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Helldivers 2 screenshot

The Helldivers 2 PSN account controversy: Why were players so upset?

It’s been one hell of a weekend for Helldivers 2. On Friday 3rd May, Sony announced that, from the end of the month, all players would require a PSN account to play. It’s a requirement that was supposed to be enforced from the game’s launch, but due to “technical issues”, players have had a three-month grace period. Well, it’s a decision that did not go down well.

In the three days since the announcement went live, Helldivers 2 has been bombed with negative reviews. Previously very well received, it now has a “mostly negative” rating from its recent reviews. Players have been very vocal in making their grievances known on all corners of the internet and today, Monday 6th May, Sony has published a statement on Twitter/X, saying that it has backtracked on its decision to make PSN accounts mandatory.

So: everything is now back to exactly how it was, technically speaking — but how, exactly, did one simple change to how players log in to Helldivers 2 cause so much of a stir? Well, there’s a number of reasons.

Why didn’t Helldivers 2 players want to create a PSN account?

Needing a PSN account to log in to Helldivers 2 is something that was laid out from the start. It’s been an option on the game since it launched in February but it hasn’t been enforced. Some players are simply upset because they do not want to give their information up to yet another company. It’s fair: living in a digital age, we have to hand over our details to so many things. And if you’re a PC gamer who doesn’t own a PlayStation console, why should you have to have a dedicated PlayStation account just to play one game?

You could argue “it’s just one more account”. We already have Rockstar accounts, 2K accounts, Epic Games accounts: what does one more hurt? And indeed. But if you’re the type of person who cares about your digital footprint and wants to minimise the amount of companies who have access to your information, “just one more account” can be one too many.

But the most egregious part of this is the fact that PSN accounts are not available in a huge amount of countries. As per a post from SteamDB on Twitter/X, following Sony’s announcement Helldivers 2 was pulled from sale in 177 countries, allegedly where PSN accounts are unavailable.

The issue here is, if Helldivers 2 was supposed to launch with a PSN account requirement, shouldn’t the game have been blocked in these countries to begin with? It’s unfair to allow players in these countries to buy a game that they’ll eventually be no longer able to play, if they’re unable to legally sign up to PSN. At the same time, why on Earth would you want to block so many players from such a huge swathe of countries?

Even Helldivers 2’s developer wasn’t fully on board

Helldivers 2 isn’t a Sony first party game despite being console exclusive to PS5. Its developer, Arrowhead Game Studios, has had little say on this decision as it’s Sony requiring players to use a Sony account. Within the Helldivers 2 official Discord, however, the company’s Associate Community Manager has been making their voice known. Acting under the username Spitz, the community manager has shown their support for players leaving negative reviews and requesting refunds for the game.

“Players making their displeasure known through reviews, refunds etc. gives us more pull in the discussions with Sony. They don’t read our Discord,” Spitz says. “It hurts to see the game’s popularity suffer in ratings, but discussions are ongoing and our team is on the side of the players in this fight.”

Helldivers 2 Discord - a message from community manager Spitz
A message from Helldivers 2’s community manager in the official Discord channel. Screenshot: GameSpew

What should have Sony done differently?

Sony’s reasoning for Helldivers 2 players needing a PSN account is for “safety and security”. The original announcement on Steam reads:

“Account linking plays a critical role in protecting our players and upholding the values of safety and security provided on PlayStation and PlayStation Studios games. This is our main way to protect players from griefing and abuse by enabling the banning of players that engage in that type of behaviour. It also allows those players that have been banned the right to appeal.”

But if it is so critical for safety and security, then perhaps Helldivers 2 should never have launched without mandatory PSN linking in place. As it stands, the game has survived its most busy period. At launch, it had consistently over 400,000 concurrent players, sitting in Steam’s top five most played games. While Helldivers 2 remains very popular, after three months its playerbase has naturally shrunk, and so one could argue that such safety and security isn’t as necessary as it was back in February and March.

If PSN linking had been made mandatory since launch, this would never have been an issue. Granted, Helldivers 2 might not have reached the same massive playerbase, but every player would have known what was required from the start. Alternatively, Sony could have offered some sort of incentive to signing up to PSN: free cosmetics, or other in-game bonuses for those who linked their account.

Ultimately, Sony has done the right thing in rescinding its requirement. It’s perhaps come a little too late — and who knows if the damage done to Helldivers 2’s Steam reviews will ever recover. According to Sony, they’re “still learning what is best for PC players and your feedback has been invaluable”. It may make them think twice before enforcing PSN on another PC game, or maybe it won’t — but at least the Helldivers 2 community has got what they wanted after a long, long weekend.

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