Last week, Valve announced a major change to Steam Reviews: the overall aggregate score of a game would no longer take into account reviews from users who did not buy the game on Steam. If a user acquired a game through a Kickstarter drive, Humble Bundle, Amazon, or other source, their review isn't counted in the Positive/Mixed/Negative overall ranking or Steam User Score.
Valve is attempting to address an issue where some developers have been known to offer game keys for positive reviews. SteamSpy operator and developer Sergey Galyonkin took at look at the games whose Steam Scores changed the most under the new system and Valve's fix seemingly works, dropping some poor, but highly-rated titles that you've never heard of way down in the ranking. Games like Simple Ball: Extended Edition, Lands of Devastation, and Bathory - The Bloody Countess had score differences of more than 68 points due to the change. One of those games was actually delisted from Steam because of review tampering via free keys.
The problem is, developers noted that some solid reviews from their most passionate fans would be pulled out of the system due to the changes. If you're a Kickstarter backer who pledged towards a game early for example, your review doesn't "count". Many developers worried their Steam review scores would drop.
Today, Valve has offered a tweak to the previous change. Now, written reviews from customers who didn't buy the game through Steam will be visible, even though they still won't be counted with the aggregate Steam score.
"We want to make sure that helpful reviews can be surfaced regardless of purchase source, so we're making a change to the defaults," wrote Valve. "Starting today, the review section on each product page will show reviews written by all users, regardless of purchase type. By default you'll now see reviews written by all players of the game, including Steam customers, Kickstarter backers, bundle customers, streamers, and other users that acquired the game outside of Steam."
"This change doesn't impact the review score. Each game's score will continue to be calculated based only on customers that purchased the game via Steam."
Steam users who want to see only reviews from people who purchased the game on Steam or key activations can choose that filtering method on a game's page. Steam will then remember your preferred filtering method for other titles.
As always, Valve says that the Steam Reviews system is always under iteration to improve it as a tool for informed purchases. Despite that, some devs worry that more than iteration will be needed to fix the Steam Reviews problem.
"I'd suggest rather than endless tweaking, the whole review system needs a complete rethink and radical redesign to better suit the unique 'product' developers are creating," said indie developer Dan Marshall to PCGamer.