Valve have changed how Steam store pages present reviews written by players, placing greater emphasis on newer reviews. It’s more helpful in these days where the experience of a game can change quite a lot over time, Valve say. I realise your first and most trusted source for Wot People Think is your pals here at RPS, on everything in all aspects of your life (your bedsheets are hideous, by the way), but we don’t have time to tell you about everything. And certainly not to constantly update you. Steam reviews are helpful (hey, I check ’em myself) and these store page changes sounds helpful, but this might have some downsides too.
If you’ve had your head under a rock, I’ll explain. Steam pages let players write reviews of games and give them a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ recommendation. Reviews appear at the bottom of store pages, and the percentage of recommendations is converted to a rating on the page – categories like overwhelmingly positive, very positive, positive, mixed, mostly negative, and so on. Steam being Kind Of A Big Deal in PC gaming, these matter.
The default category of reviews shown on Steam pages is now reviews rated most helpful by readers within the past 30 days, changed from all-time helpful reviews, and alongside them is now a second column of recent reviews. Valve explain that the change is because, under the old way, “the most helpful reviews presented on a store page would often describe an outdated view of a game that might have changed dramatically over the course of Early Access or post-release development.”
The other big change is adding a ‘recent’ rating sitting alongside the ‘overall’ all-time rating at the top of store listings. That rating is the percentage of positive reviews over the past 30 days (once a game has been on Steam for at least 45 days).
Valve’s reasoning is sensible. I do normally read a few newer reviews when looking on Steam, not just the ones rated most helpful overall, to get a feel for how it’s coming on. These are useful! However, this also means I encounter a lot of reviews I find unhelpful at best. Valve seem slightly oblivious here, assuming that all Steamers write calm, reasoned reviews. Many do, absolutely. But some post reviews as petulant protest.
If developers make changes some players don’t like, or don’t make some they would like, or don’t patch the game as enough as they’d like, or are uncommunicative… for these reasons and more, disgruntled players are organising to post and rate-up overblown negative reviews in attempts to pressure developers or punish them. There are more than a few wildly negative reviews posted by people who played a game for hundreds of hours then turned around and shredded it because of an issue which might be minor or unnoticeable to someone coming in fresh. This change will emphasise those reviews, push them to the front. That sounds a bit bum.
I don’t have a good solution for this.
As ever, read reviews rather than glancing at ratings.