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Helldivers 2 Community At War Over Controversial PSN Requirement

Helldivers 2 is a game about endless war and now its fanbase finds itself in a similar situation as a civil war rages on between players following a change to how the super-popular online shooter will operate on PC.

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On May 3, it was announced that Helldivers 2 players on PC will need to eventually create a free PlayStation Network account to keep playing the game on Steam. While the Steam page for the game has always said that a PSN account was needed to play, Sony and Arrowhead had turned off this requirement due to server issues and players being unable to link their accounts. But now that the dust has settled and things are stable (for the most part), the PSN requirement is about to be enforced. On May 6, new players will have to have a PSN account to play. Meanwhile, existing players will have until June 4.

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This account-linking announcement has set off a civil war within the large Helldivers community, with some suggesting it’s no big deal and others claiming this will kill the popular sci-fi co-op shooter on PC entirely. The war has spread across Reddit, Discord, Twitter, and anywhere else fans of Helldivers 2 gather online. It’s arguably the first time the community has been divided like this and the first real negative event the popular shooter has faced since launching earlier this year.

The two sides in the Helldivers 2 civil war

Generally speaking, looking online, there are two sides to the war. One group made up mostly of PlayStation players argue that this requirement, while a bit annoying, isn’t a big deal. They say that many games require a third-party account, the Steam page has always listed a PSN account requirement, and getting a PlayStation account is fast, easy, and free.

The other side, mainly made up of PC-only or primarily-PC players, says this requirement is bullshit. They point out that, sure, the store always mentioned the account would be required, but that Sony has not enforced this for months, which they claim suggests it’s not needed at all for the game to function and for folks on PC and PSN to enjoy playing together. Some don’t trust Sony with their information, either. And others point out a bigger problem: PSN is not available, legally, in all countries. So PC players in some parts of the world might be screwed once Helldivers 2 forces you to have a PSN account to play.

On that last point, Arrowhead Games mentioned in the Helldivers 2 Discord that the decision to force players to have a PSN account came from Sony and that it doesn’t yet have all the details about region-related issues and is looking into it. (Seems like something you’d want to have figured out months ago…)

The two sides are split not just on the PSN account issue, but via old platform divisions, too. There is very much a proxy war happening beneath the surface between old PlayStation loyalists and angry PC players who aren’t a fan of consoles or their audience. I’ve spotted numerous posts on the game’s Discord server of PSN players joking about how this is why they hate playing with PC players, and Steam users suggesting they will kill PlayStation players during missions now.

The ruins of war

As you might expect, this war and the fallout from it have spread beyond just angry messages and threads on Twitter. On Steam, Helldivers 2 now has a “Mixed” review status, something that just a few days ago would have seemed impossible.

This is a game that was killing it, a rare example of a live-service title done right, and a game that had a community that loved it so much they often roleplayed online when replying to official posts and messages. The playerbase, with a few odd exceptions, was united against the bots and the bugs. They fought side by side against threats big and small. They worked together to protect democracy. Now they fight each other. It’s the first time the community has truly splintered like this and I wonder when or if it will ever fully recover.

Now, Helldivers 2 is receiving numerous negative reviews on Steam, many of which call for a boycott of the game and suggest folks ask Valve for a refund. Around 12 hours after the news broke, the game had already received over 10k new negative reviews on Steam. 

Over in the Helldivers Discord server, the situation has become a nightmare. Many players who aren’t involved in the online shouting are unable to enjoy chatting with fellow players because of all the spam, toxic messages, and rants. The game’s community managers are jumping around from channel to channel, trying to keep the war from infecting every part of the server as angry players spread into the OffTopic channel to vent about Sony, PSN accounts, PC players, and the future of the game.

I do especially feel bad for the community managers as it seems this announcement wasn’t run by them, and Sony—the company that ultimately owns the IP—hasn’t provided Arrowhead or its team with any more details. Yet, it’s these poor souls who are spending hours and hours in the Discord, answering questions while angry players lob insults and complaints their way.

“Until [Sony] offers us a more detailed response, we’ll reply to the best of our ability with the limited info we have. Should there have been a FAQ? Yes,” posted community manager Twinbeard. In a different post, Twinbeard also admitted that this whole situation “could have been handled better.”

On Twitter, hours after the civil war had started and players had begun revolting, the CEO of Arrowhead games—Johan Pilestedt—responded to the influx of negative reviews on Steam: “Ouch, right in the review score.” He then offered a frank, honest, refreshingly transparent message to fans on both sides of the war.

“Well, I guess it’s warranted,” Pilestedt tweeted. “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. I just want to make great games!“

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