Players of free-to-play autobattler Storybook Brawl are suddenly calling for it to be booted off Steam, but not because of a controversial balance change or a scandalous personal allegation. Storybook Brawl is the subject of a very 2022 happening: a cryptocurrency company bought it.
Cryptocurrency exchange FTX US announced last week that it had acquired Storybook Brawl developer Good Luck Games, and the new owner isn't shy about its intentions. The acquisition is an "opportunity to be the vanguard for the ethical integration of gaming and crypto transactions," according to FTX.
In a video (opens in new tab) posted after the announcement, Good Luck Games founder Matt Place said that the acquisition means increased funding for the studio, but that he doesn't know yet exactly how blockchain technology will be integrated into Storybook Brawl, except that it will be "ethical" and "create fun for players." A lot of those players are not buying either company's reassurances.
A week after FTX's press release pointed out that Storybook Brawl has "amassed thousands of Very Positive" reviews on Steam, the game's recent review average has flipped to "Overwhelmingly Negative." Just 17% of the 710 user reviews posted over the past 30 days recommend the game.
Because Storybook Brawl is free-to-play, users do not have to spend any money to leave a review, making it particularly susceptible to review bombing like this. However, most of the negative reviews come from Steam users whose Storybook Brawl playtime is in the double or triple digits.
"Was one of the best autobattlers out there, but crypto is a scam to punk the dumb out of their money and it's a shame this game was bought out to further that agenda," wrote one reviewer, who has logged 67.2 hours in Storybook Brawl.
Most of the other recent negative reviews say roughly the same thing: They like the game, but are bailing now that it's going to introduce crypto transactions.
"This was a good game...until they made it about NFTs," said a player with over 900 hours in the game.
Some reviewers also say that the game will or should be removed from Steam. No announcement has been made by Valve or FTX about Storybook Brawl's future on Steam, but the expectation that it will be removed isn't unfounded. Steam's rules forbid "applications built on blockchain technology that issue or allow exchange of cryptocurrencies or NFTs," so if Storybook Brawl goes in that direction as planned, it could be the subject of a second review from Valve.
I did find one Steam reviewer who supports the inclusion of blockchain transactions in Storybook Brawl. They say they joined the game's Discord to explain the virtues of NFTs to its angry fans, and were upset by the hostility they encountered: No one wants to buy NFTs in a community where they're "called names for supporting the game" and "where NFTs are bashed," they said. They also left a negative review.
The procession of thumbs downs does not seem to have triggered Steam's review bomb filter, which points out unusual review trends to viewers. It also doesn't appear to have seriously affected Storybook Brawl's player count, at least in the short term. The game continues to hit a modest 1,000 concurrent players at peak hours, give or take a couple hundred. That represents the continuation of a six-month downward trend for Storybook Brawl following a peak of 2,770 concurrent players in September.