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Yesterday reddit and a network of bots boosted the playerbase of my game by over 9000%. As a result Geneshift now holds the record for the 10th highest played game on Steam… of all time.

Gamingtodaynews1f - Yesterday reddit and a network of bots boosted the playerbase of my game by over 9000%. As a result Geneshift now holds the record for the 10th highest played game on Steam... of all time.
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This is the story of how my tiny indie game became the 10th highest played game on Steam of all time. Check it out:

https://i.imgur.com/exP5MLG.jpg

Free to Keep Giveaway

Hi reddit, my name is Ben. I am the sole developer of a tiny GTA2-inspired shooter called Geneshift. I recently created a new Battle Royale mode for my game; and to promote it I decided to do a giveaway on Steam. It wasn't easy to get Valve to approve it, as it's so unknown. But with a lot of convincing they eventually relented and my giveaway was good to go.

Front Page of Reddit

Once Valve enabled the giveaway I made a post on /r/gaming with this ridiculous gif (that took about 3 hours to film):

https://i.imgur.com/Er9tj9z.gifv

It hit the front page in a few hours and of course I was delighted. Not only for the exposure, but because redditors are the very reason I made a Battle Royale in the first place. A few months earlier I posted a silly joke about a Battle Royale where each round lasts only 2 minutes, and reddit was so supportive that I actually made it! So I wanted as many redditors playing for free as possible.

Attack of the Clones

But it wasn't just redditors "playing" my game. Apparently because Geneshift normally costs $10, it was still possible for people to farm trading cards on the game. This normally isn't possible on free to play games. As a result of the giveaway and I assume the publicity on reddit, Geneshift caught the attention of some bot network.

These bots are designed to idle in games and farm thousands of trading cards across multiple accounts. By farming cards they could sell them for a few cents for pure profit each. Scale this up into the thousands and I assume someone made quite a bit of money doing this.

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Valve Disables Trading Cards

Read:  If You Could Design Any Game You Wanted, What Would It Be Like?

At some point during the giveaway someone at Valve must have noticed what was going on. Their solution was to manually disable trading cards on my game. They also did this to Sins of a Solar Empire who was running a giveaway at the same time. I assume this was an attempt to stop the bots, and it worked, because afterwards my player count plummeted. But not before my game set the record for the 10th most played game of all time!

Review Bombing

Unfortunately disabling trading cards also affected all the real players as well. As soon as this happened I noticed a sudden spike in negative reviews on my game. Some players were confused why they had lost their cards (understandably), and assumed it was my doing.

This was upsetting to me as I had nothing to do with this change. I also wanted the cards to remain. I tried my best to explain the situation, but most of the negative reviews still remain. Fortunately most people enjoyed the game and the positive reviews balanced things out. But it sucks to see the score drop for something out of my control.

Still, I can't complain. It's been a wild ride! And it blows my mind that my random indie game now holds the record for the 10th most "played" Steam game of all time.

TL;DR

I did a free to keep giveaway on Steam and hit the front-page of reddit. This triggered some insane bot network to simulate thousands of "players". These bots idled in the game purely to farm trading cards. Valve noticed and disabled cards on my game, resulting in some portion of my new playerbase review-bombing my game.

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