In brief: Valve first tried to implement measures to combat review bombing in 2017 but a new announcement from the company admits that there’s room for improvement. Valve have said they are now rolling out a new feature to remove ‘off-topic’ reviews from their overall ratings calculations.
Steam’s review and rating system is a key part in many gamers’ decision-making when they are on the hunt for a new title to play. But while most gamers would expect the review scores to be indicative of the quality of the game, thanks to review bombing that’s not always the case.
Review bombing has become a popular method for consumers to voice their displeasure en masse about decisions or actions taken by developers that don’t necessarily pertain to how well a game plays. For example, when Metro Exodus publishers recently announced the latest installment would be a timed-exclusive on the Epic store, thousands of reviewers piled onto the older Metro games on Steam to vent their frustration.
While it’s understandable for people to use whatever methods available to them to make their voices heard, review bombing is a phenomenon that’s bad for developers and bad for gamers who only really care about the quality of the product they are buying.
And so the stage is set for Valve’s latest move to combat review bombing. In an announcement on Friday, Valve gave details for their new tool: “we’re going to identify off-topic review bombs and remove them from the Review Score.”
Despite the simplicity of the proposition, Valve’s blog post goes into some depth about what they consider off-topic, and the potential flaws of the new system. One such flaw is that any genuine reviews posted during what Valve deems to be a ‘review bomb’ will be filtered out alongside the off-topic posts.
It’s clear that Valve understands that people don’t want to just be silenced or have negative posts censored, so the reviews themselves aren’t being removed. Instead, those reviews just won’t count towards the overall rating.
For gamers who do care about the more theoretical and political aspects of game publishing, Valve is including the option to turn off this feature in the Steam Store settings. This will mean the system doesn’t affect the ratings you’ll see – bombs and all.