Steam is getting a major overhaul when it comes to its user reviews, with Valve announcing a plan to try and fight back against review bombing. Hot on the heels of the decision by Rotten Tomatoes to dump pre-release comments, it appears as though Valve is trying to do the same thing within video games.
The Steam platform has sometimes come under heavy fire over its policy on moderation. Last year, Valve released a statement revealing that games on the service would not be regulated unless strictly illegal, leading some to question the company's stance when it came to the hotbeds of extremism on the platform. This came to a head recently, with a game glorifying rape - and Valve's glacial response time for taking it down - causing warranted controversy.
Nonetheless, Valve is making a change when it comes to Steam user reviews. The company revealed in a blog post that it will be looking to combat any future review bombing campaigns, to protect the review score of a title from review bombing that may have little to do with the quality of the game in question. Quite simply, Valve is going to "identify off-topic review bombs, and remove them from the Review Score."
This apparently works via a tool that will pick up on a large spike in review activity for a game. A team at Valve will then be notified of this, and the team in question will investigate the activity and see if it relates to a review bombing campaign rather than legitimate reviews. If it's found to be review bombing, then all reviews within that time period will be discounted from the review score of the title, although the reviews in question will still be visible.
Putting something in place to push back against review bombing will no doubt give a fairer indication of the quality of a game to those interested in playing it, and stop campaigns like those against Firewatch or recent horror title Devotion. However, there are some issues with Valve's policy here, and not just because any legitimate reviews posted within this time period are going to be caught up in the review bombing. Instead, questions have been asked about what Valve considers to be part of a review bombing campaign, and in particular users have been concerned that complaints over DRM - which can heavily impact on the running of a game - will be considered review bombing.
All in all, then, it's an awkward step forward for Steam, but potentially one that could work in the long term to maintain a fair review system. It will be interesting to see whether it has the intended outcome, and whether those Steam users concerned that one of their methods of voicing complaints is being removed will come around to the new system.