Here’s how it went down in public: Terraria co-creator and Re-Logic CEO Andrew Spinks published a Twitter thread early Monday morning accusing Google of suddenly, unjustifiably suspending his studio’s YouTube, Gmail, Drive and Play accounts. He said he had been locked out of 15 years of resources for nearly a month, even though he had never violated Google’s rules, and the company was refusing to clarify the situation.
So, Spinks canceled the Google Stadia edition of Terraria, a beloved 2011 indie game with an audience of more than 30 million players. Re-Logic hadn’t even announced the Stadia version of Terraria yet, though rumors had recently hit the message boards and fans were getting excited about a new way to play.
Spinks tweeted, “I absolutely have not done anything to violate your terms of service, so I can take this no other way than you deciding to burn this bridge. Consider it burned. #Terraria for @GoogleStadia is canceled. My company will no longer support any of your platforms moving forward.”
I absolutely have not done anything to violate your terms of service, so I can take this no other way than you deciding to burn this bridge. Consider it burned. #Terraria for @GoogleStadia is canceled. My company will no longer support any of your platforms moving forward.— Andrew Spinks (@Demilogic) February 8, 2021
Now, here’s how it went down behind the scenes, as described to Engadget by a Re-Logic spokesperson: In mid-January, the parent account for Re-Logic’s Google services, Demilogic, received a notice from YouTube saying it was in violation of the site’s policies.
“This was quite a bit confusing to us,” the spokesperson said. Developers hadn’t uploaded anything to the Re-Logic YouTube channel in three months, and no one in their community had alerted them to new or offensive content on the account.
Google didn’t suspend the Re-Logic YouTube channel right away. Instead, its initial email read, “We know that you may not have realized this was a violation of our policies, so we are not applying a strike to your channel. We have removed the content.” It didn’t suggest any further action from the studio.
Three days later, the entire Demilogic Google account was disabled. This locked down the Re-Logic YouTube channel, as well as the studio’s access to Gmail, Google Play and Drive. Over the following weeks, Spinks attempted to resolve the issue with Google directly and in private, but repeatedly hit a wall.
“Owing to the early days of the company, when Mr. Spinks was the sole employee of the company, there are quite a few legacy connections to the Demilogic account that have been severed,” the spokesperson said. “This is inclusive of the Re-Logic YouTube account, many important documents stored on Drive, and much more. The impact is material in nature and this has been made clear to Google repeatedly.”
YouTube has confirmed to the studio that its channel is clean. It remains unclear what the initial violation was or if the Demilogic account will ever be reactivated.
Which brings us back to Spinks’ Twitter thread.
“My phone has lost access to thousands of dollars of apps on @GooglePlay,” Spinks tweeted. “I had just bought LOTR 4K and can't finish it. My @googledrive data is completely gone. I can't access my @YouTube channel. The worst of all is losing access to my @gmail address of over 15 years.”
Google did not respond to a request for comment from Engadget.
Re-Logic’s spokesperson said Spinks’ tweetstorm was a calculated move from a studio out of options.
“This is not a position that we take gladly or lightly,” they said. “Google has been a longtime partner, but the inability to resolve this for us, a supposedly valued partner, within a time nearly spanning a month is not acceptable.”
Baked into its Terms of Service, Google has broad authority to terminate accounts for anything it considers “misuse,” and it’s wielded this power with impunity for years. The company has a history of banning accounts and moving on, leaving users with little information and no recourse to dispute or address violations. Re-Logic is just the latest example of this behavior.
“We are aware of many other incidents in a similar vein with a repeating pattern of ‘ban out of the blue,’ with no information as to the reason and no recourse,” the studio spokesperson said. “This has happened to countless individuals as well as developers for Android and beyond. We hope that our situation serves as both a cautionary tale for others as well as a vehicle for shining a bright spotlight on this issue as a whole. Perhaps some meaningful change on the customer service front will take place within Google as a result. It is sorely needed.”
Terraria hit Android devices via the Play store in 2013, and it will remain there, despite the studio’s rocky relationship with Google at the moment. The studio spokesperson made it clear that Re-Logic will not work with Google on future projects, Terraria-related or otherwise.
“I will not be involved with a corporation that values their customers and partners so little,” Spinks said at the end of his Twitter thread. “Doing business with you is a liability.”
Stadia, for its part, is in the midst of a restructuring. Google shut down Stadia’s internal studios in early February and one of its star hires, former Assassin’s Creed producer Jade Raymond, left the company. After years of hollow promises and a growing list of dedicated cloud-gaming competitors, Stadia seems on the brink of collapse. Then again, it’s kind of always felt that way.