The game of reviewing games is changing in an effort to combat abuse.
Valve has introduced major changes to the way review scores are calculated and displayed on Steam. By default, the review scores that users see will no longer include reviews by users who received the product via a Steam key in an effort to root out abuse of the system. This means that the score that is displayed will be based only on reviews from those who purchased the game through Steam. Reviews by users who received the game with a key from an outside source will still be shown, but will not be calculated in the score.
Citing feedback from users, Valve conducted research to look into the Steam Customer Review System. What they found was a number of situations where the review scores of some games was inflated by reviews from accounts that obtained the game through a key rather than purchasing the game through steam. In fact, they note that at least 160 titles had “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.”
The company does acknowledge that there may be some situations where a game may have a disproportionate number of positive reviews. For example, Valve cites situations where passionate Kickstarter backers skew the numbers possibly. Valve does appear to bring a heavy hand down on those that it feels is abusing the system saying in the cases where there has been obvious abuse, “we’ve now taken action by banning the false reviews and will be ending business relationships with developers who continue violating our rules.”
This is a tricky situation for Steam users because, as Valve notes, “this review score has become a valuable shortcut for customers to gauge how well the game is matching customer expectations.” Studios often provide game keys to reviewers so that they can play and report back on the game to their audience as well as to the public through writing reviews. This will obviously have an impact on how studios and reviewers do business in the future. On the other hand, this may mean that reviews that Steam users see will be free from the impact of outside influences, and that the score will reflect the real feelings of the users who purchase the game.
Where do you come out on this change? Will it be good for the community, or does it hinder the ability of users to find good games?
You can find the full statement from Valve here.