Valve says it is taking a new approach to user reviews on its gaming marketplace Steam, after trying and largely failing to solve the problem of so-called review bombardment that retrieves its consumer recommendation system. In a blog post published today, Valve says it is "continued to listen to feedback from both players and developers" and it implements a new approach: to hide the review of the topic.
The company says it defines a review boom as "one where the focus of these reviews is on a topic we do not consider related to the likelihood that future buyers will be happy if they buy the game." To identify such campaigns, Valve says that a tool has been developed to identify time periods during which a review bombing occurs, which informs employees who are then required to investigate. When the investigation is completed, Valve will mark the time period during which the event began and will remove any audit activity that occurs after it affects the overall audit. It will also clearly indicate which reviews have their points removed from the total calculation.
Review bombing has become a common tactic for dissatisfied internet users to record their dissatisfaction with a particular product on the internet. However, in some cases, it is also used as a bad faith tactic to oppose a company or public figure associated with said company, usually over a verbalized online political position or a main contact that is not related to the product itself. Still, getting enough like-minded people together, and you can run down a product's rating, prevent people from buying it or at least steering the discussion around it on your own terms. Websites such as Rotten Tomatoes have begun to adapt to the deletion of such campaigns by removing the possibility of leaving comments or ratings on movies before release.
Two years ago Valve implemented a new system after the users reviewed the bombed indie game Firewatch. The company rolled out a chart that laid out the relationship between positive and negative reviews, so that buyers could see if there was a suspected nail in negative over time, which was designed to indicate if any new controversy or news event was the cause of sudden uptick. As The Verge 's Adi Robertson noted at that time, it essentially put on the buyers to decide for themselves.
But there are still problems with this new, modified approach. Valve admits good faith reviews that occur during the event may have their points removed along with the bad faith, adding that "it is not possible for us to read each and every review." Valve will also allow users to opt out of the features. "There is now a checkbox in your Steam Store options where you can choose to have review bombs still included in any review results you see," reads the blog post. It is unclear how effectively the valve approach will be about some of its most active users ̵
By examining bomb campaigns and distant bumps and off-topic reviews, Valve still takes a more proactive approach to moderating the platform compared to the hands-off strategy that landed it in such hot water earlier. Earlier this month, after a hard online backlash, Valve decided to remove the steam side for a development game that glorified rape and violence against women, saying that the distribution of the game meant "unknown costs and risks".