Two weeks ago, Digital Homicide co-founder James Romine filed a $18 million lawsuit against 100 anonymous Steam users. The defendants’ alleged misdeeds? Negatively reviewing the small-time studio’s cheaply-produced, poorly-received games.
Following the lawsuit filing, Valve delisted the self-published developer from its platform, removing every game Digital Homicide had uploaded to the Steam storefront. At the time, a Valve representative confirmed that the delisting was in direct response for the lawsuit, saying Valve would not do business with Digital Homicide “for being hostile to Steam customers.”
The whole ordeal seems to have gone quite badly for Digital Homicide in the time since then. On September 27th, James Romine filed a motion to dismiss his own lawsuit, and on the 30th the motion was approved, effectively nullifying the entire thing. An accompanying subpoena served to Valve for the real names of the 100 targeted Steam users was likewise dropped.
Speaking with TechRaptor, Romine says the company’s financial status following the delisting was the driving factor.
“The case dismissal was only due to financial reasons caused by the removal of our games. I believe the case was very solid,” says Romine. “As far as Digital Homicide? It’s destroyed. It’s been stomped into the ground from a thousand directions and use is discontinued. I’m going back into the work force and watching [sic] what’s really going on.”
Romine also responds to news coverage framing the suit as retaliatory or tantamount to censorship, arguing that the suit only went after users responsible for sustained abuse and harassment.
Insufficient harassment control mechanism’s is definitely the other problem. A review should be enough of a open area to discuss displeasure of actual customers. When I ban someone who isn’t even a customer that’s been harassing me for 18+ months after reporting them 3-12 times, for a false statement or harassing me or a customer — I don’t expect to have to listen to them insult me for 2-3 days afterwards in a direct communication line.
We weren’t some evil censoring dudes. If someone didn’t like the game they could leave a bad review and refund — no hard feelings here at all.
It should go without saying here, but harassment and abuse are never justified, no matter how crappy a game is. And it’s also clear that Digital Homicide and its employees endured some truly awful abuse, particularly through the Steam user group Digital Homicides, and that Steam’s tools for dealing with harassment are woefully lacking. However, it’s hard to imagine how “sue 100 anonymous Steam users and subpoena Valve for their personal information” is an appropriate response to the situation.
Despite its devastated business model, Digital Homicide’s other lawsuit against critic Jim Sterling is still ongoing.