Devs Concerned As Steam Makes Big Adjustment To Player Reviews

Valve have again shaken up how the Steam store presents player reviews, this time adding new filtering options which, by default, don’t include reviews from people who got the game by activating a Steam key rather than buying direct from Steam. Valve say this is to prevent score inflation from devs throwing out free keys in exchange for reviews. That’s a noble goal, but the change also means discounting reviews from players who backed Kickstarters or bought the game direct from devs – groups likely to have genuine strong opinions – not to mention from other stores like Humble and Itch. Some devs are not best pleased.

The Steamlords announced the changes last night. The expanded filtering is useful, to be sure, letting folks ditch or focus on reviews in certain languages, that are positive or negative, and by where the player got the game from. That last one’s the problem, as by default store pages will now only show copies bought directly from Steam. Valve say it’s to combat cheatery:

“An analysis of games across Steam shows that at least 160 titles have a substantially greater percentage of positive reviews by users that activated the product with a cd key, compared to customers that purchased the game directly on Steam. There are, of course, legitimate reasons why this could be true for a game: Some games have strong audiences off Steam, and some games have passionate early adopters or Kickstarter backers that are much more invested in the game.

“But in many cases, the abuse is clear and obvious, such as duplicated and/or generated reviews in large batches, or reviews from accounts linked to the developer. In those cases, we’ve now taken action by banning the false reviews and will be ending business relationships with developers that continue violating our rules.

“While helpful users in the community have been valuable in reporting instances of abuse, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to detect when this is happening, which reviews from Steam Keys are legitimate, and which are artificially influenced.”

This looks like the typical Valve approach of making broad, sweeping changes that affect everyone negatively rather than dealing with people individually. Rather than simply hire more staff to handle problems, they seem to end up create huge systems like Greenlight or making sweeping changes. This one is not going down well with a number of smaller developers.

Here’s The Sea Will Claim Everything developer Jonas Kyratzes:

Here’s Kieron Kelly from Larian, who Kickstarted their RPG Divinity: Original Sin:

And Maia man Simon Roth:

And Death Ray Manta dev Rob Fearon:

Fewer reviews from fans means a worse score on Steam means fewer future sales, obviously, and fewer reviews in general makes a game look less popular.

Like with Greenlight, it’s smaller devs who suffer most – people who rely upon crowdfunding, selling across multiple storefronts, and backing sales up with promises of Steam keys if their games pass Greenlight. Valve really need to hire more people.

From this site

241 Comments

  1. Wurzel says:

    …isn’t 160 games a laughably small amount put into context with the whole steam library? Seems like this is going to cause a lot of needless grief to at least that many games. Even if those games were all getting Very Positive when they should have been dumpstered, it’s hard to believe it’s a significant problem to Valve or to customers.

    Given that they obviously used statistical tools to find the titles where key-activators had significantly higher review scores, why not just use those and keep the rest of the review filtering as it was before?

    • phlebas says:

      Is it that they want to encourage devs to send people to Steam to buy the game rather than use other stores, then?

      • HeavyStorm says:

        Surely this has nothing to do with profit! I’m baffled.

      • thenevernow says:

        Do you really believe people would buy on Steam instead of elsewhere in exchange for the right to post a review?

        • LionsPhil says:

          It’s not where the gamer chooses to buy; it’s where the developer directs their fans to prefer to buy.

          Historically, that has been direct, or Humble, because they get a larger slice of the pie. Sometimes. IIRC, Tom Francis switched his “where to buy Gunpoint that’s best for me” position over to Steam at some point because it helped him climb the charts and get more exposure.

          Now it may be Steam from the start so that early reviews can count, which means Valve gets a slice of more of the sales.

          • thenevernow says:

            Fair enough, then. As long as it only shifts the publisher’s “recommendation” on where to buy, I don’t care.

          • pepperfez says:

            At the margins, it’s certainly going to change where and how games are offered for sale. Non-Steam sales are now worth that little bit less to developers, so they’re likely to offer fewer discounts (or smaller ones) at competitors and may shut out smaller stores altogether. It won’t be a large effect, but these things add up.

      • paddymaxson says:

        I’d be surprised if devs started directing their fans to stores that take a larger cut of the profit just for positive reviews humble store takes 5% less than Steam, are positive reviews worth more than 5% of income? That’s a bit apples and oranges.

        VALVe have been pushing more and more to favor the customer rather than the dev in recent years (remember the dev moaning when steam introduced quibble-free refunds so long as you’d played under 2 hours).

        It’s shit if it costs a poor indie dev significant sales due to less fan reviews – though personally I don’t like fan reviews, I’d rather hear from someone who isn’t a fan – but there is a huge culture of dodgy devs and third parties buying good reviews on early access trash. Valve have identified “at least 160” but you can bet there’s WAY more.

        There are HUGE problems with Greenlight and Early access being abused like crazy and the best way to fix them seems to be to be a bit harsh about it.

    • Premium User Badge

      PhoenixTank says:

      I’m hoping to heck that figure is a typo/missing an extra zero or two.
      My maths gets me to 1.45% of steam games being less than holy. Definitely seems exceptionally heavy handed and of course an even less lovely side effect: Devs would probably prefer users bought games on steam, rather than getting a key from a legitimate reseller – not going to be good for competition.

      • Malarious says:

        1.45% doesn’t sound like an insignificant amount to me, at all. If you take out the F2P games and take out the games released on Steam before November 2013 (the date Steam reviews were added), that percentage is going to climb precipitously.

        • nop277 says:

          You also need to take into account however that those 160 titles are not all confirmed cheats. They mention in the announcement itself that there are plenty of legit reasons more positive reviews could be coming from off steam sources. For instance someone who kickstarted a title and then liked it is probably more likely to give a positive review than someone who just found the title on steam, bought it, and liked it. Especially for smaller games where unless you have some investment in the title you might not see it as important enough to go through the review process. So to hurt hundreds of games because at most 160 games are cheating feels a bit heavy handed.

        • nop277 says:

          Also I don’t see why we need to remove games made before 2013, they still get reviews.

    • DThor says:

      In all honesty I find that there are too many reviews by backers that I find unhelpful – it’s human nature to be more gushing about something that you’ve already invested in, monetarily or spiritually. It’s behind most OS and hardware wars online. Also, backers tend to be more likely to form a sort of bond with the devs. All of this is understandable to me, but it doesn’t make for a particularly unbiased review. In the same way I phase out reviews by negative ranters going on about some obscure gameplay design choice they were ignored over, I tend to pass over the gushers with a history. The issue of whether or not this filter should be on by default is debatable, however. I can see that might be contentious.

      • Lord Byte says:

        Indeed. It’s called sunk-cost fallacy! If the game is good, it will get good reviews. If it sucks and you need those Stockholm syndrome users to get a positive score, maybe it shouldn’t have that score.

        • phlebas says:

          So people who bought copies sight-unseen from Kickstarter are likely to be inappropriately enthusiastic about a game, whereas if they bought an early-access copy on Steam they’re presumably trustworthy?
          Never mind that this change discounts reviews from anyone who bought from Humble or direct from the developer. It’s a Steam sales push, nothing more.

          • pepperfez says:

            But as long as it shuts up those damn enthusiasts contaminating the purely objective reviews of thoughtful Steam buyers, it’s worth it.

          • HULKHOGAN says:

            Whoa, steady on there. Objectivity on the web?

            Put the pill bottle down and step away from the bong!!

          • Rindan says:

            Who cares though? Seriously. What is the effect of some fraction of reviews not counting towards the score? How does it ruin your life? It doesn’t. Just makes the reviews better. If you are an average Joe buying shit on Steam, the reviews you are the most about are ones from other average Joe’s buying shit on Steam. Not someone who got the game in a random bundle. Not someone who paid for it sight unseen. Not some beta backers who have been following the game forever. Those people don’t matter. What matters is the average person buying the game on Steam.

            The only thing those reviews are there for are to help people decide how to buy stuff. It is not there for people to slavishly hawk someone else’s crap.

          • phlebas says:

            Rindan: My point (or part of it) was that Steam has its own mechanisms (preorders and early access purchases) for buying games before an informed view of the finished product is possible. Reviews from customers who used these mechanisms are not excluded, whereas reviews from customers who bought a released game via Humble are.

      • SBLux says:

        I think you are correct. Despite it not being a perfect solution I think the reviews will be more balanced this way and so more useful to somebody who is using them to judge whether or not to purchase a particular game.

      • pepperfez says:

        If the people who are over-invested in a Kickstarted game are likely to leave inaccurate reviews, then surely the people who spent almost nothing for a key in a bundle will leave more accurate reviews then those who bought at retail. The two ought to balance each other out on the whole.

        • Premium User Badge

          FhnuZoag says:

          I think the point is that reviews from other steam store buyers should be more representative of the experience a potential steam store buyer should expect. Games in bundles do, however, see lower scores from bundle-key users than from purchasers, though, so they will likely see a small bump in their steam score. The effect is much smaller than the kickstarter effect on just-released games, however.

          • Danley says:

            This is absolutely absurd. I buy games on Humble all the time outside of a bundle, and then have to activate them on Steam. If I’m going to pay full price, I always buy on Humble, because I care more about developers than distributors. This doesn’t mean I’m not a “Steam store buyer” as I’ve bought dozens if not 100 games on Steam. If you’re saying it’s not a negative distinction, but a positive one, and that a Humble Store buyer is going to have some special ability to interpret reviews, that still doesn’t help me when I’m looking through the general library sorting by “User Reviews.” What there is, is a distinction between purchases I make from Valve and purchases I make elsewhere. They’re rewarding their customers and pushing others to the fringe, and using the excuse that 1.5% of games in their library had anomalous review data. The only problem is that those “others” are simultaneously their customers, too.

      • BlueTemplar says:

        The content of the reviews doesn’t matter for Steam Score.

        • Danley says:

          Wait, so if this isn’t affecting the User Review score, why are developers complaining? If I sort by User Reviews, am I not seeing the summary of reviews minus reviews made using keys from other sites?

          • BlueTemplar says:

            The OP was talking about “unhelpful reviews”. The only thing that matters for Steam Score is whether the reviewer gave the game a thumbs up or a thumbs down (and in some situations, how many people left a review), not what he wrote in said review.

    • Urthman says:

      Even without the issue of fraud, this is a good move. If you’re buying through Steam, reviews by other people who bought through Steam are more likely to be relevant to your interests than reviews of people who bought the game elsewhere.

      • pepperfez says:

        Not really. People can pre-order through Steam or buy at release, but they can also wait for a sale and get games for 80% off. Some people bought before DLC came out or bugs were fixed, or while multiplayer was more active, or before a sequel was announced. If any of those things don’t apply to my purchase, they’re as unrepresentative as an enthusiastic backer’s. Of course Valve thinks the only thing that should make an opinion less useful is coming from someone who isn’t their customer, but there’s no reason for us to follow them on that.

      • Danley says:

        This is absolutely absurd. I’ve bought dozens if not 100 games on Steam. Just because I buy games on Humble as well doesn’t make me less of a Steam user.

        • Rindan says:

          You personally might not be “less of a Steam user”, but a bunch of the people who have activation keys are. Kickstarter backers being the most obvious folks to give an unbalanced review.

          Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Who cares if your vote wasn’t counted and your sacred opinion was not weighed? They don’t need everyone’s vote, just enough from legitimate users so that you can assign a score that roughly matches what the average Steam user thinks about the game. How on earth can it be an actual thing that people are upset that their up or down vote isn’t being counted. It isn’t even like this is some reality TV show where your vote does something. This stupid vote just gives you a rough proportion of Steam users like the game. That’s it. Simmer down. It’s okay if your vote is not counted.

          • Danley says:

            I was responding specifically to this notion that there’s some monolith of Steam store buyers because it’s ridiculous bit that’s not the reason people are upset. This about Steam being to developers what Amazon is to authors and saying that if they want page position or to get to the top few pages of a keyword/genre search, they have to give Valve 30% of every sale that goes towards this ranking.

            Why would you assume I cared about the intrinsic value of my reviews? This is about the overall influence of consumers using alternative sale models like crowdfunding or widget stores on their own website. This could be the difference between a working wage as a developer or not being seen at all. If that means they stop making games, that’s the point when you and I are affected.

  2. Danda says:

    Not only small devs… If you bought The boxed version of Deus Ex, Call of Duty, etc. your opinion doesn’t matter, either.

    Hey, I get that they want to stop the flood of positive reviews gained through free Keys, but this is really lazy from them. And unfair.

    • thenevernow says:

      With big games, your opinion is usually lost in the ocean of complaints about DRM, pricey DLC, or the all-time-favorite 400 hours played, “Meh” negative reviews.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I can’t really say other gamers will be poorer if my opinion of Civ III and IV won’t be counted on Steam. Most activatable classic boxed games are past the point where Steam reviews are very useful, because there is so much other established popular opinion about them.

      • BlueTemplar says:

        What about the games that don’t have the popularity of franchises like Civilization?

        • pepperfez says:

          What business do unpopular games have being on Steam, anyway?

          • P.Funk says:

            Erm… that’s like asking why you find products in a grocery store you’ve never seen before. That’s part of how upstarts get going, by getting into the limelight of the mainstream vendors. Its called exposure, and its helpful in a system where there’s so much to compete against if you can get onto Steam.

            Hell, half the time you tell someone about a game they think sounds good they scoff at having to buy it from other than Steam these days.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            You mean like this fairly unpopular game :
            link to store.steampowered.com
            That is considered one of the best of its genre?

          • Babymech says:

            The answers above should indicate to you that unpopular jokes have no place on RPS.

          • pepperfez says:

            In video games discussions, it turns out to be literally impossible to say something too outrageous to be taken seriously.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            Well, I have seen people missing the difference between good an popular enough to see this as a straight-faced comment.

            Like it’s often the case with short written text, you cannot be sure that your joke or sarcasm won’t be misunderstood unless you use the appropriate tags…

          • Jeroen D Stout says:

            Even now that I know you were joking I still struggle to acknowledge you were joking.

        • LionsPhil says:

          When we’re talking the (pretty tiny) set of retail games that can be activated on Steam, we’re not talking struggling indies any more.

    • ROMhack2 says:

      Well, that puts the situation into context: Steam is not the freaking world. People do hold opinions outside of what’s written on Steam.

      I feel that we have such a weird relationship with internet corps these days. It’s as if we’re acting like their employees so become outraged when they make a decision that goes against us in some personal way.

      You know, I wish blogs were a thing again. This tendency we have to veer towards social media sites to legitimise our thoughts (i.e. Letterboxd and Goodreads) is having a tremendous personal cost.

      • Danley says:

        *Comments on Rock, Paper, Shotgun web log, even though it’s not a thing*

        In many ways developers are at the mercy of their distributors the same way that employees are at the mercy of their company. We’re outraged about this on their behalf, not because we think our user opinion has somehow been decentralized. If we kickstarted a game, bought directly from their site or an alternative like Humble, we no longer exist within the metrics of Steam user reviews, even though we have to jump through their DRM to play these games offline, and advertise their brand every time we are forced to use their library (which is all the time, if the way you got your game is a Steam key).

        This has nothing to do with opinions.

        *clicks Opinion, away! button*

  3. froz says:

    Filtering by language is nothing new, it’s been there for some time already.

    About the new changes – it seems to me the issue is overblown. The filter settings are very clear, visible and you can change it on the fly as needed.

    • froz says:

      However, the tooltip text with explanation when you hover over the little ? icon next to the “Key Activation” in the filter selection is a little… not nice.

      • shde2e says:

        Yeah… Its not-so-subtly accusing every one of those reviews of “possibly” being a dirty illegitimate sellout.

      • C0llic says:

        I have to agree with this. As soon as you end that description with ‘or illegitimate sources..’ you’re influencing how that category is viewed. People will focus on that negative. If they’re going to do this the description should be purely factual. Adding in any possible judgement on the value of the reviews is inappropriate.

        Having these filtered by default already affects the at a glance score. If Valve want to tell people why they have chosen to categorise that information it should be behind a hyperlink for the truly interested.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      However, that won’t be what is first featured as “Steam Score” : if I understood it correctly, you’ll need to filter it out yourself game per game if you want to see a score featuring all reviews.

  4. Shar_ds says:

    Could also be seen as action from Steam to limit the impact of Early Access alternatives that are appearing on Humble and itch.io, for example?

    You have to do EA on Steam else your hardcore can never review you?

    • Optimaximal says:

      It makes no difference – if you get a Steam EA key via Humble, then no obvious review scores from you.

      • Shar_ds says:

        That’s my point. If games don’t push for EA purchases via Steam, then they won’t get reviews from their most committed audience.

        Good way for Steam to strategically devalue Humble etc?

        • Danley says:

          If Steam started its own crowdfunding–

          Okay I know where this is going. I’ll stop bashing my head now.

    • pepperfez says:

      It’s most certainly that: Limiting exposure for games that don’t give Valve their cut. Not a walled garden, just one with a calf-height rope running around it.

      • BlueTemplar says:

        More like a barely penetrable forcefield when you consider what it means for a developer to choose to NOT release their game on Steam.

        • BlueTemplar says:

          I meant for considering whether or not Steam can be considered a walled garden. And you also have to consider that selling Steam keys is not much different, it’s the games that would choose to be distributed otherwise than by Steam that would “go outside of the walled garden”.
          (See for a comparison Android and apps sold outside of Google Play.)

      • thenevernow says:

        I don’t think there’s malicious intent. Steam lets you sell your keys anywhere in any way and Newell’s stated direction for Steam is becoming “a network API”.

        • pepperfez says:

          Sure, Valve let you sell product keys anywhere, but they’re also tweaking things around the edges to discourage it. That’s why the garden is roped off — you can go elsewhere, it’s just disincentivised. Steam becoming a neutral “network API” gives Valve the same power that Windows’s status as the default operating system gives Microsoft, and that isn’t healthy in the long run.

        • thenevernow says:

          Well, no. Actually becoming a network API would take away power from them. The thing is they are going in that direction, in that already now you can make a Steamworks game without basically owing anything to them. But they do want to manage their marketplace and generate profit and that’s a different thing.

          I don’t really get the MS comparison, though.

  5. quintesse says:

    I understand them completely. Saying they should just hire more people is naive, the only thing that would happen is that those “cheating devs” will just make sure to not use the same text everywhere. So they fool the people that are supposed to check things and they keep on gaming the system.

    I also understand the frustration of the devs though, but for the rating system to work you need to be able to trust it. If people lose trust (like for example the way you can hardly trust the movie review ratings on a site like IMDb) it will hurt *all* developers in the long run.

  6. lglethal says:

    If they can do the analytics in the first place to see that this is a problem, then surely Valce can simply apply this only to those games that can be seen to have a significant difference between Steam Purchase reviews and CD Keys reviews. Or just throw up a warning, that there is a discrepancy, and let users take all of the reviews with a pinch of salt.

    This smacks of either a) laziness; or b) malicious intent (force developers to sell exclusively through Steam in order to get reviews). I’m hoping the former, but its not too hard to see the self interest in the latter…

    • TheMightyEthan says:

      Except this would only be a problem for games where there is a significant difference. If there’s no difference then removing them won’t affect the overall score anyway.

    • Geebs says:

      Seeing as a Steam key is just an encrypted number, you’d have thought they could easily differentiate between free and purchased keys, and similarly work out whether the key was heavily discounted at time of sale. That could cause a problem with sales but is pretty easy to deal with: a) most review stuffing is going to happen around the time of launch and b) I assume Valve have a record of their own prices.

      Add in a bit for ‘this key was a backer reward’ and you’d be golden.

      • Jaeja says:

        …which would work fine if Steam trusted developers to correctly report who got which key at what price.

  7. mtomto says:

    I think it’s a fair change from Steam. It is too easy to cheat the system for positive reviews. I’d rather have a quality store, instead of a quantitative store collecting ALL the crappy early access/kickstarter/freeplay/pay-to-win games.

    • shde2e says:

      If Valve wanted quality, they would’ve taken active steps to remove all the garbage Steam has accumulated and set a basic quality standard for new ones.

      They wouldn’t be doing it by making subtle (and possibly insidious) changes to the review sorting system.

      • mtomto says:

        If I had a store that offered to service products bought elsewhere I wouldn’t blindly accept the accompanying “reviews” of said product for my own marketing. This IS a quality service for Steam’s customers. You can still use kickstart or save money on gmg – but those are different stores, so get your review there.

        • Danley says:

          I don’t understand this logic at all. To review a game on Steam, you have to have a Steam key, use Steam’s brand, use Steam’s library/DRM. Thus, all these “crappy early access/kickstarter/freeplay/pay-to-win games” are games that Steam is going to include and sell either way. This doesn’t do anything to unclog Steam, or whatever it is you want it to do. It’s also not about cheating the system, as 160 games is not a significant sample.

          You also seem to misunderstand what Kickstarter is. It’s not a store, but a way that you determine whether you can fund a project rather than creating it then hoping you sell enough copies to have justified it. In this way it’s also significantly different than Greenlight/Steam Early Access, which are still based on individual sales of a relatively finished product.

          I have to believe this will be followed by Valve starting their own crowdfunding. Otherwise, they’re absolutely throttling independent developers.

        • Danley says:

          Also, Steam lets developers provide their marketing material on the page itself, so what you would do in your imaginary shop is irrelevant. Trading keys for thumbs up is against their rules, which is why reviews have been removed and warnings have been made against infringing developers. So if this really is just about preventing this rare rule violation from happening again, they’re just trying to do it on the cheap.

          I like Valve and Steam too much to believe it’s about cutting corners. They’re starting a crowdfunding service.

        • Danley says:

          I should say “hypothetical” rather than imaginary. I don’t mean to insult your knowledge of retail or business, just that I think it’s misdirected here.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      I think it’s a necessity for Valve to do something about the problem. But it’s really just a band-aid and not addressing the real source of the headache – the broken Greenlight system.

      A few shady people get their trading card scams through GL via groups of “devs” offering free keys from their released “games” in exchange for positive cross-reviews and greenlight votes.
      Ideally get it included in a throwaway PWYW bundle at indiegala or similar to get a burst in card sales then put the next up on greenlight and repeat.

  8. AbyssUK says:

    I see a lot of complaints but no alternative suggestions of getting rid of the rogue reviews .. apart from the unhelpful “hire more people to check them”

    Perhaps some sort of trusted reviewer ranking methods “more” trusted reviewers have a higher effect on ranking etc.. I assume the rogue reviews come from fresh(ish) accounts etc..

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      Personally, I think reviewers should have to pass a test of character before they can post reviews. Their hearts could be weighed against a feather, and if they’re lighter, then they’re allow to share their opinion. If they’re not then we feed them to a Hippocrocolion.

    • Freud says:

      Why not only count reviews of accounts that played 2-3 hours or more of the game?

      • shde2e says:

        Because then you’d cut out reviews of everyone who couldn’t even get the game to run, people who had massive performance issues, and other dealbreakers you encounter before playing a significant amount of the game.

        • phlebas says:

          Then discount positive reviews from people who haven’t played it long enough, and negative ones from people who’ve played it too long to claim they hated it?

          • LionsPhil says:

            Games are not static. They change, and the ecosystem around them changes.

            Concrete example: From the Depths recently changed its economic model. Some long-time players thought it made the game a lot worse. They now wouldn’t recommend that new players buy it. Why should their opinion be invalid because they used to like the game it was, which is no longer available?

            Negative reviews don’t mean you’re full of hate, either. Some older games that don’t run well on modern machines get negative reviews because support for them has been abandoned, and it would not be a good choice to buy them now. This will be a negative trend over time, coming from people with high hours played, which is valuable and correct information for a potential consumer whose question is “is this an enjoyable way to spend my money?”, not “is this abstractly a good game as an artistic artefact?”.

          • anHorse says:

            Not a steam game but I played Dragon Age Inquisition to completion, largely because I had a lot of time and little else to play.

            However despite playing that much I came away with the opinion that I couldn’t earnestly recommend the game to anyone I knew.

            It wasn’t totally broken so I didn’t quit but it also wasn’t any good.

        • thenevernow says:

          Fair enough. If you can’t run a game you can’t review it.

    • Nerdy Suit says:

      Personally, I’m absolutely baffled this article and some commenters are bitching about this. Are we really complaining about a new feature being added that helps consumers make more informed purchase decisions based on their desire to filter out certain reviews? This bitching is a joke. Good job, Valve. Ignore the whiny internet that always finds a reason to complain.

      Pro tip for devs: Stop worrying about which reviews will and won’t get filtered and worry more about making a good game. Good reviews will take care of themselves after that.

      • pepperfez says:

        Frankly, I get much more as a consumer from the existence of competing storefronts than I do from being being able to tune out Kickstarter backers. This is pretty clearly an industry giant working to consolidate its market position, and that’s worth criticizing.

        • BlueTemplar says:

          Can they be really called “competing” storefronts if they’re still selling Steam keys?
          link to medium.com

          • pepperfez says:

            Only in the very loosest sense, of course. The war for real choices in PC game distribution has basically been lost, but there are at least key sellers like Humble (or direct sales) that give a better deal to developers and the possibility of offering keys as a Kickstarter reward. “Slightly less oppressive monopoly” is basically all consumers can hope for at this point, which is why this whole discussion is framed as a more-or-less polite request for Valve to do something.

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          If you’re buying from the competition then Steam reviews don’t matter. Hell by that logic this is a competitive advantage for the competition because their reviews are now ‘better’.

          • pepperfez says:

            The issue is that Steam reviews do matter to developers, so this change discourages selling keys through other outlets. As BlueTemplar notes elsewhere in the comments, raw volume of reviews affects the maximum possible rating for a game, so small developers especially are punished if too high a share of their sales come from outside the Steam storefront.

            It’s a subtle nudge, and it wouldn’t be a big deal if Valve didn’t have a functional monopoly on PC game distribution, but they do, so any move to shut out even partial competition is suspect.

      • Danley says:

        But we’d be making less informed decisions in this instance, not more. I have over 450 games on my Steam wishlist, from years of thumbing through titles for sale. I will never buy all these games, or either way never play them, and have to depend on this bit of information or that even to sort through deciding which one I might be ready to get.

        The problem isn’t the filtering, which is fine, it’s what’s filtered by default.

  9. Czrly says:

    They should have taken this further and introduced a way to tag the key so that Kickstarter and crowd-sourced backers can be filtered out, promotional keys handed out for free could be filtered, random selection bundles like the Humble one can be filtered out and third-party stores and retail can be filtered. Then, they should have turned off backers, promotions and bundles by default and left Steam, third-party and retail on by default. This would have solved the problem that they describe and the real problem: that backers are always polarised (haters or fanboys) and NOT a good source of objective reviews of any game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Oakreef says:

      How do we solve the horrendous problem of people who have opinions about things reviewing them?????? /s

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        It’s not just opinions, it’s passionate opinions.
        The opinions of people who care so much about a game that they were willing to give the devs money with no guarantee of ever getting anything in return, generally aren’t that useful to someone who just wants to know if they will enjoy the game.
        Or to put it more bluntly; fanbois are rarely worth listening to.

        • Czrly says:

          And neither are haters. But Kickstarter backers tend to be either fanboys or haters. They also tend to review the game immediately, at release, after playing it for barely any time at all, just to get in there first. THIS is not useful.

        • anHorse says:

          Oh this is tosh

          I kickstarted We Happy Few because I liked the concept, it hasn’t led to me feeling like I must defend what is still a very creaky game to the death and it hasn’t led to me spewing rubbish about being lied to.

          Although RPS has tried to rectify the view a lot of kickstarter backers really do just see their pledges as preorders.

        • pepperfez says:

          If the problem is fanboys, then they need to filter out preorders, $100 Deluxe-with-Embarrassing-Statuette Edition purchases, and people who’ve bought every piece of cosmetic DLC.

        • Danley says:

          Complete mischaracterization of crowdfunding and the variety of people who use such platforms. Crowdfunders are almost always more critical when they’re not happy with something they patiently invested in. If Valve does the next thing I would now expect them to and launches their own version of Kickstarter, then your point is even more silly.

          • Titler says:

            Having Kickstarted the horrendous Atlas Shrugs simulator that Shroud of the Avatar has become, one huge flaw in your argument is that Haters will, if possible, divest themselves of their accounts when they can… whilst Fanboys will buy those accounts up, either to make the profit on resale they assume is inevitable (because it’s SO awesome!) or to pass on to friends and, if they link them to Steam accounts, they are now are sitting on an enormous power to be a brigade by themselves…

            One of the players at Shroud openly admitted to having 75 accounts. The recent telethon raised $200k… but from only 38 players.

            SotA currently insists that once you’ve linked one account to Steam, you have to stay with a basic pledge on that Steam account even if you sell all the rest of the account value off, so you can’t quite do the above more than once; I also don’t think that Steam have applied these new review rules to SotA either… if you can still see my review below, well I had a KS as mentioned and then used a free key to tie it to Steam to help test Achievement functionality. I’m not so sympathetic now…

            link to steamcommunity.com

            Tackling the ability of brigading via keys is both a vital need but also an incredibly difficult thing to balance; in theory it could wipe out a lot of the negatives for Shroud, whilst leaving a few individuals in control of huge swathes of positives… I’m not sure there’s an obvious or easy answer then.

  10. Kefren says:

    This doesn’t surprise me, since review scammers on all sites are causing problems for everyone. My own experience is with Amazon. I generally only have a few reviews for my books (usually good, and all genuine), but a minority of authors or publishers take part in mass review scamming and purchasing to push their (generally poor) books to the bestseller lists. This leads to a clampdown from Amazon which is needed in principle, but often leads to removal of many genuine reviews. When you only have 20 and you lose 10 with no comeback, even though they were all real, it is incredibly frustrating, like you’ve been set back a year. It can have other impacts, for example some marketing services require x number of reviews on Amazon.com (and they don’t count reviews on Amazon.co.uk – at least Steam only has one site, not all this frustrating regional splitting!)

    In short, all online commerce sites struggle with preventing people gaming the system with fake or paid reviews, and even though a user can spot them a mile off, it seems like the combination of algorithms and systems the sites implement always has an impact on genuine devs/authors too. I have no idea what the answer to all this is, apart from making sure you have some way of asking for a re-evaluation (not possible with Amazon – if you contact them about it the word is that they end up removing even more reviews, so most people just sigh and live with it whilst the number of products with obviously fake reviews seems to grow and somehow escape detection for long enough to make quite a bit of money, even auto-generated crud content scraping books from blogs etc).

    • Kefren says:

      What’s happened? My avataar of many years has changed! I want the old one back, not Mustard Man!

      • Premium User Badge

        johannsebastianbach says:

        I know the feel … it is BS to be yellow all of the sudden. I loved my old avatar. rip in peperonis I guess :-(

        • TechnicalBen says:

          Ah, so it’s not just my memory playing tricks on me.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      Volume matters on Steam too :
      link to steamcommunity.com
      Games below ~500 user reviews aren’t considered “Overwhelmingly positive” (95%–100%) even if they have more than 95% positive reviews, but are considered just “Very Positive” instead. (Normally reserved for 94%–91%).

      The same thing happens with games below ~50 user reviews that are considered “Positive” instead of “Very Positive” (normally 80%–95%) even if they have more than 80% positive reviews.

      Though it would seem that the not-Steam-bought reviews count for this number (unless it’s only the case for the reviews prior to this change?).
      See for instance Thief 2, with 498 Steam and 2 Key reviews :
      link to store.steampowered.com

      So, the system can still be abused in some specific situations :
      Say, you have a game with 300 overall reviews and a 96% “Very Positive” rating.
      You giveaway your game, to make overall reviews to climb to >500 :
      congratulations, your game has been promoted to “Overwhelmingly Positive”!
      And if I understand it correctly it doesn’t even matter whether these giveaway reviews are positive or not, since they don’t count for the %!

      • BlueTemplar says:

        Thief 2 seems to have dropped a rank from day to day (with no changes in reviews), I have trouble understanding how Steam names (and therefore, orders in the browsing section) its scores :
        link to arstechnica.com

  11. Merus says:

    Hiring more people is antithetical to Valve’s business model, which is to push as much as possible onto the backs of their customers and partners, who will do it better for cheaper because Valve knows they can get away with it, and sit in the middle taking their cut. Digital sharecropping’s all the rage, it’s just Valve got there first.

    I have been, shall we say, ambivalent about Valve for a while.

  12. Jaeja says:

    Interesting that the coverage I’ve seen of this so far (here and on Eurogamer) is talking a lot about the impact on developers, but not at all about the impact on customers.

    Like… are reviews from Kickstarter backers actually useful to someone browsing the Steam store, or would eliminating them lead to scores that more closely represent the likely game experience of a majority of potential purchasers?

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      Anecdotally, one of my Steam reviews is currently sitting at “most helpful overall”, and it’s a negative review of a game that I backed on Kickstarter, a fact which I disclosed in the review. So I suppose it’s not entirely useless.

      I don’t think it’s possible to generalise here. Which is basically the whole issue in a nutshell.

      • Jaeja says:

        But an aggregate score *is* a generalisation by its nature.

        In any event, your review will still be there in all its textual glory, it just won’t contribute to the score. Given that we’re talking about an aggregate, the pertinent question right now isn’t whether this review or that review should (or “deserve to be”) counted, it’s whether excluding scores from people using Steam keys makes the final score more or less useful for a typical customer.

        • Premium User Badge

          basilisk says:

          I meant “generalising about the value of reviews written by Kickstarter backers”. Sorry for being unclear.

          And the review isn’t there in all its textual glory, either: it is now hidden by default until you change the setting (which is not remembered).

          (More accurately, the review should be hidden, but in this particular case the game is wrongly identified as “bought on Steam”, which is simply not true. Not sure how that happened. But I have checked and some of my other reviews are now indeed hidden by default.)

          • Jaeja says:

            Fair enough about being hidden, my bad; maybe that’s an area for refinement, where some reviews can be “unscored” without being hidden

            And understood about the generalisation, but in that case we just disagree – the question to me isn’t about individual reviews, it’s about how Backer/SteamKey reviews as a whole skew relative to the rest, and that’s something that’s eminently generalisable with some basic statistics :)

    • Premium User Badge

      cpt_freakout says:

      While the whole “people are being silenced” reaction is absurd (this is a long, very long way from censorship), what is true from it is that the categorization does implicitly characterize people’s opinions into “closer to reality” and “biased”, to put your words in other terms. The ‘reality’ is much more complex than that, and the helpfulness of reviews depends on whether the release comes from a big publisher, a crowdfunding project, a small publisher, a one-man team, etc. Fairness can be achieved, but this way of doing it only achieves unfairness towards the consumers that take their time to write a review (or do it in 5 minutes, but that’s fine, it’s all opinions anyway).

      First of all, people aren’t stupid, and paid/bot reviews are easy to spot. If you buy a game without reading the reviews, then that’s on you for being lazy, not on Valve, or some dev/publisher paying for positive reviews. Second of all, it would be much more helpful if there was a small disclosure like they do with Greenlight – “this project was crowdfunded”, for example. That way, you go into the reviews expecting people with a commitment level you might not possibly have, and you know the reviews will be more passionate than usual, more nitpicky, more full of praise.

      Awareness, or at least helping people be conscious of the context of a game they might be interested in, would be much fairer than just dumping KS backers with paid reviewers into a category that’s not enabled by default, I think.

      • Jaeja says:

        The purpose and point of a review score – IMO – is to give the best guidance possible to customers considering buying the thing being reviewed, and therefore I’m judging everything against that criteria.

        Thus, for example, I’m only concerned about “fairness towards the reviewer” to the degree that it affects whether the thing gets enough reviews to be useful. Similarly, I’m not interested in some objective “reality”, but I *am* interested in presenting the potential customer with reviews that are _more likely_ to reflect the experiences they’d have if they bought the thing.

        What the reviewers (or the developer!) think about it is essentially irrelevant, because the system does not exist for their benefit. IMO, of course :)

  13. PancakeWizard says:

    I have a lot of love for Valve and Steam, but most of their Steam changes just show how much of a bubble they live in.

    Kickstarter backers are the first line of defence to show whether a game is delivering on its promises or not, and the Steam review system is the perfect vehicle for that.

    What they SHOULD be doing is trying to prevent review bombing/brigading. I’m tempted to say that you have to play over the 2 hour refund limit to write a review, but I’m sure that’d upset some.

    • Czrly says:

      Playing more than two hours should be required and a minimum age of your Steam account should also be part of it. Perhaps also a minimum “value” of your account – reasonable, so perhaps 50 currency units.

      Perhaps something like Stack Overflow’s points system should be introduced.

      • BlueTemplar says:

        Aren’t the conditions to have a full-fledged Steam account are already pretty stringent, and they already stop spammers?

    • thenevernow says:

      It’s too easy to idle a game for 2 hours while you copy-paste your review, have a sandwhich and do the laundry. I say (and this certainly would have its enemies): achievements!

      • BlueTemplar says:

        Yeah, not to mention that there are already automated tools to idle Steam games (for getting the collectible cards for instance).

      • PancakeWizard says:

        I think expecting people to idle a game for two hours just to write a review is an expensive pastime. No refund after 2 hours, remember?

        • BlueTemplar says:

          Wait, so your review is still being kept if you get a refund?

          • PancakeWizard says:

            Currently? Yes

            In the system I’m proposing? You wouldn’t even be able to write a review before the refund period was up, so no.

    • LionsPhil says:

      People who had abysmal technical problems and had to refund the game before their two hours were up have useful negative opinions.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        You’re right, but given that the refund system <2 hours is no questions asked, does it really need to be in the review if someone was having technical issues getting the game running? If reviews are up over the 2 hour limit, then it stands to reason that technical issues are hardware specific and the game's discussion forums would be buzzing with aggravation on individual troubleshooting issues anyway.

  14. Amake says:

    Not that I’ve ever bought a game based on Steam reviews, but why not let devs themselves control how their games are presented in the store?

    • TheMightyEthan says:

      Because the whole issue Valve is trying to address is shady devs paying people/giving out free keys in order to get positive reviews. Letting the devs determine how it’s presented wouldn’t address that issue at all, at best it would do nothing and at worst it would exacerbate it.

    • alh_p says:

      hmm, lets think about that a second.

      While you’re doing that, allow me to introduce you to the incentive sisters: Self-promotion and Profit. Such charming gals.

      Steam at least aspires to some sort of impartial store front. Letting Devs do it themselves doesn’t sound like the best way to ensure impartiality.

      • phlebas says:

        Well, I’d agree with you that this is entirely about self-promotion and profit.

        • Amake says:

          And what better way to make buyers aware that they’re being targeted by self-promoting profiteers than presenting them just as such, and let them make their own decisions, as informed or uninformed as they care to be?

          • pepperfez says:

            And that’s exactly what this article and the quoted tweets are doing.

    • pepperfez says:

      Because that does nothing to discourage developers from offering their games for sale on other storefronts.

  15. Simon_Scott says:

    Here’s an unformed opinion. The people using the reviews in order to decide what game they are going to buy are doing so from an indecisive, post-release position. They’re likely opinion of the game, should they buy it, is most closely going to resemble the reviews of similar, post-release purchasers – not the Kickstarter backers, competition winners, review4key people, etc. I suspect that for all Steam’s bluntness in offering this (optional) filter, it will mean the review system becomes more valuable to those for whom it is supposed to benefit, i.e. the undecided consumer.

    • Danley says:

      Explain to me why my opinion of Grim Dawn — a game I waited for its full release before I played it at all, and a game I can only play through Steam — is not relevant to someone considering the full release because I bought it on Kickstarter.

      • Rindan says:

        Your opinion might very well be relevant. If you know a way to sift your 1 thumbs up/down vote out from the 5 up/down votes by rabid Kickstater fans, 3 free product key reviews, and 2 shady dev reviews, I am sure Valve would love to hear.

        They are not going after you. You are just minor collateral damage. Better to kill 9 bad votes and 1 good vote, then keep 9 bad votes and 1 good vote.

        Stop taking it personally. Valve wants the best reviews possible.

        Personally, I’m super happy about this change. When I buy games on Steam, I want the games to reflect the scores of other people buying games on Steam. Not people who got free product keys, not devs who gave themselves product keys, not rabid (or hateful) kickstarter folks who are overly invested, and not even humble bundle folks. I really just want to score for people as close to me as possible. The easiest way to do that is to eliminate from the score people who have an obvious difference.

        Like I said though, if you have an alternative suggestion, I’m sure Valve would love to hear it.

  16. MajorLag says:

    Frankly the whole review system is kind of worthless on Steam and should probably just be done away with. IIRC, it started as a system where you could recommend games to friends, and that was fine, but now it’s largely about communities warring over opinions with the helpful/unhelpful tags and seeing how ridiculous a review you can write.

    Here’s an idea: turn reviews back into recommendations to friends, and allow all players a simple up, down, or neutral vote. Scores could be weighted slightly based on how long a player has been on Steam, how many games they own, etc, to try and keep the fake accounts from having too much of an impact.

    • ROMhack2 says:

      Agreed. The same thing has happened on Letterboxd, which used to be a pretty decent site when it was relatively new.

      It’s the Youtube effect, really. A brazen attempt at aggregating likes for the sake of scoring e-points.

  17. Maxheadroom says:

    Wouldn’t filtering it by hours played by default be a better option? Not foolproof sure (I doubt anything would be), but at least all those glowing reviews with 0.1 hours played would appear way down the bottom of the list.

    • MajorLag says:

      That would bias the score towards people who like the game enough to invest hundreds of hours into it, and against people who can clearly tell it isn’t something they want to play after only a few minutes.

      Then again there are people like me, who have 300 hours+ in TF2 and a very negative review of it (I liked the game before they started changing it, you see), so maybe it could work.

      • shde2e says:

        I’ve actually seen a suprising number of negative reviews with hundreds of hours in the game.

        I guess those people have pretty much exhausted the game for themselves, and are now in a position where they know most of its little quibbles and frustrations intimately.

        Of course, the positive ones still outnumber them at that level, but it might be worth implementing.

  18. HunterPT says:

    I feel like this article is a bit biased, it should try to show the other side of the coin, and also show quotes from devs that might agree with this change, instead of grabbing quotes from devs that are honestly not that relevant (Larian and possibly maia devs aside).

    I mean using 2 tweets from a dev of this game link to store.steampowered.com a game which has 44 reviews, and sales in the hundreds (not thousands, just normal hundreds) to the point the margin of error on steamspy is bigger than the “average”, is hardly what I would call the most relevant of opinions on a service that has over 120 million users.

    Or using the tweet of a dev that by his own admission has 120 reviews, even when one looks at the Maia and Larian devs, we see that the difference in numbers is basically meaningless, maia has 24 key activation reviews out of a total of 562, so the opinion on the game should remain pretty much unaffected.
    Divinity also has a relatively meaningless amount of reviews from key activations with 210 out of a total of 2867 reviews, once again showing that the difference when they are excluded is really not that significant (1% for both Maia and Dvinity Original sin).

    Personally I gladly trade such small differences for a system that is easier to manipulate, also it would have been nice to point out straight out false claims from those devs:

    “And none of the people who backed The Council of Crows will be able to support it.” how does default filtering reviews make it so people aren’t able to support your game?

    “The new Steam Review policy will hurt. As a kickstarter dev, your most passionate fans are now silenced.” They are not silenced since reviews still show up, and people can still see it, and steam doesn’t own the internet, so those peoples opinions are still heard, and once again as seen by Divinity the amount of key activation reviews is borderline meaningless for them at this point (no idea of the future ofc).

    “Between direct sales, Kickstarter, indiegogo I have 16000+ users who will never be able to leave me a review that matters to the score.” Once again they can still leave reviews, and we can still see the score, and reviews matter for more than just the score, and yet once again the amount of people that so far have left reviews from key activations makes a 1% difference in score, hardly what is going to save the quite low score the game has (I’m a backer of Maia btw, and I don’t feel neglected because of this).

    And finally we have this piece of gold:

    “This is a daft move, but I can’t really get mad at Valve. The whole process of selling digital things is so deeply absurd.” the relevance to the article? God only knows, but lets put it here anyway because why not.

    Would also like to point out that I have to question the veracity of this:

    “Like with Greenlight, it’s smaller devs who suffer most – people who rely upon crowdfunding, selling across multiple storefronts, and backing sales up with promises of Steam keys if their games pass Greenlight. Valve really need to hire more people.” quite strongly, since as far as I know the people getting hurt by the old process were smaller devs that couldn’t get a guaranteed place on Steam, while non “smaller devs” did have a guaranteed spot there, so if anything I would think greenlight hurts medium/big devs, not small devs that might not even have been able to get there in the first place.
    Which ofc is not saying greenlight is perfect, but let us tone down the massive incorrect generalization.

    Same as this “This looks like the typical Valve approach of making broad, sweeping changes that affect everyone negatively rather than dealing with people individually. Rather than simply hire more staff to handle problems, they seem to end up create huge systems like Greenlight or making sweeping changes. This one is not going down well with a number of smaller developers.” which is a massive generalization from a company that does a whole lot of things.

    To say that I don’t only complain about what was done wrong, I would advise say for example try and get the opinion of someone like RimWorld, which recently launched his game on Steam Early access, and has had his game outside of steam for quite sometime, and as such sees a very significant number of his reviews at this point in time coming from steam key activation, resulting in a 2% decrease on his score, or from the factorio devs which are in a similar position but it ended up with a 0% review score change.

    • HunterPT says:

      To clarify not disagreeing that Valve needs to hire more people, they sure do, merely disagreeing with the part about greenlight, and also that hiring more people for this specific case wouldn’t really solve the issue.

    • HunterPT says:

      “Personally I gladly trade such small differences for a system that is easier to manipulate”

      This should obviously read “Personally I gladly trade such small differences for a system that is harder to manipulate”

      *Insert rant about lack of Edit Button.

    • Distec says:

      Really appreciate this post. Alice framed this article terribly and didn’t provide much in terms of discussion points; just “Valve is just making people’s (read: mostly obscure indie devs) lives difficult”. The hell of it is that there’s a legitimate line of criticism on how this change pushes for more purchases from Steam directly, therefore benefiting Valve. But the article doesn’t seem to care.

      This has gotten to be fairly predictable from RPS writers. Steam makes changes to their system that range from questionable (see this instance) to arguably good (see Steam introducing an actual return policy), but the writers spend so much time wringing their hands over how this affects some struggling small outfit making “vignette” games or whatever; people who were always going to struggle in any ecosystem, honestly.

      • JonasKyratzes says:

        Actually, I don’t think any of us obscure indies quoted here were crazily negative. Like the article says, some people are concerned. Concerned. Not going nuts, just a bit worried, but at the same time acknowledging that there’s a real problem and this is a response to it. Some of us are more affected than others, of course – most of my income comes from writing less obscure stuff which won’t be affected, so this isn’t as bad for me as for someone who lives off a single crowdfunded game. But in general everyone’s being pretty polite, even on Twitter. There’s no controversy here, just an understandable move that is nevertheless unfortunate in some of its side-effects (if not its intent).

        • Distec says:

          My criticism was primarily directed at the writing on this site, less so at what any of the given indie developers think. If this change does affect you and your product (possibly negatively), then it is absolutely right for you to express concerns and discuss it. You’d be crazy not to! Don’t take my comment as calling out all of you lot. :)

          I’m just very tired of reading Steam articles here that seem to imply that this system is only making life more difficult for working creators. It’s a trend I’ve detected from their previous writing whenever any change of significance is made to Steam: Point to a few developers who are “concerned”, potentially make a stink about some edge cases (or out of nothing), hardly bother with the consumer perspective.

          There’s more to talk about that. Honestly, I can’t dismiss the justifications for this change as meritless. So it’s kinda disappointing when the writing on it basically a retread of “Ugh Steam is so hard on the little guy”.

    • Danley says:

      You’re not considering all the users who may eventually review your game. Just because the altkey/Steam ratio is low based on current data, this controversy has a lot to do with how crowdfunding is going to get bigger not smaller and those people are going to somehow be cast as irrational fanboys or overzealous trolls. Unless Valve does the next logical thing and starts its own crowdfunding, which they probably should have done a long time ago.

      • HunterPT says:

        Well the solution was implemented now, I believe it is prudent to draw conclusions from current data, not future data, because if the trend remains even anywhere close to what it is now, the difference in % score from including by default key reviews and not including them (by default) is going to be quite small.

        As an example I gave rimworld which is a game that spent over 1 year outside of steam, was a significantly indie success outside and now inside steam, and the % difference is just 2%.
        Also having been just released 2 months ago on steam, it already has almost 2x the steam reviews than it does key reviews, this from a game that sold over 100.000 copies outside of steam, which is a number that even exceeds (significantly) the number of backers on a huge kickstarter success like Torment: Tides of Numenera.

        Truth is that judging by current data, steam reviews on most successful games (if not all) are going to a lot more numerous than the amount of reviews from keys, adding to that from what I have been able to see the difference in % between just steam reviews and just key reviews is usually small, being even smaller to non existant when one encompasses all reviews.

        Now ofc a game that just released from outside of steam onto steam will be more affected by this change, but people can still see the reviews, and their %, and in most cases it is only a matter of time until there are more steam reviews than key reviews.

        Also I disagree with this:

        “this controversy has a lot to do with how crowdfunding is going to get bigger not smaller”

        First of all I genuinely haven’t seen the numbers to support the claim that crowdfunding is going to get bigger, it seems to me that crowdfunding as far as games go hasn’t gotten all that much bigger, the failures haven’t helped there, but even if it does get bigger which it might very well happen, it is still a very safe bet that it is not going to get bigger than steam, so the % difference is still going to be smaller.
        Adding to that valve can revisit the review system at any time if crowdfunding does indeed become so big for this to be an issue, it is not as if we are talking about a company that does something and then never revisits it, so doing things now on the basis of a possible future that might never occur seems illogical to me.

        Have also to disagree with this:

        ” and those people are going to somehow be cast as irrational fanboys or overzealous trolls.”

        I have seen no such thing, which once again is assuming a future trend that may never happen, and for which I have seen no evidence of it happening, especially since the measure is not to spot irrational fanboys or overzealous trolls, but instead to make it more difficult steam review manipulation.

        In the end my point wasn’t even that what valve did was right, although I believe it is even if it could use some changes, my point was that as a journalist the article should have presented both sides of the coin, and it should have done it better, instead what we got was just 1 side of things with some steam bashing in the mix, which is not a good way to do such an article in my opinion.

  19. wisnoskij says:

    This is probably a very good thing for customers. While those KS reviews were legit, they did not represent the average person coming to steam to possible buy a game off their platform. It only makes sense to make all the reviews shown on the Steam page, apply to Steam’s customers.

    • Baines says:

      It hides some positive Kickstarter and dev friend reviews, but it also hides all the negative reviews that games acquire once they are included in kitchen sink bundles.

      An interesting thing is that the filter options actually give consumers more information, as you see how many reviews were Steam store purchases and how many were redeemed keys. (Though I don’t trust the current figures, as the key counts seem abnormally low for certain titles.)

      Really, Valve could fix the whole situation by leaving the filter options, and just defaulting to showing all reviews.

      • wisnoskij says:

        I bet a person who uses the Steam store to buy titles is several dozen times more likely to leave a review. Which is why there are so many fewer than you might otherwise guess.

        • Someoldguy says:

          I’m baffled by that idea. Most people are intelligent enough to shop around for the best value when looking to buy a game. When it’s a Steam sale, they buy via steam. When it’s not, they get their steam key (assuming they prefer steam as their platform) elsewhere. Occasionally people pay a little extra and buy direct from the developer to ensure the developer they like gets more of the money so that they’re more likely to make more games. How I’ve bought a game has never been an influence on whether I feel like reviewing a game. Just whether I feel I have something to contribute.

      • pepperfez says:

        The obviousness of that solution is what makes me so suspicious of their motives in doing it the way they did.

  20. pguyton says:

    Why not block multiples from the same ip + make a long playtime a prerequisite for a review

    • Optimaximal says:

      Because a) the playtime counter is notoriously unreliable and b) many people have fudged counts from using card idlers, setup programs and other stuff.

    • Gus the Crocodile says:

      A prerequisite of long playtime means outlawing the reviewing of short games.

      • shde2e says:

        It also means removing a lot of refunders, as well as people who had massive issues with the game right from the start and stopped playing.

    • pepperfez says:

      Because the point of the change is stigmatizing non-Steam sales. If you buy a game from Steam, never play it, and say it’s horrible, Valve still got their cut. If you Kickstart a game, play it, and share a nuanced opinion, they didn’t get anything so fuck off.

  21. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I buy almost all of my games elsewhere because I like to find good deals, now my opinion doesn’t matter and the opinion of someone less informed does. This strikes me as an extremely shady market manipulation tactic by valve and a very dark precedent indeed.

    • minijedimaster says:

      Why would my opinion be less informed just because I bought my copy of the game direct on Steam?

      Also, you can still leave reviews of games you bought outside of steam. I can still see those reviews. There is no silencing in any way shape or form.

  22. Optimaximal says:

    I’m happy that Valve are doing this to a degree – too many ‘Funny’ reviews and review bombs for the average metric to really be usable, especially if a wonky patch riles up the entitled Twitch masses.

    What Valve *do* need to do to improve this is to still give weighting to authorised third-party stores – they can already granularly trace stolen keys, so why can’t they give top-billing to the Steam Store then give Humble, Amazon & GMG second tier billing (i.e. still contribute to score, but always live under the ‘More’ button)?

    • pepperfez says:

      Why should Valve give them anything at all when they don’t pay for it?

  23. cardigait says:

    Remove this foolish filter.
    Deny possibility to write reviews if game is not installed.
    Allow to hide reviews of players with less than 1-2 hours play.

    • Chalky says:

      Is step 4 “Get completely defeated by anyone capable of leaving a program running on their computer for 2 hours”?

  24. Jeroen D Stout says:

    I suppose we could solve all these problems by removing the review system entirely.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Or remove the aggregate score.

      • P.Funk says:

        Or just have two aggregates you can toggle between to let the consumer decide if he thinks the review aggregate is bloated by dishonesty.

  25. woodsey says:

    “The whole process of selling digital things is so deeply absurd.”

    Release your game for free, then? What kind of nonsensical point was that meant to be? Buying games has always been about paying for digital goods.

    • wisnoskij says:

      Jonas Kyratzes is an outspoken socialist. I believes he means that as an artist the government should just pay for all his expenses and needs so that he does not need to sell anything. As that is one of his more important beliefs.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Oh, so he’s a sponge, then.

        • wisnoskij says:

          No, a sponge is a lazy person who parasitically lives off the goodwill of others.
          Jonas Kyratzes would force you and me into laborcamps so that we could produce the things he wants, giving him the time to produce games, practically no one wants to play, in return. At least in his mind he would be working incredibly hard in return, producing the most valuable of resources, art.
          So more like a war criminal or a human rights violator, than a sponge.

          • Premium User Badge

            FhnuZoag says:

            Wow, you guys really hate this person for writing a snarky, ambiguous aside.

          • Premium User Badge

            FhnuZoag says:

            Maybe he’s neither a war criminal, a human rights violator, or a sponger, but rather he believes in a BBC type model where a subscription fee is shared out to sustain a number of content producers. Or a Patreon type system where people pay to sustain a consistent working lifestyle instead of buying individual digital products.

            But hey, let’s assume he’s Stalin instead.

          • wisnoskij says:

            I don’t hate him or his comment. It is sort of strange to sell something that is free to produce in any quantity. I am just terrified by his real world opinions and philosophies, which I follow. He does not believe in a subscription based model for games, he believe that everything in the world should be free, and that artists should never have to work.

          • Premium User Badge

            FhnuZoag says:

            There are again lots of provisors and details that could make this not ‘labour camps’, which you haven’t supplied evidence for. Maybe he thinks we’re approaching a post-scarcity society where labour is no longer required. Maybe he believes in a basic income, that supplying everyone with a certain fixed minimum standard of living wouldn’t negatively impact the economy.

          • P.Funk says:

            So you’re just gonna spew that same old crap about how anyone who’s a socialist believes in forced labour camps?

            That’s just so fucking lazy.

          • JonasKyratzes says:

            Wisnoskij, I would appreciate it if you stopped obsessing over your deranged interpretations of my beliefs. (Labor camps, really?) This cannot be healthy.

          • wisnoskij says:

            @FhnuZoag
            I don’t really see what the point is of trying to guess an ideology for a person based on 100 characters of text. If you care, just go read his philosophy, he has written about it a great amount in other places. I was just trying to put that statement, that made no sense alone, into context. He is a socialist who believes that artists should be in a class above the workers, not a lazy sponge. I would hate him if I thought he was a lazy sponge, which is why I disagree with that idea venomously.
            And personally I really like his games, if that makes any difference.

          • PancakeWizard says:

            @JonasKyratzes

            Still a bloody stupid thing for a grown up to say, though.

          • Danley says:

            @wisnoskij Aren’t you projecting the very point he’s making? Why do you pay for art if it isn’t the product of work? And if is work, why would anyone demand that it be free?

            If you’re Canadian, you don’t just get to say “Hey, I’m an artist, so pay me.” You develop a responsible production model and prove that your art has benefits that the public would benefit from investing in. If they were going to invest in it either way, either by contracting a private party or by funding the arts in general, then it’s a question of expense. If it’s cheaper to fund the arts in general rather than overpay an established art company, then the state has a duty to their taxpayers to do so.

            So often the argument in favor of free enterprise is really just the argument that adversity shapes moral character, and whatever benefit might derive from any form of collectivism will be cancelled out if that moral character is lost. In cases where the state is paying for it anyway, you’ve agreed to pay for it by paying taxes and electing officials whose policies your agree with, what is the problem?

          • wisnoskij says:

            @Danley
            “Aren’t you projecting …”
            I am not sure what you mean by this. I am fairly certain I maintained throughout that producing art was work, and that it should not be free (people should be able to produce art, and in some fashion get resources in return).

            “the state has a duty to their taxpayers to do so.”
            I really do not think that it does. I know in the states for example, that actually would likely be strictly outlawed on anti-competition grounds

            “~moral argument~”
            Sure, people have made that argument. But while I might agree that arguments of that nature are important when approaching the problem of economics holistically, morals are such a complicated thing to argue effectively that they are almost always better left out of arguments, that can be expressed in material concerns, altogether.

    • JonasKyratzes says:

      That the process is absurd doesn’t change the fact the we live in a system that works as it does, and people have to make a living. Many things about the world we live in are deeply absurd. Sometimes that means that there are very few good solutions, at least within the existing parameters. (Just look at the whole piracy debate.) That’s all I meant. I don’t think this is great, but I understand where it comes from, and I acknowledge that the whole situation is generally kind of messed up one way or the other. Getting angry at Valve as a company or a set of individuals doesn’t help all that much.

      • ROMhack2 says:

        I don’t know if you’re still here but, out of interest, do you think TSWCE benefited much from Steam before all this?

        I checked the store page about a month ago and it didn’t have all that many reviews on there. Having bought the game on Steam myself and completed it (wonderful game, thanks), my initial thought was to leave a review but I felt it was simply too complex for a Steam review. To me, Steam reviews are synonymous with feeling, not intellect so I felt more comfortable writing an article for my blog instead. Granted some people did post some intelligent reviews but I feel most people ignore them unless they goes into one of two ways:

        – Overly gushing.
        – Overly negative.

        It seems to resemble a general lack of centre, much like politics in fact, which I’m sure you’ll appreciate the comparison to.

        Likewise, most of the stuff I read on the Talos Principle was aimed more toward the quality of puzzles with philosophical discussion being reserved for the forums.

  26. dangermouse76 says:

    The problem I have run into with steam reviews is this. I now perceive many reviews to be garbage, or emotionally driven agenda pieces, or just for the lol’s.

    This, I don’t doubt isn’t true. But I have an internal cut off when I think the signal to noise ratio is getting too high.Basically I cant be bothered dealing with crap to get the good.

    So I don’t read steam reviews at all anymore.
    I am aware that this means I am lazy as well, but I can live with that.
    My life’s too short to sift through a mire of opinion to try to create an internally balanced amalgamation of those opinions.

    A few RPS type site reviews, not pre-ordering and having an ear on news channels for inherent issues is more my level.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      There’s the “most helpful” reviews for that…

      • dangermouse76 says:

        It’s too late. IT’S ALL TOO LATE !

        Seriously though I just dont interact with steam much. I go I guy a game because I’ve heard about it, there are a few “reputable” reviews and some post release chat amongst the dozen or so sites I read.

        It’s at total odds with how I would buy a……hand vacuum cleaner, a dirt devil if you will.

        I’ll research the shit out of that. PC parts, I could spend a couple of weeks getting myself re-acquainted with PCIe lanes and air flow diagrams.

        But games not so much, funnily enough I have very few games I dont like either.

      • dangermouse76 says:

        Also the third most helpful review for Skyrim is a chocolate chip cookie recipe.

  27. silent_death says:

    Being a dev (non-kickstarter) this does affect us negatively as well – While I don understand the need for the system to get rid of these scammy reviews, there are better ways to do that – why not for instance have it be more self moderated? (> 10 “not helpful” pushes the review out), or one of the other great ideas in this thread.

    Now, for our game (in case you’re curious, it’s here ) we don’t have a big impact of the overall ratings, but there is of course a huge impact onto the volume of the ratings, which is a good indicator for the game as well – and in the “Key Activations” sections there are a lot of our humble Sales, as well as Youtubers and Reviewers we have given keys out – some of these are bad as well, every professional reviewer has his integrity to take care of as well.

    I see the merits of the system as a customer, though for me it by far does not outweigh the cost – it will make it even harder for indie devs to get noticed.
    And of course there’s the obvious business reasons they are doing this (As a developer I now have another reason why to not sell my games via the humble store or my own page)

    • BlueTemplar says:

      Well… you could choose not to sell your game on Steam!
      (Though I guess that not an option anymore?)

  28. Sin Vega says:

    Everyone’s missing the obvious solution here, which is to dismantle Steam and ban video games forever.

  29. Premium User Badge

    Tartrazine says:

    Valves statement is saying

    “In those cases, we’ve now taken action ”

    Is it confirmed this is across the board, or will it target only ‘those cases’ where Valve thinks there’s something fishy going on?

  30. Shigawire says:

    If only Steam spent as much time worrying about a percentile of games having bloated scores, as they could worry about low-quality trash filling up the “Featured Games” list every week. For instance, all the “anime for pedos” games that show up every week, that I ritually click “not interested” every week. Sort of like pruning weeds from my garden. And clicking “not interested” doesn’t in any way influence the same anime crap showing up in next week’s feed. But I still do it, in the vain hope that Valve one day improves the customer preference algorithms.

    Will Steam do something to help us weed out all the “DLC is cut content” tantrum reviews? A game may be great on its own merits, but once a DLC is pre-announced or announced, some very vocal people get on the “cut content” train. This drives reviews artificially down for some great games out there.

    • Danley says:

      Pedos, people like watch romantic movies and read romantic books, people who like dating shows or domestic reality shows, people with social anxiety or physical and mental disabilities that make it hard to interact with real people, people who like interactive narrative, or Anime. Or you know, people that got into the style when it was being marketed to them as teenagers.

      If you want to fuck kids, there are plenty of places for that on the Internet. Shit, there are plenty of countries where the practice is openly engaged in. Assuming that you would play narrative JRPGs or social sims to get your kicks is kind of ridiculous.

      I don’t like playing these games either, and besides when it crosses over with Hip-Hop I don’t like anime. But I don’t assume that the only people who do are pedophiles.

      • Shigawire says:

        Certainly. Not all anime content is sexualized. I mean the sexualized anime content. It’s not even that I am annoyed it exists.. I am simply annoyed that Steam keeps recommending it to me on “featured games” – some weeks I get like 2-3 of these “anime”, “casual” games with “nudity” tags on them. And it is here I make no mistake about what they are. Not simply JRPG or Anime.

        In any case, it’s almost become a weekly or bi-weekly ritual to me, to weed these out. No matter how many times I press “not interested”, their algorithm never seems to be able to learn.

  31. LTK says:

    I’m going to say what I said on the forum, that of Simon Roth’s 16000+ audience who bought the game outside of Steam, 25 people left a review on Steam. Steam purchasers left 540. Looking just at Steam reivews, the impact of fans who got the game outside of Steam is vanishingly small in the vast majority of cases.

    • froz says:

      Maybe this was one of the cases where Valve deleted some reviews?

  32. ulysse says:

    So I have more than 1000 Backers from my Kickstarter, and Steam is telling me that their opinions is not important… seriously?

    • phlebas says:

      Yup. What’s important is that you should encourage people to buy your game on Steam so that you can have more positive reviews and get a higher score.

      • pepperfez says:

        Just, y’know, don’t encourage them by pointing to your satisfied backers, because those people may be crooks and are certainly not reliable sources.

  33. Underwhelmed says:

    As someone who has written over 150 Steam reviews, allow me to explain the perfect solution to this problem:

    Get rid of the written reviews. It is a giant morass of uptight wannabe game journalists and angry mobs outraged by whatever new nonsense has befallen random title of the week. The only review scores that are actually insightful, are on niche titles that don’t have a lot of attention from the “community”.

    Anything AAA now gets its score tanked by self righteous mobs. Any game that tries to do something like take a stance on a political or social issue, is blasted by either a mob of people offended about the very idea that not all games try or are even supposed to be 100 hour masterpieces, or another mob that opposes the viewpoint, sometimes both.

    Virtually nobody knows the difference between their opinion and objective fact (and hint: Beyond technical issues, there isn’t any good objective system of measurement that can be applied to determine a game’s “quality”) nor are they capable of considering the possibility that not every game in the world is supposed to be made for their personal satisfaction. So what we have is a big dumb system of people shouting at each other, that produces misleading and arbitrary scores. Useless.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Exactly that’s why we need written reviews instead of say a score.
      I can read them and decide whether a review is serious or not.
      Are the problems others have with the game important or not.
      I can dismiss dumb reviews easily and get to the data I need to make an informed choice.
      For example: Dark Souls is a great game but a bad PC port and you get that information by reading the reviews rather than not having them at all. They even tell you how to fix it.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      Now that I think of it, a lot of negative reviews is seemingly going to come from people expecting from the game something different from what they imagined (and that comes from what the marketing of the game conveyed).
      No Man’s Sky might be a recent example?

    • PancakeWizard says:

      thumbs up/thumbs down and some key word selections might be a better idea, then. Basically force the language. Easy to localise as well.

    • Frank says:

      Oh heck no. The less cynical among us can find reviews that are worth reading to us among those we have now. And if I want to read reviews on a niche site, there is nothing stopping me. (Personally, no, I never want to read such reviews, even though I have some niche tastes.)

  34. Epicedion says:

    A semi-public review system like the one on Steam is inherently problematic. What Steam is doing here might seem a little overboard, but for the vast majority of cases it’s going to solve what Steam perceives as the biggest problem. The consumer still has the power to sort through the reviews, and is given helpful tools to sort them based on whether or not they want to see key-activations (etc), it’s just the generic top-of-the-page overall score that only reflects verified purchases. This strikes me as perfectly fine. There are 10 million ways to hear opinions about games, but when I’m buying one I’d really like to primarily consider the opinions of people that I know purchased the game. Hiring staff for that level of policing just isn’t viable.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      There is also the Steam curator system, persons which seem to be “Youtube Stars” also the entire gaming press.
      Those are semi- or non-public.

      I think the best reviews given are texts of medium lengths with a mature reasoning behind them from people who bought the game with their own money.

    • Frank says:

      “it’s just the generic top-of-the-page overall score that only reflects verified purchases” — and the default filter on the reviews below. If they let me customize the latter, I’d be happier with this change.

  35. JonasKyratzes says:

    I think the group affected the most are people who have crowdfunded a game, or who have developed extensive communities outside of Steam during the game’s development (through betatesting, etc.). Since the first week or so of a game’s launch is incredibly important, a make it or break it sort of thing, the fact that the game’s most enthusiastic audience isn’t counted towards review scores can seriously hurt the game’s discoverability. For games that aren’t hugely hyped, that can be a bigger issue than people realize. Games just vanish, even good games. It’s not as big a deal for more well-known games, or for games that weren’t crowdfunded.

    From the perspective of your average user, this change has positive effects (getting rid of fake reviews) and negative side-effects (niche games you might like going under the radar).

    How else to prevent review spam, though? I mean, the financial incentive is there for developers to just hand out keys, and the system is easily abused. I see why Valve did this. I don’t love it, but I see why.

    It might be possible to institute some kind of system for verified keys, so certain batches of keys are counted towards reviews. That would require the cooperation of Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Humble, etc. Would be quite useful, though.

    • Urthman says:

      But how often does the difference between a small game getting noticed or not noticed really depend on enthusiastic fans bumping that one review aggregate up a notch?

      • RobF says:

        As Steam sorts store presence and feature slots out and reviews are one of the things that get fed into that, plenty. The difference between a slot and no slot or seen and not seen is thread thin.

  36. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Doesn’t mean much if you loose out on half or more as long as the remaining votes are still representative of the game. You certainly loose negs in the exact same proportion as well so rating won’t change if you’re legit.
    If you loose “bought” positive votes you’re out of luck. I welcome this change as I always found EA games and small studio/ one-person games rated too high for those reasons.
    Now let me filter out the “joke” reviews (very funny) and all fake account reviews (low number of games/reviews) then we’re getting somewhere.
    Being a vendor doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for the stuff sitting on your shelves and I’m glad they kinda aknowledge that herewith.
    On the other side I can decide to buy a badly received product regardless. I bought “mixed” Deus Ex: MD and rate it 8/10 without blaming the reviewers who had their reasons.
    I didn’t get “mixed” The Crew because of rating and review texts.

  37. Isendur says:

    How about reviews show up only after you bought the game from Steam. That would be EVEN BETTER. Right?

  38. Gordon Shock says:

    Geez guys, talk about tempest in a teacup. The new interface is super easy and you can see all the reviews in one easy click. Valve, with it’s small team of only 400 people have other fish to fry than to spend their time concocting vast and intricate conspiracies that will somehow affect the course of the universe.

    Chill the fuck out, play the damn games and have fun!

    • BlueTemplar says:

      It matters because we might be already at the point when a better or worse Steam Score means jobs are on the line, like what happened with Metacritic :
      link to arstechnica.com

      • Gordon Shock says:

        That’s one example, 4 years ago and they missed a bonus not jobs as Obsidian is still doing mighty fine.

        There is a big difference between a dick move by a developer and Steam who only wants it’s customers to be informed the best way possible.

        We win if we buy a product based on accurate information…and if this is so Valve wins because it’s customers are happy and they don’t lose money by being swamped by refund request.

        • liquidsoap89 says:

          The problem is this doesn’t all of a sudden create accurate information. This only removes half (% wise probably much less) of the misinformative reviews. All of those stupid reviews from people jumping on hate bandwagons (hi Deus Ex), or people playing Terraria for 150 hours and then claiming there’s not enough content still exist. And those reviews don’t balance out a game’s score, they just drag it down.

          Obviously I don’t know what a better answer to this situation would be. Valve is in a shitty situation where a few hundred of them have to find a way to manage tens of millions of people. In my opinion though, this is not the way to do it.

        • pepperfez says:

          Valve most certainly does not only, or even primarily, care about their customers’ happiness. They are not a charity or a utility. They care about corporate profit, first and foremost.

          It’s not an intricate conspiracy when they change Steam policies to nudge developers away from selling at other stores. I mean, Valve has a staff economist; they’re not wide-eyed naifs. That the change won’t have an immediate negative impact on consumers doesn’t make it any less worrisome in its effects on the marketplace.

          • Gordon Shock says:

            Have you read Valve’s new employee manual? If a company spend that much time and energy on it’s employee is that they have their customer’s satisfaction at heart.

            Not to worry though I don’t wear pink glasses but let’s not put try to put Valve shoulder to shoulder with EA or Ubisoft.

  39. ROMhack2 says:

    I agree with him a lot and I really like his games but Jonas Kyratzes is basically rent-a-tweet when it comes to this type of outrage.

    Hopefully he’s the type of guy who can see the funny side to it but gosh darn he does it so very often.

    • JonasKyratzes says:

      The last time I tried to really engage with a controversy in gaming was literally *years* ago (the Greenlight fee, and even then, I didn’t really write about the fee itself, only about how indies treated each other, and people still freaked out). I don’t generally get involved because it seems absolutely impossible to have a rational conversation. I mean, look at this – I just tweeted about vaguely noticing that something had changed, noted it wasn’t very great for my next game, but made a point of saying I couldn’t really get mad about it. And yet I’m the guy who always complains.

      At least this incident has reminded me that even the tiniest comments are just not worth it.

  40. mercyRPG says:

    Valve is about to make a Big Announcement that they are developing Half-Life 3! or did I misread the title?

  41. Paul Debrion says:

    I’m surprised not many have mentioned how this seems to remove some traditional negative consequence of bundles and giveaways.

    Bundles and giveaways often result in a decrease in Steam review score because people who get the game randomly without purchasing are less likely to like a game than those who purchased the game.
    This change means the default filters out most of those “freebie” reviews which are more likely to be negative on average.

    (This is not a good sample size at all, but I’ve noticed that a some games in my Steam library seem to have gotten a boost from this change and this seems to be a likely cause.)

  42. liquidsoap89 says:

    2 types of reviews that I believe are more damaging than supposed “bought” reviews…

    “I saw a goat poop. 10/10”

    “I was super excited for this game and it had a lot of promise. There’s not enough content though.
    174.6 hours played”

    • asret says:

      Valve did mention this in their post about the new system. Seems like it’d be a bit more difficult though, given that so many mark these as “helpful”.

    • Frank says:

      Yeah, if they filtered out reviews with more “funny” votes than net upvotes, it would certainly be an improvement.

  43. Premium User Badge

    alison says:

    I’m too drunk to read all the posts.

    I think I have entered about 5 keys on Steam in my entire life, starting with Half-Life. I’ve bought a whole ton of games, though. My main source of new game leads is RPS, but I base most of my final purchasing decisions on Steam reviews. And, yes, most of them are useless. But a few are written by people like me. That’s why I contribute Steam reviews myself. Do most people care? Clearly not. Many of my reviews are downvoted perhaps because I like walking sims, or because I am a “SJW”, or because I am a shitty writer, or whatever. But for me what’s important is that at least I shared my opinion. My buying decisions are based on the opinions of people like me, and I hope my opinions can help people like me make their own decision. I don’t care about kickstarter guys or early access buyers or other “srs gamers” who almost certainly do not enjoy games the same way I do. I’m glad I can filter these out now. I wish I could also filter out early access buyers.

    Personally I’d rather Steam reviews became more filterable, not less. I want to see reviews by people who have played and reviewed similar games to me, not AAA guys who bought a humble bundle and are now hating on some walking sim they got for peanuts, or kickstarter backers who are upset they didn’t get a free T-shirt with their point and click adventure game.

    • Danley says:

      That’s ultimately what most people are calling for. Make Steam User Reviews filterable not filtered.

      This controversy isn’t really over consumers, but over developers and (as RobF said above) the thin line between being seen and not seen on Steam.

      • Premium User Badge

        alison says:

        Do I have some kind of different beta from the rest of you or is that exactly what they did? At the top of my Steam reviews now are three radio button groups – positive/negative/all, paid/free/all and german/all. To me, the filterability is improved. I am pretty sure all those options used to be there before (somewhere), but the UI sucked so much I always spent a few minutes on every game trying to find the English reviews. Now it’s right at the top, completely unmissable. I understand the default radio button has changed, but honestly, the people who are too lazy to notice the filtering in the first place are imo unlikely to be people whose opinion would be swayed by bundling freebie/advance reviewers with regular purchasers anyway.

  44. aepervius says:

    “Fewer reviews from fans means a worse score on Steam” that’s a way to see it. My way to see it is that fan tend to overrate games due to their nature. Most if not the crushing majority tend to just ignore weak point of a game. So weeding off fans review from off steam key, is a definitive bonus to me no matter the game , as the rest of the reviews will tend to be more nuanced.

  45. Premium User Badge

    Flavour Beans says:

    “Like with Greenlight, it’s smaller devs who suffer most – people who rely upon crowdfunding, selling across multiple storefronts, and backing sales up with promises of Steam keys if their games pass Greenlight. Valve really need to hire more people.”

    But it’s also the smaller devs who are in a much better position to abuse the system. I would love to see the list of games that the bias seems strongest with, as I imagine it’s smaller devs who are able to fly under the radar and only hand out a small number of keys to make a huge impact, rather than larger indie or big-name titles who would need to drop a ton of keys to make a statistical impact.

    As some have pointed out above, there are some unintended benefits to this as well. Games with Kickstarter backing seem much more prone to either having a diehard backing too emotionally invested to see issues with it, or a toxic backing that feels cheated for the game not lining up with what they imagined it to be.

    And people who get keys in bundles, or extra keys from friends’ bundles, are often playing games that they wouldn’t like anyways and wouldn’t buy anyways, and are thus predisposed to not liking the game based simply on the genre or something similar.

  46. Umberto Bongo says:

    That seems fair. Kinda assuming here but I’d say if I’d backed a game and followed its development I’d generally be more willing to overlook flaws and actively want to like a game more. People who paid full price are likely to give more honest reviews than backers. Again, kinda assuming a bit here.

  47. Imperialist says:

    So wait a minute…they want to take this opportunity to silence potentially positive reviews, rather than cull all the vapid and pointless “lol, this game sucks” 0.01 hours played reviews?

    So this nixes:
    Retail games with a Steam Key.
    Any third party discount site (humble bundle, GreenManGaming, etc)
    Any digital market places (G2A, CDkeys)

    As it is, we have poor overall “ratings” due to a “Love or Hate” review system. DLC is destined to get negative reviews for existing, even if its dirt-cheap or free, and half the negative reviews are people who either buy the game to slam it, then get refunded, or that it has DLC and therefore evil (especially if its week 1 DLC, or as of yet unreleased DLC aka “cut content”)

    I love Valve. I love Steam. I have no doubt they thought that giving us the tools to rank games was a good idea…but the Steam community just isnt capable of rational, adult thought anymore. Devs should be worried, because this will only twist the knife.

  48. mitthrawnuruodo says:

    Thats quite a tantrum the devs are throwing.

    1. Non-retail reviews are not removed (despite the devs above acting like they are). The UI cue to view them is quite obvious. Its the first thing I noticed. They still count towards the aggregated review scores.

    2. Kickstarter backers are invariably biased – fanatical in their hatred or white-knighting for their “passion project”. I am glad those reviews are now hidden by default. However it is indeed a bit unfair on people who buy games on Humble, GMG etc.

    3. If the game is actually good, retail reviews will also reflect that. Its just a smaller sample.

  49. racccoon says:

    From Monopolization to Alienation, yep! that’s Steam. lol

  50. MadTinkerer says:

    Well it’s about time. The specifics need to be tweaked, but I support Valve’s efforts to discourage the hacks who encourage fraudulent reviews by bribing people with free copies (the trading cards are the real hook in some cases) for good reviews of sub-iPhone quality games.

    This isn’t meant to hurt real developers, but rather to cut down on the frauds exploiting unintended loopholes in Valve’s rules. But there absolutely does need to be exceptions for Kickstarter supporters, among others.