Whenever there is a major controversy surrounding a game or a developer, we often see fans resort to ‘review bombing’. This is essentially where players flood a game’s Steam page with negative reviews as a way to get their point across. Sometimes these negative reviews aren’t relevant to the game itself, which can be a problem. With that in mind, Valve is now adding histograms to Steam pages to help customers spot ‘temporary distortions’ in a game’s score.
The latest game to be hit by review bombing is Firewatch. Historically, this game has had very positive reviews but following on from Campo Santo’s recent DMCA claim against PewDiePie, many saw fit to take a stance against the studio and reacted by changing positive reviews to negative ones. This brought Firewatch’s rating down from ‘Very Positive’ to ‘Mixed’, which isn’t great for new buyers looking into the game.
As Valve explains it, user reviews are there to make customer voices heard. However, reviews criticising a developer for their political convictions or for things they have said online “aren’t very relevant when it comes to the value of the game itself”.
Valve doesn’t want to stop customers from voicing their opinions, so review bombing is something customers are still able to engage in if they see fit. However, going forward, a histogram will be included on game pages, which will how the positive to negative review ratio over time. This way, it will be easy for buyers to spot temporary distortions in a game’s overall score. For example, if a game gets ‘review bombed’ or faces a temporary issue that causes an influx of negative reviews, you will be able to see when and why this occurred and make an informed purchasing decision yourself.
Valve did consider a few other changes to user reviews on Steam, including the temporary locking of reviews and even the removal of the Steam User score. In the end though, the company decided that it would be best not to censor customers in any way and just provide more data.
KitGuru Says: Valve has been very open and transparent about changes to Steam this year. The entire blog post on this matter is actually a very interesting read. In short, review bombing isn’t going to be squashed, but customers will be able to see the histogram and decide for themselves whether or not the more recent reviews are relevant to them.