There was a time when Valve‘s digital distribution software, Steam, was beloved and lauded by some as the one true place for PC gamers to download the latest hits. But as the years have gone, Steam has gained a much more notorious reputation, having been accused of mismanagement and allowing practically anything be included, such as titles that spread hate-speech or are just generally offensive. This year, Valve has seemed to start trying to clean house and address the criticisms (earlier it banned nearly 180 games from Steam) and has most recently come up with a solution to deal with review bombing.
Review bombing, for those who don’t know, is where users will purposefully leave negative reviews of a title in order to purposefully harm sales or make it seem worse than it actually is, usually because the users have personal issues with one or all of the people involved with said title. In order to help combat this, Valve have developed a tool that will “identify off-topic review bombs, and remove them from the Review Score.”
In a blog post, Valve wrote:
“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. Obviously, there’s a grey area here, because there’s a wide range of things that players care about. So how will we identify these off-topic review bombs? The first step is a tool we’ve built that identifies any anomalous review activity on all games on Steam in as close to real-time as possible.”
It won’t entirely be up to the tool’s discretion, however. After it has identified said reviews, Valve will begin a hands-on investigation to see if the user reviews in question are legitimate or an off-topic bomb. If they decide they are the latter, Valve will then inform the developer that all of the reviews posted within the time period of the review bomb will be removed from the game’s overall score. The reviews will be left live, though, and it’ll be up to the developer’s discretion as to which of them will be deleted or not.
While maybe a step in the right direction, it does bring with it an unfortunate caveat – any reviews that are genuine and/or positive and were just unfortunate enough to be posted during the review bomb will be removed as well, which will only further harm a game’s Steam score. However, Valve doesn’t think developers will need to worry about this, adding “… our data shows us that review bombs tend to be temporary distortions, so we believe the Review Score will still be accurate, and other players will still be able to find and read your review within the period.” And if any developers want to, they can opt out of the process by going into their Steam Store options.
Valve does seem to be going to great lengths to make Steam seem a lot more desirable and welcoming, possibly because it’s now starting to face competition. Many are jumping ship and heading to Epic Games’ alternative, the Epic Games Store, which managed to grab FPS Metro Exodus as an exclusive, much to Valve’s chagrin.
Recently, Valve has also decided to remove all non-gaming related videos from the service. It had initially included them in the hopes of expanding Steam’s content but it appears the venture has failed to pay off.