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Valve makes major change to Steam reviews, blames ‘false reviews’ and developers

A big change in how users review games on digital distribution platform, Steam, has divided the community.

The company behind the service, Valve, is constantly looking at ways to improve the system, but the latest change has kicked off a stream of criticism, mostly from independent game developers.

The change comes in how people are actually allowed to review games on Steam. As of now, only people who purchase a game directly from the service will be able to review it on the platform.

That means that anyone who received or purchased a game through other online stores or via crowd-funding sources such as Kickstarter won’t be able to review.

“An analysis of games across Steam shows that at least 160 titles have a substantially greater percentage of positive reviews by users that activated the product with a cd key, compared to customers that purchased the game directly on Steam,” Valve said in a statement.

It’s pretty clear, then, that Valve wants to try and rid the platform of fraudulent and troll reviews.

Interestingly, the company acknowledged that many games have large audiences outside of Steam, but that this often led to people abusing the system by creating fake accounts and posting multiple reviews.

“But 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,” Valve said.

The gaming giant says about 14% of games will see a drop-off between review tiers, which could see some titles drop from “Positive” to “Mixed”.

Understandably, the change has frustrated smaller developers, who claim it locks out legitimate gamers who want to provide an honest review.

Valve responded to these criticisms in a statement provided to Gamasutra, saying: “We are hearing lots of positive response to this update, and some criticisms. Like all updates we issue to our games and services, we will be monitoring the community reaction and incorporating that feedback into the next set of changes we make to improve the service for everyone.”

In an interview with PCGamesN.comMaia developer Simon Roth said that a review score of below 50% generally led to no sales, because gamers weren’t prepared to give anything below a middle-of-the-road game a go. As so many games are reliant on players from outside of Steam to boost the score on the platform, a number of games have seen a significant drop off.

“From a business sense, once you go under 50% your sales drop off hard. Most people will give a middling game a look, but when you get lower they start to ignore you entirely. So you are stuck as you are unable to sell any more. Which if your reviews are thoughtful breakdowns of the failings of a product is fine, but if they are all hilarious jokes or single sentence reviews it’s pretty harmful,” he said.

The folks over at Steam Spy have put together a fantastic list of games that saw the biggest change in their review scores.

Simple Ball: Extended Edition saw its review average drop from 88 to 14, while Elves Adventure saw a rise from 28 to 80.

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