Valve Software has announced a new change to the Steam Review Score system. The current aggregate score of a game's Steam Reviews will no longer include reviews from users that redeemed a game key.
"As of today, the recent and overall review scores we show at the top of a product page will no longer include reviews written by customers that activated the game through a Steam product key," said the company in its announcement. "Customers that received the game from a source outside of Steam (e.g. via a giveaway site, purchased from another digital or retail store, or received for testing purposes from the developer) will still be able to write a review of the game on Steam to share their experience. These reviews will still be visible on the store page, but they will no longer contribute to the score."
This means if you picked up a game from Amazon, GameStop, Humble Bundle, Kickstarter or some other method rather than directly from Steam, your review will no longer factor into the game's visible score. Those reviews will still be visible on the game's Steam Store page.
Valve is making the changing to tackle the issue of Steam score manipulation. It believes one of the bigger ways Steam scores are tampered with is developers giving out free game keys for great reviews of their games.
"Steam keys have always been free for developers to give out or sell through other online or retail stores. That isn't changing. However, it is too easy for these keys to end up being used in ways that artificially inflate review scores," said Valve.
"An analysis of games across Steam shows that at least 160 titles have a substantially greater percentage of positive reviews by users that activated the product with a cd key, compared to customers that purchased the game directly on Steam. In many cases, the abuse is clear and obvious, such as duplicated and/or generated reviews in large batches, or reviews from accounts linked to the developer," the company continued. "In those cases, we've now taken action by banning the false reviews and will be ending business relationships with developers that continue violating our rules."
Valve notes that this changes will indeed cut out reviews from a game's most fervent fans, including early adopters and Kickstarter backers. It's especially a problem with indie developers, who sometimes offer keys through funding drives or giveaways at shows like PAX to raise awareness of their titles. Despite that, the company is moving forward with the changes.
Valve also highlighted some other issues that company was looking into, all related to the "Most Helpful" reviews section. First up, it's trying to tackle instances where most reviews of a game are positive or negative, but the "Most Helpful" reviews are the opposite. Another facet is small groups targeting certain reviews and marking them up to skew perception of the title. Finally, Valve wants to find a way to handle those short, funny reviews on the site that get marked Helpful. The company notes they're not really helpful for making a purchasing decision.
As always, Valve is open to making further changes depending on feedback.