Valve Updated Steam Reviews to Prevent Bots From Affecting Game Pages

Valve has announced they’re changing up how Steam reviews work in a bid to help fight against users manipulating them with bots to positively or negatively affect their favorability.

The company noted that reviews currently allows “a small group to manipulate reviews to a degree that is clearly decreasing the value of Steam for many other players.”

The company is making two main changes to how this system works:

  1. Firstly, our system will use a new method of calculating the helpfulness of each review, taking into account the users that are trying to manipulate the system. One way we’re doing that is by counting the helpful ratings on reviews differently for users that are far outside the norm. Ratings from users that follow normal patterns of rating will continue to be counted the same way that they have, whereas accounts that rate an excessive number of reviews on an individual game will see the weight of each individual rating count for less and less.
  2. Secondly, store pages will now show the default helpful positive and negative reviews in a similar proportion to that of the overall review score for the game. For example, if the game is reviewed positively by 80% of reviewers, then the ten reviews shown by default on the store page will be 80% positive, showing eight positive and two negative. This should keep the reviews shown on a game’s page from being so easily manipulated by a few determined players and should more accurately represent the overall sentiment of the people playing the game.

To recap, they’re going to weigh reviews that are “far outside the norm” differently compared to reviews that are presumably from human accounts. This means bots spamming game pages with review votes will have their ratings equal less and less.

Furthermore, if a game is scored more favorably a higher percentage of favorable reviews will be sorted on top. Valve noted a game with an 80% rating will have eight of its top ten reviews will be favorable.

It’s worth mentioning the changes are currently in beta, with users able to toggle them on or off by scrolling down a game’s review section and toggling on the “review beta” option.

Brandon Orselli

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Big Papa Overlord at Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry. I also write about music, food, & beer. Also an IT guy.

  • I also noticed that they made it so you no longer see any downvotes for reviews. Would that have anything to do with this as well or did I miss something?

  • ProfessorFluffy

    Now if only they’d make it so people would stop treating the review section like an open mic night at a comedy club…

  • RichardGristle

    Store the BS, Valve. You always convolute and try to rationalize shit like you’re my girlfriend.

    As long as people can easily express displeasure if a dev and/or pub is messing up then it’s fine. That’s why there are review “bombs” in the first place.

  • Marisa

    Bots my ass.
    Because negative reviews are bad for sales they try to sweep them under a rug.
    Real classy.

  • iswear12

    Daily reminder Valve worked especially hard with Bethesda to try and get that paid mods system in place and needed a metric FUCKTON of people to backlash against them to renege.
    It was funny to see the perception of Gaben go from “benevolent god of PC gaming who gives me glorious sales” to a general slimeball that nobody likes to even bring up anymore

  • Sean Sharpe

    On one hand… I agree with the idea that this is bullshit to cover up bad reviews.

    On the other, a lot of reviews (especially negative reviews) are complete trash that aren’t even close to being objective and sometimes even focused on shit that’s not even about the game in question.

  • Luis Gustavo da Luz

    Agree, and they should create a better system to moderate the “funny” and spam shit too

  • BFG

    I tend to find negative reviews more reliable than the positive ones, especially when it comes to reporting technical issues and aggravating mistakes in the gameplay.

  • Dewey Defeats Truman

    This is true of anything. If I wanna see if I’m making a mistake or not I’ll see how many good ratings it has but never bother reading any of those, but I’ll read through any negative review to see what the deal is. If I see something especially bad I’d skim some positive reviews to see if that one reviewer just had a bad experience but if their complaints pop up again and again in negative reviews (or are glossed over in positive ones) I know it’s legit.

  • magicalfollower

    I’ve seen more cases of “review pumping”(done via free keys and bots) than “review bombing”.

    But sure Valve…let’s pretend that’s a not problem..

  • ProxyDoug

    Steam is a mess and Valve is too lazy and disconnected to fix anything properly.

  • Dewey Defeats Truman

    Yes because the companies need protection more than the consumers.

  • Sean Sharpe

    Some negative reviews are useful.

    But at least half tend to be complaining about something that a game’s publisher has done that’s unrelated to the game, something to do with someone on the development teams politics, or some subjective complaint how the game isn’t as good as previous games in the series.

    Hell, even otherwise good reviews that *do* mention technical issues are often littered with unnecessary comments… If a game runs poorly or has poor mechanical designs, that’s reasons enough to give it a bad rating, you don’t have to add a comment how someone in the development team said something you don’t like.

    Granted, Steam user reviews tend to be a bit better than something like Metacritic, but still… I take most with a grain of salt.

  • Uncle Ocelot

    That’s the real issue with Steam reviews, but they won’t change it because MEMES XD.

  • braneman

    yeah #1 I can kinda understand conceptually, but #2? No.
    #2 on this list is perhaps even more shady than what EA is doing because most reviews are written early on in a game’s life and just left there forever. So all EA would need to do to get around something like this is just delay microtransactions by two-three weeks and they would have a massive cushion of stagnant positive steam reviews so nobody would ever know how shady they are.

    This also benefits everybody who has ever gotten away with a “free copy of game if you give us a positive review” developers because they can just pump out copies early on even a hundred positive reviews on a really garbage game that not too many people will buy and you’re safe. By the time the steam reviews correct themselves from that 100 review thing you’ve already taken your asset flip money and ran.

  • Adohleas

    Honestly I would prefer the review system be like this: Rate 1-10 with or without written review. If reviewing, then a minimum amount of words must be used.

    Generally the more people that rate a game, the easier it is to somewhat determine how good the game is compared to the low number score that you get from critic reviews which will often be far off from how players feel. The written reviews will also be better now that there is a minimum word count and that it weeded out the players who want to only give it a rating.

    Of course that system isn’t perfect, but I feel it would be better than what it is now and better than trying to sweep negative reviews under the rug.

  • Way to continue to ruin the review system Valve!

  • Reviews are not meant to be objective, they are meant to be your opinion.

  • Basically the same thing happened to Tim Shafer.

  • braneman

    #2 on this list is going to make review pumping even more effective especially on games that have a very low cost to make(asset flips) because if you get 100 positive reviews up there it would take 100 negative reviews to get a 50/50 split on the page, that’s 100 sales before the reviews page starts to look bad. And even for terrible asset flips you still get positive “I bought it for the lulz” reviews so with this system it keeps falling into a hole that encourages review pumping.

  • JohnnyCageFan2

    Maybe if it’s too much trouble to fix it, they’ll do something easier like make Half Life 3.