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Gaming Gossip: Episode 14 - Can Helldivers II recover from the recent PSN debacle?

We discuss the crazy events that took place over the weekend and how it paints a picture and leads to further conversations about other practices used in the video game space.

Audio transcription

"Hello everyone and welcome to our 13th? 14th episode, maybe 15th, an episode of Gaming Gossip.
Today, as you can tell, is a really special one because we're really leaning into this live production thing and it's coming together great.
We're all feeling really jolly about it because it's been a lot of hard work to get to this point but it's looking great and it's coming out well."

"So, as per usual, it's the full cast of the bad boys here today.
There's me, Ben, there's Alex and Dav.
And today, of course, we have to talk about the big sort of thing that's happening in the game space as of late, which is this whole massive debacle that happened in regards to Helldivers II."

"Now, me and Alex are just coming off a long bank holiday weekend in the UK and this all happened over the weekend.
So, this is like really fresh and really wild.
And, well, Alex, you're the Helldivers expert among the three of us.
So, give us a rundown."

"I think you are, yeah.
I do play it a lot, to be fair.
Exactly, exactly.
So, give us a rundown.
What has happened here?
What was this whole debacle with Helldivers II?
It's the biggest fumble and I'm known for my extremities, I would say."

"I can't think of the word of like...
Exaggerations.
Exaggerations, yeah.
Not extremities, just because I feel like I could go the wrong way."

"I'm known for my exaggerations here on, you know, Game Reactor.
But could this be the biggest fumble since Fallout 76?
It's really bad.
It's really bad."

"And, like, it's really bad.
Because at first you're like, oh, PSN sign up.
That's fine.
It's just like how you sign up to Blizzard or Xbox through other things."

"Like, it's annoying.
But if you're crying about it, like...
And then you find out that PSN means that 100 countries plus won't get access to the game.
Where the game was already available as well."

"That is worth saying.
Where it was already available, it will be taken off their Steam account.
And only, like, two days after the announcement was Steam like, yeah, we'll refund your games.
You've had the developers telling people to help review Bomit."

"So that it gets the message across to Sony.
You've had 300,000 negative reviews in the space of a couple of days.
You've had people forever lose faith in sort of, like, the game.
Honestly, could be."

"I know we always go for the sort of, like, a multiplayer game hasn't won Game of the Year.
Because we're not counting Bald's Cakes.
That's a co-op.
But, like, a multiplayer focused game hasn't won Game of the Year, I don't think, since Overwatch at the Game Awards."

"Genuinely, I think Helldivers 2 could have been in the runnings for it.
It's just been that sort of a phenomenon across gaming.
It's pulled so many people into something that really didn't seem like it was going to be that big at first.
And now you've just taken a big fat dookie on it."

"In regards to people's perception of it.
Like, the reviews are still sitting at mixed overall.
Even though there's been, a lot of people have changed their sort of mind now that Sony has done the U-turn.
But it's like, why would you do that?
Why would you?
Because you don't know about PC."

"So this is the big question though, isn't it?
Yeah.
So this is the big question with it though.
It's not necessarily what has happened here."

"Because this has all happened now, right?
Yeah, it's all been done.
It's all happened.
The PSN network thing was incorporated."

"Everyone hated it.
Shared their opinions on it.
Games saw massive backlash.
They've sort of said, we're not doing it.
But there's still sort of, the effects of it in regards to the game is still not accessible in certain regions where PSN isn't available."

"And that stuff.
And also, people who have refunded it, what are they going to do?
Are they going to refund it?
But the point is, can Helldivers 2 recover from this?
Because this is one of those situations where I would assume that the players are still going to be sort of quite happy with the developers."

"They still enjoy Helldivers 2 and they don't hate Arrowhead for it.
But this sort of situation puts a huge amount of mistrust between the players and Sony.
Because Sony are like the big bad evil corporation in this situation.
So, can Helldivers 2 recover from this?
Or is this game permanently going to have this sort of little asterisk put next to it?
Like, yeah, it's a great game."

"I don't think so.
But be careful.
Yes, it can recover.
Definitely.
I think this also acts as a very interesting marketing campaign for the game, actually."

"I don't think it's going to be a backlash in the long term.
I think many people who didn't really know about the game so far actually got to know about it.
And I think the community feels like this was a triumph by them and for them.
So, they are going to keep playing."

"And as you say, it's not about the studio, which by the way, the CEO of the studio really knew how to handle this compared to Sony XX.
So, I think he was active, he was live, he was reactive in a good way, he was making the right jokes.
And I think all this is good for the game.
And community feels like it's good for them as well."

"And even evil Sony can actually sort of see the advantage to all that happened.
That at the same time, as Alex said, was a little bit extreme.
And I think it was just a wave.
And many actual current players will see it as a wave or something that really doesn't impact the day-to-day life of this game."

"I think it's going to be there for the Game Awards, as you say.
And by the way, don't forget it takes two.
I know it's not a proper multiplayer game, but it was multiplayer.
It was co-op."

"It is funny though, because in many ways, the two months, three months or whatever it's been for Helldivers 2 since it's come out, has been sort of like a simulation and a preparation for the players for this situation.
They've been fighting across the galaxy for democracy for months now.
And now all of a sudden it's like, do it for real."

"We need your help here to fight for democracy.
Take down this evil executive overlord.
So, it's a really baffling situation.
But it also begs the question really as to how PlayStation and how Sony will approach their future PC exclusives and stuff like that."

"Not PC exclusives, but PC launches.
The big high profile one coming up is Ghost of Tsushima.
Because it's the Legends version that's coming to PC, of course, with the multiplayer element to it.
Now, I think Sony have already said that there's going to be PSN access or PSN requirement for it."

"So, you know, that's going to be there in the first place.
So, do we expect this sort of situation to have an impact on how well Ghost of Tsushima does on PC or do you think it will be fine?
No, I think this will only happen again if we get another Helldivers 2 situation of Sony launching something that doesn't really feel like it's...
Helldivers 2 doesn't feel tied to Sony in the way that something like Ghost of Tsushima does."

"Those story games, those really visually pleasing games that focus on story and are very cinematic are always in Sony's ballpark.
Whereas Helldivers 2 feels like a product made by someone else that Sony has pushed and published.
So, I think that's why people have clung on to it so much and they've really fought back.
Because it doesn't feel like..."

"With Ghost of Tsushima, you can still play the single player, by the way, without the PSN.
It's just the multiplayer that you need PSN for.
So, I'm not sure about the sales on that.
We'll see, I guess."

"I think a lot of people will want to play it.
Maybe around, like, Spider-Man numbers.
Not, like, God of War, I don't think.
But, going back to the Helldivers point, I think Helldivers is a really unique game in many, many ways."

"In that, as you say, it asks people to work together on something.
Made a really united community in the space of three months.
And Sony decided to go, what if we went after this community?
And proved to be the biggest shot in the foot we've seen in a very, very long time."

"In a very, very long time.
But the thing is that a Helldivers 2 player isn't necessarily a Sony fanboy.
Whereas a lot of people that maybe go after, like, we'll pick up whatever Sony releases as its next narrative, super high graphics, super high cinematic game.
We'll just go for it because it's that next Sony exclusive."

"Whereas Helldivers just feels like its own beast in a way that we might not see again for a little while, at least.
Totally. And Ghost of Tsushima is all about, also, the hype for the sequel as well.
So I think, as you said, it's going to be a narrative game, narratively.
It's focused on the narrative."

"And multiplayer is interesting.
But it's not going to build such a, understand what I'm saying, such a noisy community around it.
Because it's not about that experience at all.
And then people will be hyped about the new game."

"And it's going to be interesting to see if that game is going to release at the same time on PC.
Because given the timing, I think that could happen for the very first time for a cinematic experience for Sony.
But coming back to your point, Ben, I think there are some lessons learned from these by Sony.
But at the same time, I think they're not used to speaking to the community in the way, for example, Xbox are."

"They really are into this sort of back and forth with the community.
And they were there before in terms of live service games, Xbox Live, communities, multiplayer first, etc.
And I think this time around, for those two reasons, it not being a proper first party pitch, like something that they produced themselves, they couldn't control the communication as much."

"And also their, I won't say inability, but their not being used to doing this before.
I think they will learn some lessons, perhaps make some moves in terms of people in charge of PR and community management, etc.
But we'll see. As Alex said, when are we going to witness something similar?
When are we going to get a game that is community based for PS5 and then for PC?
I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon."

"Less so in this year of uncertainty and backpedaling on big projects.
So probably a year or more into the future.
It is fascinating, though, that Sony couldn't have picked a worse community to take on.
Out of all the communities in gaming that could possibly have started a fight against, Helldivers is not the one for it."

"This is the one game that you don't want to be doing this sort of thing to because you've been preparing them for it.
So it is a truly ironic and sort of hilarious situation in many ways.
But at the same time, you can't help but sort of deny that it is a little bit of an overreaction in ways as well.
I think for the people who are losing access to the game in general with PSN not being available in certain regions and stuff like that, that is completely out of the question wrong."

"Sony need to be looking at themselves as to how they handle that in multiple different ways.
But for the regions where PSN is available, it's a sign up.
It happens with loads of different games. It's something we see countless different times.
So it's not exactly a hugely monumental situation."

"Maybe they could have attacked it in a different way.
Maybe it's not a mandatory thing, but if you want to sign up for PSN, we'll give you a free cosmetic or something like that.
Something small like that to encourage players.
But yeah, the way that they've done this is baffling really."

"Yeah, but I mean, I think it was last gaming gossip episode, we talked about how it is necessary, talking about the PC Master Race, it is necessary for you to log in onto some of the live services by publishers to play their games on PC.
For example, the other day I was testing this new gaming laptop with Avatar New Frontiers by Ubisoft.
And you download the game on the Epic Store, and if you want to play it, you need to sign in with your Ubisoft account."

"So it's nothing really new.
And on PC, again, check out our previous episode on the PC Master Race, and Alex is going to be mad about this.
But you really need to do that.
Actually, on consoles as well, but you have the physical platform and not different digital platforms such as Steam and Epic Games, etc."

"So it happened already, so all the fuss is about, as you say, coming on PlayStation and then on PC and then doing it wrong.
But people are used to doing that also, so I don't think it's that much.
Can I surprise you, Dav?
Yes, please."

"I agree with you. I wholeheartedly agree with you.
No way.
I wholeheartedly agree with you.
I have been made redundant. I no longer need to be here in this show."

"No, I agree with both of you.
What I think happened was, is most people were like, I don't want to have to sign to PSN, and they make this excuse like, oh, Sony gets hacked all the time.
Dude, I gave the Taco Bell app my address the other day, and I don't even know why it wanted it."

"But everything knows where you live, where you do what you're doing.
Your data is always being breached.
There's been multiple Supreme Court trials in the US over Facebook doing exactly that.
And guess what? All Senate hearings, not Supreme Court trials, Senate hearings of Facebook saying, yeah, we take your data."

"And then they turn around and they go, TikTok, why are you giving people's data to China?
So your data is gone. You are not safe anymore.
Sorry, that's life.
That's a wider point. That is the thing."

"And yeah, you don't want big data breaches where you could lose bank accounts and stuff like that.
No, no, no.
People's personal info. You don't want that at all.
But else it's there, as you say."

"Either you pay or you give me your data, and nobody's paying.
And so as well, the Xbox and the Blizzard and Ubisoft and Epic Games and even Steam all require you to be signed in.
Steam is something that you have to be signed into.
You have to have your Steam account with stuff."

"It's not like it used to be where you used to have your disk.
Even then, Games for Windows Live, who remembers that, used to have to have a sign in for that.
So the ability of an account thing, that is just people being silly.
And I think what happened was they found out about the PSN not being available everywhere from some poor Lithuanian who was like, I can't play this anymore."

"And that's when it sort of gains this big traction of, okay, we're actually justified.
So we'll jump on that as our main point and then quieten down about how we don't really want to sign in.
Because I think if it was a thing of, as you say, Ben, like, oh, if you sign into PSN, you get a cool cape.
People would bully the hell out of people with that cape anyway."

"It's going to be that cape with the stats, with the negative reviews.
That cape was a thing.
That cape was a thing.
That was very smart by the CEO."

"And so they could have done something like that and then sort of worked it in.
But if it had just been like, PSN is optional, it gives you a bonus.
Or PSN is around the world and people are still having this outcry, I don't think it would have gone nearly as far.
Because it doesn't, it's not that big of a deal."

"You have to sign into so much stuff already.
The only reason that this has been successful is because it did prevent people, which, as we've said, is completely unjustified.
You can't make someone pay for a game or get someone to buy a game and then take it away from them two months later.
Even if you're giving them the refund, it just doesn't feel, it's a scary example as well of how, I think Jonas did an article about this, about digital versus physical games."

"And how nowadays we really aren't owning our games as much as we used to.
We really don't have that control of, yeah, I have the disc.
If I have the disc, I have the game.
If you've got them downloaded and suddenly the public decides, hey, I'm not working on that."

"An old example I have is a game called Nosgoth.
I don't know if anyone's ever heard of Nosgoth.
It was a 4v4 left for dead thing, but with vampires versus vampire hunters.
It was really good."

"One day the developer who got loads of money on Kickstarter said, you know what, you guys are complaining too much about patch notes.
I don't care anymore.
Shut the whole game down.
Can't download it anymore."

"Can't play it anymore.
Nothing to do.
So that can just happen.
That can just happen nowadays.
And it's really weird."

"And I think this Helldivers thing has been the only thing that's going to stay in people's minds is, oh, that can happen again.
Do you think that can...
By the way, I'm so glad to...
We agree to agree, right?
But do you think that can be regulated in any way?
The example you just gave, you know, laws and administrations can really look into that."

"Because what we are buying are basically contracts to play digital things.
Some of them are services, some of them are full games for a while.
But then nobody reads the smaller text.
It's a very difficult thing to say because while you can, like, point fingers at the film industry and say, like, they've clearly got it handled."

"Like, yeah, you know, no one's making VHSs these days.
But if you have a VHS recorder, you can still watch tapes.
There's still, like, a clear thing you can do.
The problem with games is that they break."

"Updates.
And, yeah, if they break and they don't get fixed, it doesn't matter whether you still have access to the game if it doesn't work.
Yeah.
Like, a high profile one at the moment is Call of Duty Modern Warfare, like, the 2019 one, which is, like, riddled with issues and bugs right now because Activision have no interest in fixing it."

"Because they've got other Call of Duties out there.
But there's various other older games that don't get updated.
Like, for example, right, take, like, a Bethesda game.
Like, what kind of state would some of these Bethesda RPGs be in if they didn't have that mod support and people in this really passionate community constantly improving them and updating them?
Like, you know, or, in fact, with Bethesda, like, re-releasing these games."

"Like, it's easy to say, you know, some of these older games aren't available on current platforms now.
But it could have been Skyrim.
Like, people could still not have the opportunity to play Skyrim today if it wasn't for things like Batcompat and the various different editions of the game.
Not to mention mods."

"Yeah.
And mods, yeah.
So, it's a very difficult thing to say.
Plus, as well, you know, then you bring into the equation the different sort of legal systems of various countries."

"Totally.
Like, I think that for, you know, for the sort of first world countries like, well, like, UK, Spain, America, those sort of places.
Like, it's probably a topic of conversation that would be heard and potentially discussed.
But for smaller countries, I wouldn't be surprised if it's never even… And even there, it would be very different between the US and the EU and the UK."

"Yeah.
You just mentioned three regions which would have differences, let's say, let's put it like that way.
So, it's a very interesting conversation, really, that it leads to.
And then, as well, I mean, with Helldivers in particular, then you've got the extra thing to put on top of that cake, really, which is the always online requirement."

"Like, what does it matter if you can't find a copy of Helldivers 2?
If you did find one and you boot up the game, it has no service, so you can't play it anyway.
So, it's a lot of moving parts with the sort of game preservation side of things.
And I don't think it's necessarily a conversation that is one that we're going to see answered anytime soon, which is a baffling thing to say, really."

"Emulation is clearly one of the best ways forward, but emulation in some cases is not always legal.
So, it's a baffling situation, one that hopefully Helldivers will open the door to a bit more because we don't see it talked about enough, I'd say.
But I don't know.
So, as a final question, then, as a final sort of thing to round this out."

"Alex, you're our Helldivers rep, expert, in many ways.
And Rafa behind the camera here, as well, I think.
And Rafa. Rafa's a big Helldivers rep.
Pro Helldivers guy."

"What's next for Helldivers? Where does Arrowhead go from this?
The polar war bond, baby.
There is a new war bond this week. I don't have enough super credits to buy it.
The call to... I've never put my wallet in Helldivers for the super credits."

"But what's next is they probably keep going as normal, I would say.
I think Arrowhead doesn't need to apologize for anything, and I think a lot of people understand that.
Because at the end of the day, they were told to do something by Sony.
They can't exactly... Their hands are tied."

"And all they could do was this sort of small resistance of the community manager saying, Hey, maybe do leave a bad review if you can.
Because it will at least let Sony know that you're not going to stand for this.
Because if the devs come at Sony and say, Well, the players won't stand for this."

"Sony will go, Well, the players will do whatever.
They're just drones. They're just going to get on with whatever we tell them.
You need to see the player base push back for that sort of thing.
So I think most people... There are the bad faith people who just have harassed the developers throughout this."

"So I think hopefully the developers take a little bit of a break.
I don't know what comes next.
I think there's... As I say, just continue as normal.
Because they're always planning new content for Helldivers."

"That's what makes it so fun to play and fun to watch.
There's always something going on.
And there's always some sort of little bit of the war.
The storytelling in it is really clever."

"There's just one guy who's like, Yeah, there's more bots here today.
So, sorry, you're going to have to risk your life and learn once more.
The time that we thought everyone was dead.
They're back again with a vengeance."

"So yeah, continue as normal.
I don't think they need to do anything that's like, Oh, I'm really sorry, guys.
We're really, really sorry.
Here's 10 million super credits for all of you."

"I don't think they need to do that.
It'd be nice if they did.
Because, you know, new war bond.
But otherwise, business as usual, I guess."

"And that's the best thing we can really say.
We'll be back with our extra special 15th episode.
But there's not really anything special about the number 15.
So we'll be back with our 15th episode of Gaming Gossip next week."

"It might, spoiler alert, it might be about backlogs.
We were going to talk about backlogs today.
But we pushed it back.
We backlogged the backlog episode."

"It's all about that.
Procrastinating the whole thing.
We will never do the backlog episode.
We'll tell you.
Every episode, we'll tell you the next one is going to be the backlog episode."

"We're teasing it.
We need to tease it like the announcement of the announcement.
It will come within this fiscal year.
We can promise that."

"We can tell our investors that the Gaming Gossip episode about backlogs will be announced this fiscal year.
We don't know if we're going to film it.
We don't know when it's going to happen."

"But it's going to be announced with no specific date within this fiscal year, before April 2025.
So stay tuned for it.
That's the best thing you can say to me."

"This has been Gaming Gossip episode 14.
Alex, Dav, as always, a pleasure.
We'll see you all on the next one.
Take care, everyone."

"Bye-bye."

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