'Ouch, right in the review score': Arrowhead CEO reacts to Helldivers 2 review bombing, apologizes for PSN mandate communication

helldivers 2 polar patriots warbond
(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

It's been a challenging day for Helldivers 2 as developer Arrowhead continues to wrestle with the fallout of an unexpected and unpopular announcement: Soon, all Helldivers 2 Steam players will be required to link a PlayStation account to continue playing.

Videogames requiring outside account linking is nothing new, but many Helldivers 2 players are protesting this mandate arriving months after the game's release, and with an insufficient warning that it was coming (Who really reads the fine print?). Fans are also calling foul on Sony's reasoning for requiring PSN integration, citing security and "player protection" as things that are apparently only possible when you're signed into PSN.

Today alone, Helldivers 2 has accrued over 20,000 negative Steam reviews, dropping the top-selling co-op shooter to a "Mixed" recent review rating.

helldivers 2 steam reviews

(Image credit: Steam)

All day, Arrowhead community managers have been fielding complaints on Discord, acknowledging players who feel their trust has been breached and assuring them that Sony is receiving the feedback. Only in the last few hours has Arrowhead CEO Johan Pilestedt, who has been a core presence and personality in the Helldivers 2 community from the start, opened up about the announcement.

"I understand that linking accounts and signing up for additional services may not be something that some users would like to do and that needs to be respected," Pilestedt tweeted. "While the steam page has always shown the requirements on the game page, I wish we had been more clear with the long term intent to not disappoint any of the divers out there."

helldivers 2

(Image credit: Johan Pilestedt via Twitter)

It's true that the Helldivers 2 Steam page has always listed a requirement for a PSN account (a small yellow box on the right side of the page), but as this the first time Arrowhead has clarified that Steam-only play was only "temporarily optional," you'd be forgiven for thinking Sony was not going to suddenly make PSN linking a requirement months after the fact.

It's on this issue—how the announcement was communicated—that Pilestedt was apologetic about in a followup tweet.

"Ouch, right in the review score," the CEO wrote in the wake of the review bombing. "Well, I guess it's warranted. Sorry everyone for how this all transpired. I hope we will make it up and regain the trust by providing a continued great game experience.

"I just want to make great games!"

johan pilestedt

(Image credit: Johan Pilestedt on Twitter)

It's remarkable just how poorly this news has been handled by all parties. There's the mandate itself—a transparent move from Sony to integrate millions of Steam users into the PSN ecosystem—and the insulting effort to spin it as a security measure. There's Arrowhead, whose community managers were not given sufficient information to answer extremely important questions about how a PSN requirement will affect countries that don't have PSN. And then there's the suggestion that players should have known this was coming because of a yellow box on a Steam page—a fundamental misunderstanding of what people are upset about.

Most players will make a PSN account and move on, but speaking as a daily Helldivers 2 player, this is an episode people will remember. It's a reminder that access to the games we "own" is something that can be taken away at the whim of developers, and unwelcome surprises like this are exactly how you lose trust.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.