An indie developer that revoked thousands of Steam keys by accident has seen the average player count of its game rocket from just one, to an all-time peak of 172,870 in the process.
When multiplayer space shooter Evolvation released in Februrary 2017, it failed to find an audience and, in an effort to kickstart the stagnant community, Amsterdam-based developer HyperReuts gave away 10,000 free Steam keys.
However, many of these keys were then sold through grey market channels, and so the developer opted to revoke them, reportedly removing access for many legitimate owners by accident in the process.
In response, users flocked to Steam and review bombed the the game, leaving it with a "very negative" rating on recent reviews.
According to a post on the Evolvation Steam page (via Eurogamer), HyperReuts petitioned Valve to undo the key ban, claiming it was an "honest mistake" but was denied three times "without explanation".
"I am just an indie [who] is trying hard," said developer Eric Ruts. "In the meantime my company is getting ruined by negative reviews, hateful comments, and bad publicity by pressing (non intentionally) on a single button."
Ultimately Valve's response was to make the game temporarily free which quickly led to the number of players rocketing beyond what HyperRuets was able to handle, overloading its servers and leaving thousands of people unable to log in.
HyperRuets is now in the process of upgrading its servers to deal with the new influx which, despite falling off dramatically, still sits at a 24-hour peak of nearly 55,000 concurrent users.
This presents a new problem for the developer though, as there is currently no in-game monetisation options, and Evolvation reportedly generated only $100 since launch.