Much like Rotten Tomatoes has had to deal with, whenever a game is on the verge or debuting or crosses fans, people come in droves to Steam to kill the rating. Often this is done by people who don’t own the game and post in the “Off-Topic” review section. Up until now, those reviews were counted toward the review game score on their site, but after a number of incidents and just escalating issues with the community, it appears Steam has had enough and has changed their policy. In a new post, the company announced that moving forward, Off-Topic reviews will no longer count toward the game’s review score if it’s determined that it’s part of a review bomb. The company will identify when a game is being attacked and essentially remove reviews that are targeting a game on Steam with a specific agenda behind it.
Will it fix what’s been happening on the platform when a company screws something up? Who knows. If it were us, we’d say you could only review a game if you actually OWNED the thing on Steam, but that’s just us being practical.
Some time ago we made some changes to how we presented the User Reviews for games, and their resulting Review Score. We talked about those changes in this blog post. As we describe in that post, we want to ensure that players who’ve played a game can voice their opinions about why other people should or shouldn’t buy the game, and that our summary of those opinions into a single Review Score should represent the likelihood that a future purchaser will be happy with their purchase.
Since that post, we’ve continued to listen to feedback from both players and developers. It’s clear to us that players value reviews highly, and want us to ensure they’re accurate and trustworthy. Developers understand that they’re valuable to players, but want to feel like they’re being treated fairly. We’ve also spent a bunch of time building analysis tools to help us better understand what’s happening in the reviews across all titles on Steam. With that feedback and data in hand, we think we’re ready to make another change.
That change can be described easily: we’re going to identify off-topic review bombs, and remove them from the Review Score.
But while easy to say, it raises a bunch of questions, so let’s dig into the details. First, what do we mean by an off-topic review bomb? As we defined back in our original post, a review bomb is where players post a large number of reviews in a short period of time, aimed at lowering the Review Score of a game. We define an off-topic review bomb as one where the focus of those reviews is on a topic that we consider unrelated to the likelihood that future purchasers will be happy if they buy the game, and hence not something that should be added to the Review Score.
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