In an age of user reviews, the practice of review bombing has become a serious problem. The tactic involves large groups of people leaving negative reviews in an effort to ruin a product’s review score, and nowhere has it been more apparent than on Valve’s Steam marketplace. The last few years have seen the company take steps to fight review bombing, which is less about evaluating a game and more about retaliation, and now they’re adding a new tool to the arsenal.
After evaluating feedback from both players and developers, Valve explains that it will now start hiding off-topic reviews and not including them when calculating the overall user scores for a game. To get to this, a review bombing campaign will be identified and addressed over several steps, including both automated and human evaluation. The first thing is determining if a review is off-topic:
“We define an off-topic review bomb as one where the focus of those reviews is on a topic that we consider unrelated to the likelihood that future purchasers will be happy if they buy the game, and hence not something that should be added to the Review Score.”
Once “anomalous review activity” is detected in as close to real-time as possible, a team of Valve employees are notified, who then investigate and decide if a bombing campaign is taking place. If so, they will mark the start and end of the attack, will the review activity made in between left out of the review score calculations.
These reviews will be hidden by default and labeled as not included in a game’s score. The downside, however, is that neutral, or even earnest, positive reviews that are left during a bombing window will be removed from review scores. “Our data shows us that review bombs tend to be temporary distortions, so we believe the Review Score will still be accurate, and other players will still be able to find and read your review within the period,” Valve says.
Users will still be able to opt-out of the auto-hiding feature, with an option in Steam’s settings for allowing off-topic reviews to be included in a game’s overall score.