Valve introduces new historical graphs to combat “review bombing” on Steam
“Review-bombing” is a coordinated effort to damage the public profile of a company or product by inundating it with negative reviews. Actual problems with the product in question often have nothing to do with it: Firewatch suffered an attack because of Sean Vanaman’s beef with Pewdiepie over the later’s racism. It happens because it works, as the best way to attack a company is to attack the bottom line. Environmentalists chain themselves to pipeline junctions and construction equipment, gamers leave angry and potentially offensive reviews on the most popular gaming service in the world.
It might sound like the tactic doesn’t work, but Valve has apparently looked at the numbers and have determined that it’s an issue worthy of being addressed.
One of the big problems facing Valve, as Alden Kroll said in a new blog post, is that review bombers are:
“fulfilling the goal of User Reviews, but one thing we’ve noticed is that the issue players are concerned about can often be outside the game itself. It might be that they’re unhappy with something the developer has said online, or about choices the developer has made in the Steam version of their game relative to other platforms, or simply that they don’t like the developer’s political convictionsIn short, review bombs make it harder for the Review Score to achieve its goal of accurately representing the likelihood that you’d be happy with your purchase if you bought them.
It also has the benefit of allowing you to see how a game’s reviews have evolved over time, which is great for games that are operating as services. One subtlety that’s not obvious at first is that most games slowly trend downwards over time, even if they haven’t changed in any way. We think this makes sense when you realize that, generally speaking, earlier purchasers of a game are more likely to enjoy it than later purchasers. In the pool of players who are interested in a game, the ones who are more confident that they’ll like the game will buy it first, so as time goes on the potential purchasers left are less and less certain that they’ll like the game. So if you see a game’s reviews trending up over time, it may be an even more powerful statement about the quality of work its developers are doing.”
It’s easy enough to use: Clicking any bar on the graph will bring up a sample of reviews from the appropriate time period, so in theory it’s relatively simple to tell what sparked a particular spate of positive or negative feedback. But it’s also an added layer of complexity that some—quite likely many—consumers won’t be interested in screwing around with. Someone who’s really interested in Firewatch, for example, may be willing to dig into the cause of all those recent “mixed” reviews, but someone who’s just browsing for something new is far less likely to go to the trouble.
It will be interesting to see just how effective this change is considering the common attitude of consumers of Steam, as well as the sheer volume of games on the platform. The system still allows review bombing, and there hasn’t been any substantive effort to quell that particular form of “protest” by Valve as of yet. It looks like the practice of review bombing and it’s negative impact will continue for the foreseeable future.
ISKMogul is a growing video game publication that got its start covering EVE Online, and has since expanded to cover a large number of topics and niches within the purview of gaming.