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Valve removing "off-topic review bombs" from Steam scores

A blog post explained the reason for these changes following incidents like Metro that highlighted the review bombing issue.

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When games and developers rub fans up the wrong way, some members of the community turn to Steam to 'review bomb' the game, which is essentially a deluge of negative reviews to prove a point. It happened with Metro and Last Light's Redux editions after the Metro Exodus exclusivity deal with the Epic Games Store, and now Valve has revealed some changes to user reviews.

Valve explains that they've listened to feedback, and that players value reviews highly. On the other hand though, developers also want to be treated fairly, and Valve has built analysis tools to help assess reviews across the whole platform. All of this has led to one change:

"We're going to identify off-topic review bombs, and remove them from the Review Score."

To be clear, Valve explains that they "define an off-topic review bomb as one where the focus of those reviews is on a topic that we consider unrelated to the likelihood that future purchasers will be happy if they buy the game, and hence not something that should be added to the Review Score."

This brings with it a grey area, as recognised by the blog post, but the tool they've built recognises anomalous review activity on all Steam games in close to real-time, notifying Valve who will then investigate. Having tested the tool across all reviews already, however, off-topic review bombs appear to only be a small amount of this anomalous review activity.

Once the review bomb is discovered this information will be passed onto the developer and the time period notified, with reviews within that time period removed from the Review Score calculation. The reviews themselves, however, aren't removed, and Valve will make it clear when you're looking at a page with some reviews removed by default. Also, UI around anomalous review periods has also been improved.

If you don't like the sound of this you can also opt out of this entirely too via a checkbox in Steam Store options, meaning you can choose to have off-topic review bombs included in score.

What about concerns with features like DRM? In the FAQ, Valve clarifies the following:

"We had long debates about these two, and others like them. They're technically not a part of the game, but they are an issue for some players. In the end, we've decided to define them as off-topic review bombs. Our reasoning is that the "general" Steam player doesn't care as much about them, so the Review Score is more accurate if it doesn't contain them. In addition, we believe that players who do care about topics like DRM are often willing to dig a little deeper into games before purchasing - which is why we still keep all the reviews within the review bombs. It only takes a minute to dig into those reviews to see if the issue is something you care about."

Review bombing in the past also won't be addressed by Valve, meaning incidents like the Metro and Last Light Redux review bombing won't change, and that data will still remain as it is.

Speaking of Valve and Steam, we published an article last week in which we discussed the ongoing issues around controversial content appearing on the platform, and what can and should be done moving forwards.

Do you like this change to review scores?

Valve removing "off-topic review bombs" from Steam scores

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