Steam has changed the way game review scores work after uncovering “instances of abuse” in the system.
Review scores for games on the Steam store will no longer include reviews that were written by customers that activated the game using a Steam product key. It’s in a bid to weed out what Steam describes as “false reviews”, many of which have already been deleted from the site. Steam also vowed to “end business relationships” with some developers who are abusing the existing review score system:
“The review score has…become a point of fixation for many developers, to the point where some developers are willing to employ deceptive tactics to generate a more positive review score."
Until now, a game’s score was determined by averaging out all review scores given by users. These reviews include ones from customers who bought the game outright, or acquired the game through a Steam product key.
Product keys are game codes that developers can give away for free or sell, as an alternative to flogging the game directly through Steam. But Steam says that they’re now being used by developers to “artificially inflate review scores”, with at least 160 games having a substantially greater percentage of positive reviews by users that activated their games with a product key:
“The majority of review score manipulation we’re seeing by developers is through the process of giving out Steam keys to their game, which are then used to generate positive reviews. Some developers organise their own system using Steam keys on alternate accounts. Some organisations even offer paid services to write positive reviews.”
Steam’s announcement continues:
“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."
But Steam says it has now become too difficult to determine which product key reviews are legitimate and which ones are fake, and will no longer include product key reviews in the overall score.
That means if you received the game from a source outside Steam – like a giveaway site, a digital store, or directly from a developer – then you’ll still be able to write a review of a game, but your score won’t count towards the overall score. This will change the review score category for around 14% of Steam’s entire catalogue, some upwards and some downwards.
Steam says it will continue to adapt the system, and urges customers to continue reporting instances of abuse.
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