Just days after announcing a mandatory PlayStation Network account linking for Helldivers 2, Sony Interactive Entertainment has reversed this decision. This comes after a huge backlash from the game’s community.

Sony drops PSN account linking for Helldivers 2 after orbital review bombing

What happened?

On May 6, PlayStation announced that update requiring Steam and PSN account linking for new and current players will not be moving forward.

“We’re still learning what is best for PC players and your feedback has been invaluable. Thanks again for your continued support of Helldivers 2 and we’ll keep you updated on future plans,” the statement reads.

Arrowhead Game Studios CEO and game director Johan Pilestedt commented on the news, saying that he is “impressed by the willpower of the Helldivers 2 community and your ability to collaborate.” He also thanked PlayStation for quickly reversing the original decision and making PSN linking optional.

“We together want to set a new standard for what a live game is, and how developers and community can support each other to create the best game experiences,” Pilestedt wrote.

Shortly after the update, the Helldivers 2 community announced a new “major order” aka “Operation Clean Up” by urging all players to change their negative reviews to positive ones. “Arrowhead has worked very hard to make this game special, and you the player have shown both Sony and Arrowhead that your voice matters too,” a post on the game’s subreddit reads.

Although this might be considered a victory for the community, Helldivers 2 is still not available for purchase on Steam in over 170 countries. Sony has yet to address the matter, so it is unclear when (or if) the game will return to the regions it was originally available before the PSN linking controversy.

Timeline of the scandal surrounding Helldivers 2 and PSN accounts

  • On May 3, SIE posted an update on the official Helldivers 2 Steam page, announcing that all new players will be required to connect their Steam account to a PSN account on May 6, and current players will have to link accounts by June 4.
  • “We understand that while this may be an inconvenience to some of you, this step will help us to continue to build a community that you are all proud to be a part of,” the company explained.
  • PlayStation also noted that customers were informed that Helldivers 2 would require a PSN account even before its release. However, the linking was made optional “due to technical issues” at launch. And, as the company put it, “that grace period will now expire.”
  • Although the information regarding the PSN linking requirement is true, players were not happy with the situation and the way it was communicated to the community. As a result, the post received zero visible upvotes (an extremely rare situation) and over 700 comments before being locked.

  • Firstly, many users criticized this decision because Sony and Arrowhead basically allowed hundreds of thousands of people to play Helldivers 2 for several months without any mandatory account linking. Secondly, some players said it would have been much better if PlayStation gave the Steam community some cosmetics or other small rewards for linking accounts to smooth things out a bit.
  • There were also people who didn’t see any problem, saying that creating an account is a two-minute deal. The problem is that the PC version of Helldivers 2 could be purchased in countries where the PlayStation services are not available.
  • This led to players worrying whether Sony would ban them for attempting to create an account in the region outside of their residence, not to mention that they were no longer be able to refund the game  after playing it for dozens or even hundreds of hours. Overall, there were tons of questions and misunderstandings withing the community, none of which were addressed by Sony.
  • Speaking about possible difficulties with the creation of a PSN account, user FurrGotten posted a bizarre response from Sony’s support, reading that “the registration of an account of the region of Ukraine is possible only through the console itself.” The solution was using a mobile phone, but the situation still didn’t look good in general.

  • To add even more fire to the fuel, PlayStation changed one section of its FAQ regarding the use of PSN accounts on PC. As Pirate Software’s Thor spotted on social media, the original answer “Signing in to PSN is optional when playing a PlayStation game on PC” was replaced by “Some PlaySation games may require you sign in and link to an account for PSN.”

  • So instead of addressing the potential issues beforehand and properly communicating the update, Sony just threw it out there, leaving the entire community baffled.
  • Within the hours after the news, people from all over the world united to review bomb Helldivers 2 on Steam. Even US players, where the majority of the game’s user base is located and who have no problem creating a PSN account, supported the move.
  • As a result, Helldivers 2 received over 330k negative reviews in just three days (via SteamDB). It is hard to remember a time when the community acted so united to express their frustration.
  • The game’s overall rating on Steam quickly dropped from “Very Positive” to “Mixed”, and its recent score became “Overwhelmingly Negative,” with only 14% of reviews left in the last 30 days being positive.

  • At the same time, Arrowhead devs found themselves in the center of this storm. Community manager Twinbeard wrote on Discord that “it’s Sony’s decision, not ours,” adding that “we’re chasing Sony to get more info.”
  • Another community manager, Spitz initially laughed at people criticizing the account linking update, but then said that “I was completely unaware how many countries have the ability to make a PSN account when I made that statement” and added that “It’s absolutely not our intention to force people to break Sony ToS or just not play the game if they’re in a restricted region. There needs to be a better solution.”
  • Spitz then called on players to further review bomb Helldivers 2: “I want people to make their displeasure known in a place where it might actually make a difference, Steam reviews and refund requests will do that, angry posting in the Discord won’t. I’m not happy about this decision either.”

  • As the outrage kept growing, the Steam version Helldivers 2 was suddenly removed from sale in 177 territories (via SteamDB). The list includes Georgia, Cuba, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Philippines, Venezuela, Egypt, Dominican Republic, and many other countries.

  • It is worth noting that CEO Johan Pilestedt spent all these days communicating with the community online and trying to address their concerns. Speaking of negative reviews, he wrote: “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.”
  • He acknowledged the issues, saying that Arrowhead has been “talking solutions with PlayStation.” Pilestedt also noted the studio knew about the mandatory PSN account linking about six months before launch. “I am not blameless in all of this — it was my decision to disable account linking at launch so that players could play the game,” he wrote. “I did not ensure players were aware of the requirement and we didn’t talk about it enough.”
  • Seeing a C-level executive speak to the audience and not remain silent is an extremely rare occurrence in the industry, so it would be great if other studio heads could learn from Pilestedt.

  • When Sony finally backed down, Helldivers 2’s user score began to gradually improve. At the time of writing, it still has a “Mixed” rating on Steam (54% positive), but recent reviews rose to “Mostly Negative” (34% positive vs. 14%).

Although review bombing is often viewed negatively, it is still one of the few ways for players to publicly express their disappointment over certain decisions. And the Helldivers 2 case proves the importance of platforms like Steam, which remains the only storefront with such a transparent review system and a variety of ways for customers to communicate with devs and each other.

Whether Sony and other large publishers will learn from this mistake is more of a rhetorical question, but it is still great to see so many players unite to make their voices heard.

Got a story you'd like to share? Reach us at [email protected]