Valve has been tweaking Steam reviews for a while now, but their latest change is a big’un, and it’s garnered a lot of reactions – both positive and negative.
As of now, only reviews written by folk who picked up their game directly through Steam will appear – anyone who bought their game with a key (or somewhere else other than Steam) won’t count.
Valve explained (via Steam) that they made this change in an effort to combat fraudulent reviews and attempts at boosting the score of a game that might not be as good as all that.
An analysis of games across Steam shows that at least 160 titles have a substantially greater percentage of positive reviews by users that activated the product with a cd key, compared to customers that purchased the game directly on Steam.
Valve did acknowledge that some games have ‘strong audiences off Steam’, such as early adopters or Kickstarter backers, but that developers often abuse the system.
But in many cases, the abuse is clear and obvious, such as duplicated and/or generated reviews in large batches, or reviews from accounts linked to the developer. In those cases, we’ve now taken action by banning the false reviews and will be ending business relationships with developers that continue violating our rules.
According to Valve, the move will make about 14% of games move to a different review score category, such as ‘Mixed’ or ‘Positive’.
However, the changes have irked a number of indie developers, who rely on Kickstarter backers and crowdfunding campaigns – for these guys, the new rules mean a drastic reduction in the number of qualified reviews.
One such developer who spies an issue with the new system is Eldritch’s David Pittman, who made the point that the review system has an underlying flaw to begin with.
More often than not, the small number of customers who do leave a review, are more likely to write a review if they didn’t enjoy the game.
…"let's stop players abusing reviews" is disingenuous. Way more of the latter, in my experience. (2/2)
— David Pittman (@dphrygian) September 13, 2016
In a statement to Gamasutra, Valve said:
We are hearing lots of positive response to this update, and some criticisms. Like all updates we issue to our games and services, we will be monitoring the community reaction and incorporating that feedback into the next set of changes we make to improve the service for everyone.
Whether or not this will be a change for better or worse is something we’ll see soon enough. For its part, Valve will continue the monitor the situation in an attempt to make the review system fairer.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.