Valve Changes the Review Game on Steam


Valve Changes the Review Game on Steam

Reviews are a game changer, no matter what business you’re in. You only have to look on Amazon and see the plethora of disclaimers, “I was provided a sample at a discount in exchange for this review.” It can make it difficult to determine which reviews are honestly raving about a product and which are only saying good things because of the free sample. While Amazon has long made a practice of cracking down on paid reviews (where actual currency changes hands instead of product) and wipes reviewer accounts if they suspect duplicity, other websites have remained open for the review game.

Now, in an attempt to crack down on fake reviews, Steam has changed how their reviews work. As a way of fighting artificial inflation of a game’s score on Steam, Valve will only count games that have been purchased on Steam toward a game’s score. This means that a game’s score will no longer take into account purchasers who have gotten a key from other sources, such as Humble Bundle, Kickstarter, or discount gaming sites.

image courtesy of Valve Inc.

The default view for reviews will now show Steam customers who speak the user’s language. Users will be able to apply a filter to see reviews by purchase source, language, and the positivity or negativity of a review.

Valve explained the reasoning behind this move in a recent news post. “…the review score has also become a point of fixation for many developers, to the point where some developers are willing to employ deceptive tactics to generate a more positive review score.” Steam keys are able to be generated by developers and sold through other venues or given away as part of a promotion. This won’t change, but these outside keys will no longer count toward a game’s score.” (Read the entire post here)

Steam estimates that there will be about 160 titles adversely impacted by this move, which considering the 11,037 titles currently available, only represents about 1.4% of the library. While Valve cites many cases of abuse as being clear with duplicated reviews and artificially generated reviews that are linked to the developer, other instances of score manipulation aren’t so easily detected.

Response from developers has been mixed. The most affected are the smaller companies who rely on word of mouth and direct sales to increase visibility. Some applaud the change, saying that they will no longer have to fend off groups who contact them relentlessly to offer reviews in exchange for free keys. Others aren’t so sure.

Alexis Kennedy, a former creative director for Failbetter and writer for Paradox Games Stellaris offered a more reasoned approach.

Of course, there are some who point to a direct correlation between this change and the percentage that Valve makes from titles sold on the Steam platform versus keys sold elsewhere. Developers had alternative options to sell their game that gave them a greater percentage of the revenue. Now, in order to boost their score, they have to point to Steam, essentially paying for a score that way. This is a very cynical viewpoint, of course.  But, while Steam holds a controlling percentage of the online market, there are plenty of contenders waiting in the wings.

What do you think about the recent change? Will you re-sort your reviews to look at what everyone thinks or will you stick with the default views? Is this a power play by Valve to take sales away from discount gaming sites like GreenManGaming? Let us know in the comments below.

About The Author
Jason Reynolds
Jason Reynolds has spent his entire life immersed in some form of technology or another.  It started with a simple Non-Turing test compliant AI that he programmed using BASIC when he was fourteen, and has led to pursuing a BS in Computer Science with a focus on mobile security algorithms.  In his spare time, he is a stereotypical nerd, playing video games and trying to teach his two toddler daughters to type out his code so he doesn’t have to do what he considers, “the boring part.”