With the proliferation of new titles on Steam over the last year, one of the many consequences has been artificially inflated reviews flooding the marketplace. Valve has had a huge issue with this increasing trend for months now, and meanwhile, they’ve been trying to deal with the problem. In September 2016, Valve made the first of a major series of changes to the review system. Reviews based on games that were acquired from outside of Steam—review copies, giveaways, purchased from other retailers—would not count toward a game’s final overall rating.
Valve made further tweaks to the system a few months ago by making reviews for buyers who received the game for free not count towards the overall score of the title, but allowing these reviews to remain visible by default. This compromise that allowed users to see more reviews for a title was envisioned by Steam to help stem the tide of inflated reviews.
Yesterday, Valve tweaked the system further by eliminating any form of freely-received game from its total review score, rather than just game keys that were acquired from non-Steam sources. “The review score (shown at the top of store pages and in various places throughout the store such as search results) will no longer include reviews by users that received the game for free, such as via a gift, or during a free weekend,” Valve wrote. “Reviews can still be written by customers that obtained the game in any of these ways, but the review will not count toward the overall review score.”
I’m not completely convinced that eliminating opinions is the best way to move toward a more effective scoring system, and I imagine that some developers won’t be happy about their free weekends no longer having an effect on their overall ratings (assuming the effect would’ve been positive). Nonetheless, Valve said the change will “improve the relevance of the score by better reflecting the sentiment expressed by invested, paying customers.” Naturally, free and free-to-play games will not be affected, for better or worse.