Steam now fighting review bombs with diagrams

All social problems can be solved by data, any naive tech company can tell you, which is why Valve are attempting to solve Steam ‘review bombing’ by adding graphs to its player reviews. Review bombing is the practice of players organising to leave negative reviews that drive down a game’s rating in an attempt to punish or manipulate developers by damaging their future sales prospects. Games bombed over the past month range from Firewatch to Grand Theft Auto V. This is a known and old problem with Steam’s reviews, and one Valve aren’t happy with. So, to counterattack disproportionate bursts of negative reviews, Valve have added unusual activity warnings to Steam store pages with histograms tracking reviews over time.

If Steam detects a review bomb has potentially been dropped during the past month with an uncharacteristic spike of negative reviews, it pops up a warning above the review section of a game’s store page. This lets players see a histogram showing positive and negative reviews over time, making it clear when a spike happened, and giving the option to show only reviews from the spike period. That’s way down the page, mind, and the initial rating gives no indication that something unusual may be going on. It’s also a system which really only makes sense to people who follow Steam goings-on and are aware of review bombs.

To people not in the know, the notice “High Volume of Negative Reviews Detected” could easily seem a warning that a game sucks.

The latest big review bomb was dropped on Firewatch earlier this month. Developers Campo Santo controversially filed a DMCA takedown against a video of their game made by Felix ‘PewDiePie’ Kjellberg after the mega-popular wavy ‘Tube man casually said a racial epithet as an insult during a livestream of another game. In response, sympathising Steamers posted hundreds of negative Firewatch reviews, at a frequency far higher than the game has received since the initial launch burst. A second wave of positive reviews followed as others tried to counteract the bomb. Either way, the ‘Mixed’ recent review rating displayed at the top of Firewatch’s Steam page is now mostly based on that tussle.

This might be helpful for people who want to dig into reviews but the impression of a game is still damaged and it still sucks that this is part of the reality developers face today. And bombs disproportionately affect games which sell fewer copies.

I’ve seen review bombs dropped over everything from wanting more frequent updates (which certainly can be a fair criticism, to be clear) to disliking a developer personally. They’re protests, not reviews, channeled through a system protestors know can cause harm.

“In short, review bombs make it harder for the Review Score to achieve its goal of accurately representing the likelihood that you’d be happy with your purchase if you bought a game,” Valve said in last night’s announcement. “We thought it would be good to fix that, if we could do it in a way that didn’t stop players from being able to voice their opinions.”

Many other games have been bombed in the past month. Fallout 4 was hit after Bethesda added the Creation Club microtransaction DLC store.

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds has received several clusters of bombs. The biggest came as the developers added microtransactions for (ugly) cosmetic items, despite previously saying they wouldn’t during early access. Steam’s warning system also flags a potential bomb in late August, which seems to be cluster of overlapping complaints about issues including patches becoming less frequent and the developers banning suspected ‘stream snipers’ (a term for players who watch popular livestreamers playing and try to join their games and use knowledge of their location to kill or harass them).

Review bombers hit Dota 2 after Valve announced a spin-off card game, Artifact.

Grand Theft Auto V was bombed in June after 2K’s lawyers foolishly shut down modding tool OpenIV (a decision later reversed). Another bomb hit in August after Rockstar’s attempts to remove cheated cash from GTA Online hit some players who swore blind they had never touched funny money.

Valve observe:

“On the one hand, the players doing the bombing are fulfilling the goal of User Reviews – they’re voicing their opinion as to why other people shouldn’t buy the game. But one thing we’ve noticed is that the issue players are concerned about can often be outside the game itself. It might be that they’re unhappy with something the developer has said online, or about choices the developer has made in the Steam version of their game relative to other platforms, or simply that they don’t like the developer’s political convictions. Many of these out-of-game issues aren’t very relevant when it comes to the value of the game itself, but some of them are real reasons why a player may be unhappy with their purchase.”

Valve observe that the long-term effects of review bombs are limited, with game ratings usually returning to close to their previous state over a long enough timescale. It still sucks in the short term.

The Steamlords say they had considered fighting bombs by removing review scores from store pages, so people would need to read actually reviews. “Unfortunately, we’re pretty certain that this isn’t really an option,” they say, as review scores were added by popular demand.

They had also thought about review locks. “Based on the theory that review bombs are temporary distortions, we could prevent reviews for short periods of time whenever we detect massive distortions in submissions.” But they didn’t like that either. “We don’t want to stop the community having a discussion about the issue they’re unhappy about,” they say, “even though there are probably better places to have that conversation than in Steam User Reviews.”

For now, the solution we get is more data. Data will save us all, I’m told.

Looking ahead, Valve say they plan to shift using “personalized review scores, where our prediction of your happiness with a purchase is based upon the games you’ve enjoyed in the past.” Given that Steam’s use of similar data for recommendations is still pretty wonky, I’m slightly wary of this. As volatile and vulnerable as Steam reviews are, at least they don’t carry the weird assumptions of big data.

Disclosure: I’m pals with some of the Campo Santo lot. I visited a redwood forest with one. Everything is simpler in the trees.


  1. Ariurotl says:

    There is no problem in the world that can’t be solved or at least allayed by adding more graphs. Steam, for that I salute you.

  2. Bishop149 says:

    Is this really necessary?
    “Review Bombing” in relation to a political statement that is nothing at all to do with the actual game in question (eg Pewdiepie) is indeed rather unfair and should probably be stamped upon.
    The dev. making an extremely unpopular design (or DRM) choice and this being reflected in a corresponding spike in negative reviews is perfectly fair enough IMO.

    I have never personally seen an example of the former. I have seen the latter on a few occasions and it’s usually extremely clear exactly which design decision has resulted in that flood of bad reviews, and I am adult enough to simple read these and make my own decision about if said decision is a deal breaker for me personally.

    • colw00t says:

      Review Bombing” in relation to a political statement that is nothing at all to do with the actual game in question (eg Pewdiepie) is indeed rather unfair and should probably be stamped upon.
      The dev. making an extremely unpopular design (or DRM) choice and this being reflected in a corresponding spike in negative reviews is perfectly fair enough IMO.

      I have never personally seen an example of the former.

      Then you haven’t been paying attention, because one example of review-bombing is cited in the article. Titan’s Souls got reviewbombed after a kerfluffle with TotalBiscuit. Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear got one for daring to have a trans character. It happens with some frequency.

      • Someoldguy says:

        I’m not sure citing games from 2015 and early 2016 are making as strong a case as you imagine. Yes, this kind of thing does happen for poor reasons on occasion, but it’s no more than a handful each year. The only other one I was aware of recently was the developer with unpleasant attitudes. Fortunately that one didn’t make much difference because the game was pretty poor anyway, and the developer amply demonstrated why people had their reservations about him by quarrelling publicly with people on Steam. Where it’s not justified, as the author notes there’s usually a swift push back from the mainstream and articles in the gaming press, so the game can arguably benefit from much more media coverage. The publicity helps more than it hurts.

        It’s far more commonplace for a spate of negative reviews to happen when the developer does something unpopular with the game itself. I rather think those reviewers are justified in expressing their criticism in this way. It’s not like Steam has a decimal score system where people can give a game 0/10 or 0/100 for petty reasons, it’s just recommend or don’t recommend. Downvoting for a dev cutting out the items they promised in their kickstarter seems quite reasonable. Developers should have to think long and hard about cutting content they promised in an effort to secure funding or turn it into DLC. I have more issue with people who do this on metacritic where 0/10 disproportionately impacts on a game.

        • OurFather says:

          It supports the case just fine. It goes to show that this has been happening for years. Now it is happening with increasing frequency. Trust me, this happens far more than a handful of times a year. More like a handful of times a month. It’s gotten to the point that Steam has actually made a change to its platform (whether it’s useful in its current state is debatable). What we have now is not a review section, it’s an opinions soapbox.

          Divinity: Original Sin 2 got bombed on its release date because it didn’t have a certain language translation. DOOM got bombed during a free weekend because they also released a patch that made a bunch of previously paid content free. Almost every Paradox game got bombed recently when they adjusted the prices of their games in a bunch of countries.

          The reason you might not think it happens often is because there isn’t a big news story every time one of these goes off. I agree with Steam’s stance that the “review” section should stay. There should be a place where the community can voice their opinion for everyone else to see, but the legitimate reviews in this section are few and far between. They should call it what it is; The opinion section.

    • bills6693 says:

      I respectfully disagree with the notion that review bombing should be stopped if it is for ‘political’ reasons but not for gameplay ones.

      While I don’t get involved with review bombing myself, I do think it’s a legitimate way for people to express their issues with a game, be it because of actions of the developer outside the game (the ‘political’ side) or their actions in the game (updates etc).

      As you said, as an adult you can read the reviews to see what the issue is, and steam’s new system helps this be even easier. You can then make the call whether this is important to you or not.

      At least personally, I consider the actions of the creator/producer of goods I buy when making a purchase decision. Not just for games or media, but also food or physical objects and pretty much anything else. I can’t imagine I’m alone in this – otherwise why would fairtrade, free range eggs, organic food etc have such a market? I don’t think bananas taste better when the farmer was given more money for them.

      The same applies to games, again at least for me personally. It’s more than a straight ‘enjoyment of game’ vs cost analysis – I don’t want to support a developer with practices I disagree with on things outside the game.

      So I would like issues that may cause me to not agree with the developers to be raised in any way I can see them – and then make the decision myself where I stand on it and if it will affect my purchase decision. The steam reviews is one avenue for this and the new systems being put in make this even easier.

      • Bishop149 says:

        Indeed, I guess it would only be sinister if people were making up fake game related problems to criticise, when their real motivation was that the YouTuber they idolised had been disrespected.
        This would be effort and sophistication most angry teenagers probably aren’t applying.

        Otherwise if it’s clear from the content of the review what the beef is, the consumer can make their own decision whether they care or not.

        • Catterbatter says:

          Go and read the recent negative reviews on Firewatch. There’s no question it’s being review-bombed over Campo Santo’s actions outside the game. And yet you wouldn’t necessarily pick up on that from the reviews themselves. Most of them look just like the negative reviews around the time of release (“too short,” “weak ending,” “too expensive”).

          • Bishop149 says:

            Hmmm wot you say is true, perhaps I was wrong, maybe people are being pretty devious here. However scattered amongst all the negatives are enough transparent ones to give me a pretty good idea something untoward is going on. . . . including the first one.
            Also having just had a look at Steam:
            RECENT REVIEWS: Mixed (2,339)
            ALL REVIEWS: Very Positive (27,387)
            Is pretty revealing. . . . . maybe the graphs just make this clearer.

            They also make it clear this bombing works both ways, there’s a positive spike at least as big as the negative one at the same time.

          • Hyena Grin says:

            A lot of games get the Positive Overall, Mixed Recent result from a few other scenarios. Big sales (where people who were largely uninterested pick up the title on the cheap anyway, and confirm to themselves that they don’t like it), as well as patches (or lack of patches) that the playerbase is unhappy about.

            I think the graphing is meant to give people a tool to determine the cause for the negative reviews, whatever that cause might be. I’ve been turned off of games I was otherwise interested in because of a ‘Mixed Reviews’ result, and knowing why the reviews shifted might help alleviate concerns.

            If it’s political, I’d probably want to know what it was, because there are some legitimate reasons to avoid supporting a developer unrelated to their game. Though usually the kind of thing I am personally concerned about isn’t something people feel the urge to hide, unlike what happened to Firewatch, for example. If it’s because of a niche game was exposed to too broad an audience by a sale or bundle or whatever, I can safely ignore it. If it’s an issue with patches/lack of patches, I can avoid the game until that changes.

            The granularity is a good thing, I think.

    • Pyrithe says:

      To be clear, when you buy a game, you support the developer. When you review a game, you support the developer. You NEVER support the game. So if a developer does something you don’t like, would you still support them by buying their product? Furthermore, it’s not just the players review bombing in regards to political issues, devs are the ones opening that door on their own. Removing voice lines from games, shutting down negative reviews with DMCA’s, trying to play some noble hero by turning everyone against someone who said an offensive word, and some even gone so crazy that they tried to sue everyone because negative reviews hurt their feelings and reputation. This whole battle started with them, it’s the devs who mixed politics with gaming, don’t hate the players for doing what they do best and playing back. Next time, the devs should just stick to making the games, because bringing politics into business is bad business 101. Your customers should always be the #1 priority, since they are literally the ones paying your bills. Getting mixed in with politics and abusing your position in your own business to use as a platform to stand on might make some people happy, but will they be happy enough to replace those you tread on? Business-wise, it’s best to simply do business and leave your political views out of it.

  3. Lacero says:

    If only we could graph the monsters.

  4. BaronKreight says:

    I’m pretty sure this works both ways. Divinity 2 is a recent example. I’ve never seen a game on steam gaining such support. Like a negative review pointing the game’s weak points getting downvoted by like 1-100. I have a feeling websites like RPG Codex, RPG Watch have something to do with this.

    • Someoldguy says:

      I think you may have glanced at some reviews at a bad time, because I’ve dipped into a random sample of the relatively few negative reviews and not seen an atypical amount of backchat from players who like the product. There’s plenty of feisty discussion on the forum between people who say it’s fantastic and those who criticise how hard it can be to get to grips with initially. I can see both sides of that one, because it definitely doesn’t ease you into things gently and arguably the hardest part is Act 1 before you have any gear and can respec out of any mistakes you make picking skills.

    • TheGameSquid says:

      Not many Codexers seems to use Steam though (GOG seems to be the preferred store of the core members, in my experience), so I kinda doubt that.

  5. colw00t says:

    The lengths Valve will go to, to avoid having to actually interact with people or have real customer relations, are frankly quite amazing.

    • Urthman says:

      I think you are drastically, hilariously underestimating the difference in cost and effort of actually doing that verses spending a couple days coding up some graphs.

      • colw00t says:

        Valve makes something like a billion dollars a year off Steam. They can afford to hire moderators.

        • Cederic says:

          Maybe they can, but.. “Game is too short, not good value for money” is a valid review.

          It’s subjective, and it may well have been left in response to the development team’s stupidity in raising an invalid DMCA notice against someone they’d already authorised to use their work, but it’s a valid review.

          A moderator could only sensibly and legitimately leave that review online.

          Thus adding moderators would not prevent review bombing. The chosen approach is actually better, as well as being substantially cheaper to implement.

    • MajorLag says:

      Valve wants to empower their users to make their own choices, not be the arbiter of what’s worth playing and what isn’t, what’s offensive and what isn’t, etc.

      I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

  6. yogibbear says:

    *checks my negative review for Firewatch on steam* Review Date February 2016. *Ah* Game still shit (IMO)? Yep. More data from Valve is great though. I agree mostly that I don’t want Valve hiding information, and providing more information is the right solution.

  7. Detroit Jones says:

    I think implementing this is a good call on Valve’s part. The review bombing is getting really excessive. Remember Battle Brothers? A game I heard about and bought because of this very site? Despite it being the polished, complete product the (tiny, indie) devs promised, it’s been bombed because they didn’t add modding tools and have moved onto another game. That’s hugely unfair. Like Alice says, it’s a protest, not a review.

  8. MrLoque says:

    It may be wrong but bombed companies/developers usually get their sh*t together and find a solution. A silent (paying) crowd leads to EA and similar companies to do whatever they want “because people buy in any case”.

  9. JaseyMitch says:

    I was thinking the same thing, felt bad about it, scrolled down to your comment and felt better again. What exactly are Valve doing from 9-5? Did they lay off a load of people after Portal 2 shipped?

    Edit: this was a reply to colw00t’s:

    The lengths Valve will go to, to avoid having to actually interact with people or have real customer relations, are frankly quite amazing.

    But this comment system doesn’t seem to like it if you logon as part of replying.

    • Hyena Grin says:

      Valve is software developer, first and foremost. They’re a tech company. Like virtually every other tech company, they are fare more interested in using software and algorithms to solve problems, and to the extent that they allow/promote user interaction, they mostly want users interacting with each other, and conversely, with Valve itself as little as possible.

      This isn’t a big surprise considering the sheer volume of users Steam has. I’m not sure they could feasibly run their business without trying to automate or farm out the vast majority of their operation to the users. The infrastructure and overhead of providing human service to that many people would be.. prohibitive.

      I don’t have an issue with how Valve is handling users trying to misuse the system. At least they’re doing something, which is more than most tech companies do. Facebook actively trying to make money off it, for example…

      • Aetylus says:

        Valve used to be a developer. Now Valve are the near monopoly retailer in a enormous and growing global industry. They charge 30% retail mark-up with a fraction of the infrastructure requirements of tradition retail or of almost any other industry.

        And they run their ultra successful retail monopoly with virtually zero customer service. You can applaud their business acumen ability to generate enormous profits… but to suggest they can’t provide similar customer service to other, less profitable, industries is just silly.

        P.S. The graphs are still a good idea though.

        • Hyena Grin says:

          I think it’s pretty silly to assume that they don’t have basically similar amounts of customer service to any other relatively similar business.

          With 33-125 million active users, they have a larger customer base than many countries have in population, and yet they still provide human tech and payment support. That they have automated some processes doesn’t make them different from other companies, it makes them similar.

          Just because they don’t have staff curating the User Reviews (I’m not even sure they should) doesn’t mean they’re especially hands-off. Most companies wouldn’t devote any manpower toward solving this problem. Valve did, in the form of software development.

          • shde2e says:

            Valve is actually failing to deliver very basic customer service. Such as making sure the products they sell are functional, or meet a (very) basic level of quality, or aren’t promoting some horrid ideology.
            They also don’t curate their forums at all. Both developers and users can do some pretty terrible stuff over an extended period of time and never get so much as a slap on the wrist. There are actual pro-nazi community groups on steam for goodness sake.

            Steam tries to solve these sorts of problems with technology, either through automation or by getting their users to do their work for them (Greenlight, curators etc).
            When they would be way better off just hiring some dedicated moderaters and support people who can give a human judgement.

  10. RimeOfTheMentalTraveller says:

    I only wish this was implemented before Torment: Tides of Numenera was released and all the fuckoids STILL upset over turn-based stuff and dev changes ruined the game’s rating.

  11. rpenm says:

    Why does Steam only showing reviews from the last 30 days on their store pages? I’d much rather see the all-time most helpful reviews. That wouldn’t eliminate the bad faith review problem, but would certainly mitigate its effects.

    • Premium User Badge

      Silva says:

      You can actually still see reviews from “all time”, as well as the range of “most helpful” reviews not just from the past 30 days but “all time.”

      The trick is to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the reviews and click “See All Reviews” or whatever the button is and it should take you to the master review page, where you’ll have options in a drop down menu to see what you actually want to see.

      It’s a bit bothersome that Steam decided to compartmentalize this from the default reviews but it’s still an option.

  12. ResonanceCascade says:

    This does seem like a pretty good response. You shouldn’t ban/delete reviews that were made for “meta” reasons, even if those reasons are sometimes extremely shitty (I’m still mad about the Baldur’s Gate thing). But imagine if bad reviews for Jeepers Creepers were removed (I don’t have a gaming example, sadly) because people object to it being made by a child rapist. Seems reasonable. There are too many variables to blanket ban these kinds of reviews.

    But bombed reviews should also be contextualized so that potential buyers who aren’t in the know can make a more informed decision. This helps with that. It at least makes it obvious that bombing occurred.

  13. causticnl says:

    another step closer by completely closing down usermade reviews, and only allow curator reviews. We’re slowly getting there.

    • Grizzly says:

      If Valve wanted to flippantly shut down an entire system they would have done so already. Valve owns the platform, and review scores are a system they implemented, it’s completely in their power to just take it away again.

    • shocked says:

      How so? Valve just invested time and money to enhance user reviews instead of shutting them down. If anything, this ensures that user reviews will stay.

    • pepperfez says:

      How many massive storefronts have gotten rid of user reviews entirely? Not even recently, have any done it ever?

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        Yeah, and pretty much any sales metric I’ve ever seen shows that they’re beneficial to sales. So they’re better for both buyers and sellers.

  14. TotallyUseless says:

    The problem with this anti-bomb policy by Valve is for truly horrible games like 2K18 and No Man’s Sky. How would we be safeguarded by Steam against these utterly bad games if they’ll add safe guards against negative reviews? Sigh.

    • laiwm says:

      While I respectfully disagree about NMS, that’s a different situation altogether – if everyone agrees it’s bad and the reviews are consistently bad, then it’s not a review bomb and there’s no spike for the graphs to pick up on. This is a system designed to pick up on reviews which seem to be spurred by these sudden kerfuffles like the current Campo Santo vs Pewdiepie business.

      • Grizzly says:

        I looked at No Man’s Sky page and it doesn’t show one of those graphs, fwiw.

        • Xocrates says:

          Just checked, yes it does. As far as I can tell all games do, though the graphs are hidden by default.

          NMS graph is an interesting case though, the review count at launch is so massive it completely obscures everything else. Dozens of daily reviews aren’t even visible in comparison to the tens of thousands in the first weeks.

          • Grizzly says:

            Right, but the graph is shown by default on Fallout 4, and not on No man’s sky. The data certainly is there though, which is neat!

        • Urthman says:

          Just click on the “show graph” button and you can see the recent uptick in positive reviews compared with the overall preponderance of negative ones.

      • Rizlar says:

        Yep, if a game is bad you would expect the reviews to be consistently negative.

        • Nauallis says:

          Always a little alarming to read the commentary here and see how many people don’t comprehend that.

        • ResonanceCascade says:

          That’s true for most single player games. Frequently updated multiplayer games can go from shit to good or vice versa long after release.

          • Cederic says:

            Although that’s where this graph is awesome. You can now see the change in emphasis over time – did an initially great game gradually go shit or did a poor early release recover and become a gaming great.

  15. Chasdiel says:

    Would displaying the Metacritic review score next to the Steam User Review score instead of further down help the situation? Or maybe a selection of Valve-Approved Curiators could leave their user review beside the fickle masses? Then Valve could keep their branding on the reviews while helping them matter a little more.

    • Grizzly says:

      Didn’t Steam use Metacritic before? At the time it was lamented as it put a lot of power into the hands of what was, essentially, a statistics website.

  16. kevinkin says:

    Why wouldn’t they do this for positive reviews too? I mean an attempt to drive up sales of poor games.

    • Dogshevik says:

      I am no expert in online distribution systems, but I dare speculate the fact that they get a cut out of every game sold might influence their decisions a wee bit.

    • shocked says:

      The review graph is available for all games with sufficient data. Many “unusual” positive votes in a short time would be visible, too.

      Is that a thing though? Are there bot networks on steam to promote games this way?

      • shde2e says:

        I think there are, mostly for those horrible games that were kludged together from some asset packs in someone’s lunchbreak.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Gabriele Svelto says:

    “What we wouldn’t do in order not to pay some moderators”

    • Ghostwise says:

      IME, it really helps to read what Steam says in the voice of Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith.

    • Urthman says:

      You make it sound like this new graph isn’t thousands of times cheaper and easier than hiring and training and supervising that many monitors.

    • shocked says:

      Imagine the shitstorms when Valve would start moderating the user reviews and disallow negative reviews. They would be insane to even think about doing that.

  18. Rizlar says:

    Great idea, putting this stuff in context rather than trying to control how people post reviews. Encourage and empower people to look beyond the face value of an aggregated review score and consider why the negative reviews were written.

  19. SuperTim says:

    I have started reviewing things lately on Steam too, and most of the games I found are free-to-play games that suddenly devolved into pay-to-win, like Adventure Capitalist (see elsewhere on this site).

    Sometimes you just wonder if this new internet rage is justified before you buy a game. But on the other hand that is a good thing, because now you have to consider if a review bomb is actually justified.

    Also, it’s funny that political reasons are discarded (by Valve) automatically as bad though. There are some good politicial reasons that I would consider when buying games, but then again it’s my money. Hell, even if I was given a game for free and it’s on Origin, then I’d just skip it.

    For Firewatch, it’s a bit sad though. Because it was obvious that gamedevs have no say in who youtube(-monetise) their games anyway; they had lost that fight a while ago. He probably just said it for the publicity. So, no big deal there.

    To bomb Firewatch for an action that would have had no real world consequences is just sad; I feel sorry for those bombers having this kind of fake rage.

    • pepperfez says:

      Because it was obvious that gamedevs have no say in who youtube(-monetise) their games anyway;

      I don’t think it’s anything like obvious. Copyright law in the US is a mighty beast that should never be underestimated.
      From a business perspective, publishers have certainly determined that allowing streamers is in their best interest. That still leaves streamers operating on publishers’ sufferance, not with any sort of legal protection.

      • Nauallis says:

        SuperTim uses the “this is a UK based website” argument on one of the comments below. Expecting reasonable commentary from them about how anything in the U.S. actually works is probably a pipe dream at this point. That said, I do agree with your point.

  20. Freud says:

    Anyone using user reviews of computer games for anything beyond entertainment have themselves to blame.

    As for Firewatch and PewDiePie, I think the very public nature of it was pandering to the audience of Campo Santo and they probably liked it. Righteous indignation as PR.

    • Xocrates says:

      Honestly, Camposanto would probably gain more sales by playing to PewDiePie’s (massive) audience than against it.

      Taking into account who Camposanto is, even if this was a PR stunt, it is very likely they were genuinely pissed of at PDP.

    • pepperfez says:

      I think you forgot to include “virtue signaling” in your evidence-free accusations of bad faith.

  21. Dogshevik says:

    “Cherished customers, we are proud to present our most recent popularity-O-meter 3000. As we know we can trust all of you to be mature and super respons…Hey! HEY! STOP THAT RIGHT NOW! How dare you make a popularity contest with it! You monsters!”

  22. Korolev787 says:

    It’s a nice feature, I suppose, but it would only help those who pay attention to user reviews. I never pay attention to user reviews precisely because they are plagued with terrible reviews, both positive and negative, written for the wrong reasons. All user reviews, regardless of the product, are like this. You can’t trust people. I’ve seen “one star” ratings on Amazon because the delivery people messed up – the product was fine, but because of a one or two day delay, an idiot puts a one-star rating on the PRODUCT. Same with any games review – “This game didn’t come out on the platform I like, 1 star or 0 stars”, “This game came out on the platform I have and it didn’t come out on Timmy’s platform, so it’s 10 stars and I can laugh at Timmy next time I see him on the playground”, “This game’s lead developer was a woman, 0 stars because I’m a big man who is very secure in his masculinity!” – and so on and so on.

    You know what would be good? Get rid of user reviews altogether.

    • Nauallis says:

      No, getting rid of user reviews altogether would be bad.

      If somebody feels like being a savvy customer and wants to get the best product available, reviews usually tend to help. Even for the example you give, Amazon allows customers a lot of filters to sort reviews, to figure out if the reviewer bought the item, for example, or was given the product free of charge in exchange for their “honest and unbiased opinion” (yeah, right).

      I feel like if somebody is foolish enough to buy a game (or anything) based on a review like “11/10 would kick chicken again” then it’s entirely on them for being stupid if it turns out they actually hate the game. For the rest of us, the in-depth reviews are worth sorting through the chaff and fluff, and even with negative reviews it’s usually pretty easy to tell when somebody is actually bent out of shape about the game/product vs politics/delivery/packaging/insanity.

    • causticnl says:

      completely agree, reviews are overrated. specially of anonymous internet people. I yet have to read a anonymous review that convinced me to buy or notbuy a game. the only reviews I value are of people I know, like this site, or friends.

      I think its time for steam to move to a friends only review system, where only friends can see their reviews, and only curated reviews are for everyone viewable.

      • wengart says:

        Really I think you are just using them inefficiently. The mass of reviews are not particularly useful to wade into, but they are pretty solid markers for general quality. Take the Fear series for example:

        1: link to
        2: link to
        3: link to

        You can see an average of


        As the games go on and that generally matches the quality of the series and the reviews for each game.

        Once you reach a critical mass of reviews you get a decent idea of the quality of the game. This of course won’t give you a lot of detail, but say I enjoy games similar to Arma and Red Orchestra and I find a game called Squad. I wonder if its any good and I can immediately see that it has 12,000 people who’ve reviewed it and it has an an 83%. If nothing else it tells me that the game has a generally good quality. I could buy it off that alone or I could find a review or watch some people playing it.

      • shde2e says:

        I mostly use them as a broad first estimate of a game’s quality. If it’s below 60%, that’s pretty much a guaranteed failure. Above 90% is either an indie game with a lot of fans, or a big AAA game that isn’t terrible. 70-80% is a pretty decent game, with noticable flaws.

      • Cederic says:

        That surprises me. Reviews provide insight into gameplay, game mechanics, control systems, game length and other factors.

        Sure, ignore a single reviewer, but when 5, 10, 20 reviewers are sharing the same feedback it’s insightful and helpful.

        I’ve chosen to not buy games based on reviews highlighting gameplay elements I know I’ll hate. I’ve asked for (and received) steam refunds on games where I’ve optimistically chosen to ignore the reviews.

        Sure, a lot of reviews are fluff. But learn how to interpret them, and they’re bloody helpful.

    • typographie says:

      Even as someone who generally despises user reviews, I still think I disagree. Like it or not (and I don’t), the majority of would-be customers lack the time, patience, or aptitude to hunt down professional reviews for every game they buy. User reviews might be the only thing that such a buyer sees before the purchase aside from the word of the company who created the product.

      Plus, in this world where entire major publishers (BETHESDA) are denying early review code to the press as a matter of policy, user reviews may be all that separates an early buyer from the next Batman: Arkham City fiasco.

  23. Kittim says:

    While I don’t like PewD, I thought he was a d1ck long before Jews or the N word incidents, the reaction by Campo was, in it’s own way, just as moronic.

    It seems to be trendy to be offended by something, anything, even if it’s not directed at you. In fact there seems to be some competition as to exactly HOW offended you are.

    I have no problem with equality, I truly believe in the words of Martin Luther King:

    “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

    That’s utterly correct, it’s not logical to hate someone because of something they have no control over. Skin colour and nation of birth are two prime examples.

    On that basis, both of these people’s characters are questionable. And the internet let them know.

    • SuperTim says:

      I like how you say that Pdp and Campo’s reaction is “moronic”, while I’d probably say that they both have rational or logical explanations behind them. For example, if I was Campo, and I could get a low quality gaming blog to talk about me by just saying something simple, then it’s very effective PR. (Also, it’s not like there’s much else he can do.)

      But your reaction to all this doesn’t seem even a bit logical or rational. You seem to just like to randomly quoting something to justify your semi-knowledge, and it failed.

      This is also an UK-based website. We don’t care much if someone said a “bad” word in a heated live streaming thing. Especially if he apologised afterwards. Really, no big deal. Perhaps the day will come that other, poorer parts of the world can be less hypersensitive to these things, but for now, other things are trumping.

      • Ergates_Antius says:

        It’s easy for you to say “no biggie” when the “bad word” isn’t directed at you. Also if/when a widely watched you-tuber can reveal themselves to be a shitty racist and suffer no consequences, how is that “no big deal”? What kind of message is that to send out? Both here and in the US, the newly emboldened far right are a massive problem.

      • Alice O'Connor says:

        As someone who writes for the website you’re claiming to speak on behalf of, I do care.

        • Cederic says:

          Then thank you for writing such a balanced and objective article on one of the impacts from the event, as well as acknowledging your relationship to one of the parties involved.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Stating that you don’t like and won’t tolerate racist hate speech isn’t competitive offence taking, and this wasn’t some minor faux-pas.

      Secondly, *massive* false equivalence. PPD wasn’t attacked for the colour of his skin. He was criticised for being a racist shit stain.

  24. racccoon says:

    The day steam dies out the better it’ll be for all PC players.

  25. Joote says:

    For most gamer’s it’s the only way they can get their point across. The publisher already has your money and the only way to get them to listen is to deny them more money.
    In my opinion review bombing is a good thing and highlights to any one thinking of buying the game that there might be a problem. It is then up to that person to decide if the problem is something they can live with.

    Review bombing = The voice of your average gamer against developers/publishers who don’t give a darn about the game, only the revenue that it generates.

    • alsoran says:

      I tend to agree its a useful way of making feelings known instantly and hit them where it hurts to effectively promote a change. I expect its a problem for Valve because it breaks their business and customer control template. I wonder when they will ban negative reviews altogether?

  26. MajorLag says:

    Since the problem with review bombing seems to be people using reviews as a form of protest, maybe there should be a separate mechanism for lodging a public protest against a game or developer?

    I’m not sure that could actually work, the internet being what it is, because it might be that the “controversy” rating is generally ignored and so protesters will go back to review bombing anyway.

  27. xfstef says:

    Firewatch devs are still assholes thou.

  28. DeFrank says:

    Didn’t Campo Santo kind of exploit the DCMA system the same way the steam users exploit the review system? Because if so, all is fair in love war.

    • Cederic says:

      No. Reviewer bombers are exercising freedom of speech.
      The developers look (to someone not trained in US law) to be committing perjury.

      • DeFrank says:

        Whether it’s legal or not is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. It’s definitely not using it for it’s intended use.

  29. KastaRules says:

    Where can we review bomb the review bomb detector?

  30. mfgcasa says:

    As a marketer, I just want to say this is ridicules. Sure, more information is nice, but “review bombs” are simply a sign that a company did an action that offended its customers. People don’t just buy products any more. They buy ideas. And if people disagree with your ideas they will give you negative reviews. And if people read those negative reviews and agree with them then they will boycott your game, and have every right to.

    People have a right to perfect information. They have a right to know not just about the product, but about the people who make it. Take BMW for example they’ve been eco-friendly for over 20 years. Take Gap around 15 years ago the BBC uncovered they used Child Labour to produce their clothes. GAP is now one of the leading companies in the fight against Child Labour. That’s the power of customers choices. So any attempt to hide information is incredibly bad.

    Additionally, this system might hide legitimate negative reviews. For example, if this system had been in place perhaps the Devs behind Star Fox would have stolen 1000s of more people’s money with their broken game.

  31. TheGameSquid says:

    At this point, I honestly think throwing the entire system away might be the best option. The user review system has been mostly useless ever since it was released.

    • Voqar says:

      I’m of mixed minds here. On the one hand, maybe 1 in 1 million steam reviews is something other than complete garbage. I often think that doing reviews should be not be available to people who play games for 1 minute, or who abuse reviews to complain about system issues with their pocket calculator of a virus ridden pseudo-PC from 20 years ago, and so on.

      I also sometimes with there was a legit voting system for rating reviews (as with stack sites) but so many steam users are idiots so even that doesn’t work since 9/10 children will up vote “I farted” as a good review.

      But on the other hand, when devs/pubs do completely annoying things like creation club for Fallout/Skyrim (including forcing you to download 2 gigs of crap you’ll never buy AND break existing mods in the process), they need to be punished and there has to be some way for fans/players to show how they feel.

      Side note, if anybody thinks that Fallout 5 and Skyrim 6 will allow “old school” free modding once the CC is allowed to exist, they’re high. Guarantee they’ll make it so that ALL mods go thru CC in the next version of both games and they’ll float some bs like “oh, we wanted to make modding available as with past versions but our new tech just couldn’t facilitate it, oh darn.”

      Sadly the gaming press is pretty much owned by the corporations that make games since they pay for advertising so the gaming press does not hold (big) shoddy devs accountable. They don’t go after SE for never updating the PC version of Nier Automata – something that is so inexcusably mind boggling – a $60 game with easily fixed issues that affect most players and they can’t even do one patch? – and the gaming press is like, oh look, let’s talk about speed runs on games nobody plays, they don’t go over Bethesda for screwing with modding – something that has always been best left in the hands of players, they don’t go after devs that release broken and bug infested games that take months to settle. They’ll mention stuff once like any other passing news blurb and done – just like any other generic news item, when some of this stuff is often far more important than a “oh so and so game might come out in 2 years” kind of useless tidbit floated to fill space.

      So yeah, when corporate gaming scum are exhibiting yet more greed, and when their pets in the gaming press cannot and do not hold them accountable, and when the only way to get your opinion known is to be obnoxious, then sure, review bombing happens – and it should happen.