Valve’s updated the way user reviews work on Steam. From here on out, reviews written by customers who activated the game on Steam with a Steam Key will no longer count in that game’s overall score.
This has massively hurt some independent developers, especially those that sell their games through crowdfunding efforts and third party vendors.
Thanks to services like Humble Bundle and Kickstarter, getting a game in key form is actually fairly standard. For money savvy consumers, places like Humble Bundle are the best way to get games on the cheap. These people will no longer have their reviews counted, and oftentimes the most savvy consumers are also the most willing to share their opinions.
Why is Valve doing this? They wrote a full post about the whole thing, but here’s the meat and potatoes of the reasoning here:
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 organize their own system using Steam keys on alternate accounts. Some organizations even offer paid services to write positive reviews…
…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. In those cases, we’ve now taken action by banning the false reviews and will be ending business relationships with developers that continue violating our rules.
How many developers are abusing this system? I have no idea.
Steam data watching outlet Steam Spy tweeted out a spreadsheet that shares some of the score changing insight for the “427 games that saw the biggest change in their user score with the new system.” I doubt all of these titles engaged in key trading for artificial score inflation.
— Steam Spy (@Steam_Spy) September 14, 2016
Look at the game Wobbly Jungle for instance. It went from a 97 score over 45 reviews to a 50 score with just 2 reviews. Is that warranted? I’m not sure, but it’s a massive swing.
Have you ever received a key for a positive review? Reach out to me on Twitter (@JoeyDavidson), I’d like to speak with you.