Steam finally tackled review bombing over the weekend. This was after users began flooding the Borderlands games on Steam with negative reviews after Borderlands 3 was confirmed as a limited-time Epic Games Store exclusive.
Last week, 2K Games announced that Borderlands 3 would be the latest game to become an Epic Games Store exclusive. Like almost every other game to announce an exclusivity with Epic Games, players responded negatively. This led to a review bombing campaign where Steam users would purposefully bombard the Borderlands and Borderlands 2 Steam pages with negative reviews that were more about criticizing the Epic Games Store than the Borderlands games themselves.
Borderlands 2's 'Overwhelmingly Positive' review status was hit with over 3000 negative reviews following the announcement over Borderlands 3's exclusivity. Many of the new comments specifically mention Borderlands 3, rather than the quality of Borderlands 2.
Review bombing is not new to the Steam platform, and Valve has taken steps to address the practice without outright banning reviews. Previously, Valve introduced a graph that charted the user reviews of a game to help highlight when the direction of a game's reviews changed to isolate a reason. But Valve recently introduced a new policy that would exclude "off-topic" reviews from a game's overall rating entirely.
You can see the new policy in action right now if you head to Borderlands 2's Steam page. The review status is still 'Overwhelmingly Positive' and the off-topic reviews have been sectioned off from Borderlands 2's overall user review score.
Despite the recent efforts by Valve, the hassle with dealing with review bombs might have already done some damage. Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford tweeted that, following the review bombing, he was "kind of happy" about 2K's decision to take Borderlands 3 exclusively to the Epic Games Store (the Epic Games Store doesn't have user review features yet). What's more, Pitchford said the incident might make Gearbox reconsider its own decisions to put games on Steam made through its Gearbox Publishing division.
Ironically, that this misuse is possible and that Steam has no interest in correcting this misuse makes me kind of happy about 2k’s decision and makes me want to reconsider Gearbox Publishing’s current posture on the platform.— Randy Pitchford (@DuvalMagic) April 5, 2019
This recent episode is a collision of two different issues Valve has had to deal with in recent years: review bombing and the Epic Games Store. Developers and publishers have criticized review bombing as a practice, as it creates a negative public image of their games based on unrelated reasons. In the past, users have review bombed games for everything, from bugs or monetization to political motivations.
As for the Epic Games Store, Steam's new rival continues to snatch exclusives away from Valve despite being unpopular for it. Though Steam's dominance in the digital PC market space doesn't seem to be waning anytime soon, it goes to show that the digital PC retail space is changing drastically from even just a couple of years ago.