The Borderlands 3 announcement that revealed it would be a timed exclusive on the Epic Games Store has lead to a Borderlands 3 review bombing on Steam, which has in turn triggered the first real test of Valve's new Steam protection policies regarding the consumer practice. Review bombing has been an issue for quite some time now, and has the potential to negatively affect the sales of titles for reasons outside of their quality.
Valve has been getting lambasted for its outdated Steam policies for quite some time. The company recently came under fire for an archaic mode of moderation that saw several offensive games begin to gain traction on Steam, and while some of those games have been addressed, the hands-off approach remains a point of contention for critics of the digital distribution service. It's no surprise, then, that the Epic Games Store's launch and subsequent coup of major titles like Metro: Exodus and Borderlands 3 has left Valve in a difficult position, compounded by a user base that is mistreating developers who don't necessarily have a say in where their title ends up in the first place.
The Borderlands 3 review bombing began affecting previous titles in the series earlier this month as a backlash of the announcement that the game would be heading to Epic Games for a timed exclusivity period of six months. Reviewers even admitted during the review bombings that they had played and enjoyed the games but were leaving negative feedback expressly because of the Epic Games partnership. Here's a sample of what some of that looked like:
Steam's new policies indicated that Valve had measures in place to prevent these review bombs from occurring. To its credit, the company did manage to address them: it just took a long time and a company review, according to Ars Technica. According to Valve's Doug Lombardi, here's what the new process looks like in action, as it has been applied to Borderlands-related games:
"After a review of current review activity on Borderlands titles, the decision was made to tag the franchise for off-topic reviews on Steam, effective immediately. As a result, user reviews submitted while the titles are tagged will not count towards the games' Review Scores. User reviews written during the tagged period will still be accessible and users can choose to include these reviews in the Review Score by changing their preferences."
While Valve's system appears to be working now, it's concerning that the process took so long. According to the company, Steam was supposed to be equipped with a new system that could quickly identify review bombings as they were occurring. That it took a matter of days for the issue to be resolved is an issue for a digital distribution platform that is beginning to look worse now that it has legitimate competition in the Epic Games Store. While Borderlands 3 will be fine—the games affected have already generated most of their revenue, and it's a major release with a huge fanbase looking forward to it—it's fair to wonder if Steam will be, too, or if the service is finally being forced to address its many inconsistencies in a way that might overwhelm it rather than improve it.
Source: Ars Technica