In a post on the Steam Blog today, Valve laid out a new fix for its ongoing battle with review bombing. The retail giant also made it clear that any solution to the issue will be an ongoing process.
As Valve describes it: “a review bomb is where players post a large number of reviews in a short period of time, aimed at lowering the Review Score of a game.” While it’s not a recent issue, it’s an issue has plagued the Steam Store frequently as of late. Many individuals appear to be using review bombing as a spiteful way to express their frustrations with the store’s practices.
Recently, the Steam page for Metro Exodus received an onslaught of negative reviews after the game’s publisher decided to switch its exclusivity to Epic Games Store. In addition, the horror game “Devotion” had negative reviews dumped on it by Chinese Steam users upset about an in-game comparison between the Chinese president and Winnie the Pooh.
Valve’s latest fix for its review system will “identify off-topic review bombs, and remove them from the Review Score.” An “off-topic” review bombing period will be defined as “one where the focus of those reviews is on a topic that we consider unrelated to the likelihood that future purchasers will be happy if they buy the game, and hence not something that should be added to the Review Score.”
To deal with the massive grey-area that this interpretation creates, Valve will implement a tool that “identifies any anomalous review activity on all games on Steam in as close to real-time as possible.” This tool will effectively function as an impartial moderator, objectively determining whether the content in the review is “off-topic” or not.
Once the data gathered has been checked by real employees, Valve will then notify the game’s developer of the “anomalous” activity and make a mark of the time period within which these off-topic reviews appeared.
The inappropriate reviews themselves will not be taken down, but will instead be filtered out– allowing Steam users to dig into them if they choose to do so. “To help you do that” the blog post notes, “we’ve made it clear when you’re looking at a store page where we’ve removed some reviews by default”.
Finally, if this new review filtering is not appreciated, Steam users will have to the ability to completely opt-out. A checkbox has been added to the Steam Store preferences to allow for all “off-topic” review bombing to remain a part of the aggregate Review Score.
As mentioned earlier, this fix is by no means the end of Valve’s war with review bombing. It will be interesting to see what effect this filtering has on curbing the problem and what new remedies will be rolled out next.
To read the full post, you can find it here on the Steam Blog. There you can also find a small Q&A section discussing questions regarding DRM or EULA issues, and what happens if you post a legitimately useful review during a time period that Valve deems “bombed”. The short answer– it will get swept up in Valve’s new negativity net.