indicates that the bulk of the vitriol aimed at the developers comes from outside that community, which currently has just over 1,100 patrons.
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney initially expressed playful glee over the forthright Ooblets statement, but the blowback grew so fierce over the weekend that Epic has now posted a much more serious "statement on misinformation and abuse (opens in new tab)," in which it expressed support for "the entire game community's right to speak freely and critically" about games and companies, including Epic and its store, while condemning the harassment directed at the Ooblets devs:
"The announcement of Ooblets highlighted a disturbing trend which is growing and undermining healthy public discourse," wrote Epic, "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.
"Epic is working together with many game developers and other partners to build what we believe will be a healthier and more competitive multi-store world for the future. We remain fully committed, and we will steadfastly support our partners throughout these challenges. Many thanks to all of you that continue to promote and advocate for healthy, truthful discussion about the games business and stand up to all manners of abuse."
I've emailed the developers for more information and will update if I receive a reply.