Two months ago, Valve took a stand against Steam negative review bombing but how does it plan to address positive review bombs? That’s a pickle the company finds itself in with the recent flood of happy feedback for Assassin’s Creed: Unity.
Ubisoft’s 2014 historical epic, set in French Revolution-era Paris, was given out free of charge in response to the tragic Notre Dame cathedral fire back in April. The game’s immaculately detailed Notre Dame was also cited as a potentially helpful reference for rebuilding the beloved landmark. The Steam community showed newfound appreciation and excitement for Assassin's Creed: Unity by showering the formerly scorned title with glowing reviews. This uptick in Unity’s positive reception for seemingly irrelevant circumstances would seem to, on paper, violate Steam’s guidelines for off-topic review bombing. This has apparently left Valve with little idea how to address the opposite occurrence.
Valve’s strange blog post discussing the matter reads more as an internal back and forth than a direct ruling to the community. The company admits that they had considered the possibility of positive review bombing when creating their guidelines but had no real-world example to reference. They state Unity’s situation doesn’t fit their established rules from a data standpoint because the game experienced a substantial rise in players. After all, negative review bombing generally damages a game’s player count. Valve then says that despite many of the reviews referencing either Notre Dame or the giveaway, most come off as regular posts from what they think look like new or returning players. Here's an example of Valve's circular discussion:
"We're not really sure what to do here. It doesn't actually seem to be a review bomb in the way we've previously defined them, but maybe that's just our definition being wrong. But even if we define it as one, we're not sure where it should be off-topic or not...So either way, the game itself wouldn't be affected by our decision."
Valve goes on to ponder out loud if a changing context around a title affects its objective quality and if opinions surrounding said context should be counted. As an example, they point to how Unity now features one of the best recreations of an intact Notre Dame in the world and how that could be a potential selling point. This topic ignites a somewhat confusing self-debate where Valve asks more questions (of itself) and presents additional hypothetical scenarios. In the end, Valve’s official response is literally “we don’t really know” and they conclude they’re going to leave Unity alone for now. They also leave it up to the community to rework the definition of review bombing and ask their opinions on how to address the situation.
Valve’s response reads like a company brainstorm session or an editorial essay instead of a clear stance on the matter. To write something that confusing only to basically end with a shoulder shrug isn’t a great look. It does, however, trend with the company’s increasingly hands-off approach to running Steam and questionable interactions with users. On a happier note, it has been refreshing to see review bombing used for more positive discourse, at least.
Source: Valve/Steam Blog