Games News

Valve addresses review bombing with graphed review scores

Valve
Steam logo with grayscale library in background.
Steam

Valve are responding to the practice of review bombing by making the entire review history of any given game more transparent and accessible in the form of a review histogram.

Following the recently more frequent practice of Steam review bombing, capped off by the Firewatch bombing run from a few days ago, Valve have decided to change the way review scores are presented on the Steam storefront.

SteamSteam logo with grayscale library in background.Firewatch - Review bombs

"On the one hand, the players doing the bombing are fulfilling the goal of User Reviews - they're voicing their opinion as to why other people shouldn't buy the game. 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 convictions. Many of these out-of-game issues aren't very relevant when it comes to the value of the game itself, but some of them are real reasons why a player may be unhappy with their purchase", Valve have explained in a lengthy blog post.

It looks like Valve are applying their usual method of minimum interference and maximum automated transparency.

SteamSteam - The new graph system (Firewatch)Steam - The new graph system (Firewatch)

The solution which should already be implemented today has Valve dancing around a sensitive issue. On one side, they definitely wouldn't want to silence or censor users, but on the other review bombing can be disruptive to the way Steam's review system is intended to work, and ultimately mean less money for developers, publishers, and Valve.

Another interesting part of the announcement was Valve's take on why review score values generally tend to slip downwards with time.

"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."

SteamFirewatch - Review bombsFirewatch - Review bombs

The statement also noted that review bombing usually presents only a temporary disruption in the way overall review scores behave.

Temporary or not, bombing runs have proven to be one of the few effective means which customers have to get the attention of publishers or developers. Other than voicing their opinions via their wallets of course.