An Arrowhead community manager was fired after all for encouraging Helldivers 2 review bombing and refunds (updated)

 A Steam chart showing a recent spike in negative reviews due to Sony's insistence on players linking a PSN account.
A Steam chart showing a recent spike in negative reviews due to Sony's insistence on players linking a PSN account.

Update (May 7): Speaking to players in the Helldivers 2 Discord server, the community manager in question has now implied that their employment with Arrowhead has in fact ended, saying that "every war comes with casualties." Responding to the question of whether the split was voluntary, they said, "It was not." Original story follows below.

Original story: The Helldivers 2 community can finally beat its swords into plowshares following Sony's capitulation on a controversial PlayStation Network sign in requirement, but somebody almost lost their job over the debacle.

No, I'm not talking about whoever at Sony could have seen this coming and headed off the unnecessary crisis, I'm talking about one of Helldivers 2's outspoken community managers, Spitz, who perhaps got a little too candid on the record when talking to the game's rioting player base.

Helldivers 2 community manager Spitz revealing that they were almost fired for encouraging disgruntled players to leave a poor review.
Helldivers 2 community manager Spitz revealing that they were almost fired for encouraging disgruntled players to leave a poor review.

The community manager stopped actively posting in the Helldivers 2 Discord after Saturday, the day after the controversy began, at which point we noticed that they were no longer in the server. Early this morning, Spitz returned to the server, responding to concerns that they may have been fired by saying "Almost, not quite."

Spitz elaborated that "Turns out that telling people to review-bomb and refund a game isn't a popular decision with the publisher. But I'm still here and I'm glad that we all made a difference."

During the height of the Helldivers 2 PSN fiasco over the weekend, the community manager told angry members of the Discord server that negative Steam reviews would be a more effective way of moving the needle with Sony, and that developers at Arrowhead were not happy with how the situation played out either.

"Players making their displeasure known through reviews, refunds etc. gives us more pull in the discussion with Sony," Spitz wrote on Saturday. "It hurts to see the game's popularity suffer in ratings, but discussions are ongoing and we are on the side of players in this fight."

And I don't think you could reasonably argue that Spitz was wrong here⁠—fan outrage did cause Sony to reverse its decision, and the plummeting of Helldivers 2's rating on Steam served as a stark, undeniable way of communicating that displeasure. I've got my fingers crossed that Arrowhead CEO Johan Pilestedt commits to the bit on his idle observation that the plummeting review score graph would actually make a nice commemorative in-game cape.

You can observe the outlines of a culture clash here between quirky, independent Arrowhead and the more buttoned-up operations of one of the biggest corporations on the planet⁠—indeed, Spitz came to this role from Helldivers' community, which goes a long way to explaining their candor on the server.

And crises like the one Helldivers 2 just went through are the greatest challenge someone in a public-facing role at a game studio might ever face. Back in 2016, we did a deep dive into what it's like to manage a gaming community on fire.