Valve Changes Steam User Reviews Again, Removing Reviews on Unpaid Game Copies

Valve Changes Steam User Reviews Again, Removing Reviews on Unpaid Game Copies

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Valve has made some more changes to user reviews on Steam, and they aren't likely to be popular.

You might recall that back in September, Valve made some changes to the way that Steam's user reviews work, and how games had their review score calculated. That change not only added new filters, it also removed user reviews from reviewers who activated a Steam Key for the game, rather than purchasing it on Steam.

While this change did have the effect of lowering the incentive for developers to hand out free keys in exchange for positive reviews, it also meant that people who purchased keys elsewhere (such as Humble Bundles, other sites, or direct from the developer) would have their opinions ignored as well.

Last night, Valve announced its next steps to further "fine-tune the relevance and accuracy of the overall review score for each product." In short, the new changes will further restrict which user reviews are included in calculating the aggregated score you see on a game's Steam page.

Valve says that the score, "will no longer include reviews by users that received the game for free, such as via a gift, or during a free weekend." That means that if you someone gifts you a game, your opinion on it is discounted in the review score. If you try out a game on a free weekend and it's not fun, your review won't count towards the review score, either. Obviously, this change won't affect free or free-to-play titles.

This change is already being rolled out, but Valve says it will take a few days for all review scores to be updated. Scores for games may change depending on how many of the reviews included in that score come from people who didn't buy it on Steam.

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I am fine with them altering the weight of certain scores due to being received for free, or free weekends, but removing them outright doesnt seem cool.

I do honestly use the user reviews often for games.

Saelune:
I am fine with them altering the weight of certain scores due to being received for free, or free weekends, but removing them outright doesnt seem cool.

I do honestly use the user reviews often for games.

Yea, this is kind of my take on things.

I wasn't even aware reviews were still a serious problem, I had thought quality control was the big issue they were facing, so this has less to do with the actual reviews and more to do with these games not getting put on the store in the first place.

Well, to be fair, I can see the sense behind this one. I could've used more fine tuning, but I appreciate what they're trying to do. I can see a game getting spammed with reviews during a free weekend.

I mean. I reviewed Rainbow Six Siege during the free weekend and then bought it the next week. Does it just like... delete reviews right out of my profile or something?

Zydrate:
I mean. I reviewed Rainbow Six Siege during the free weekend and then bought it the next week. Does it just like... delete reviews right out of my profile or something?

I think you're good because you own it now, and even then it just wouldn't have counted in the percentage score.

erttheking:

Zydrate:
I mean. I reviewed Rainbow Six Siege during the free weekend and then bought it the next week. Does it just like... delete reviews right out of my profile or something?

I think you're good because you own it now, and even then it just wouldn't have counted in the percentage score.

Well that's still unfortunate and I don't support this update. I have 59 reviews, and I'm sure there's a scattered few I got for free in some manner, or via Uplay. Steam thinks my 40 hour opinion on some Assassin's Creed game is null to them? Pretty shitty.

Zydrate:

erttheking:

Zydrate:
I mean. I reviewed Rainbow Six Siege during the free weekend and then bought it the next week. Does it just like... delete reviews right out of my profile or something?

I think you're good because you own it now, and even then it just wouldn't have counted in the percentage score.

Well that's still unfortunate and I don't support this update. I have 59 reviews, and I'm sure there's a scattered few I got for free in some manner, or via Uplay. Steam thinks my 40 hour opinion on some Assassin's Creed game is null to them? Pretty shitty.

Yeah...I can see where they're coming from on the free weekend front, but overall free? Major misstep.

erttheking:

Zydrate:

erttheking:

I think you're good because you own it now, and even then it just wouldn't have counted in the percentage score.

Well that's still unfortunate and I don't support this update. I have 59 reviews, and I'm sure there's a scattered few I got for free in some manner, or via Uplay. Steam thinks my 40 hour opinion on some Assassin's Creed game is null to them? Pretty shitty.

Yeah...I can see where they're coming from on the free weekend front, but overall free? Major misstep.

That still doesn't make sense to me, personally. If someone plays 20 hours during a 3-day free trial, why is their opinion rendered invalid? I wrote my review of Rainbow Six Siege during the free weekend and continued playing. Same with For Honor. I played ~80 hours on the open beta and the live version wasn't that much different beyond the campaign, some heroes, and maps. My opinion didn't change much.

Wouldn't this most likely include, like, almost every review from a professional reviewer (who most likely received their copy from the publisher?)

Ruh-roh, Raggy.

Am I the only one confused about why Steam hasn't gotten rid of the Trading Card system yet? Faffing about reviews still doesn't really help if people are going buy cheap games anyway to farm cards.
The refund system surely means shitty developers can't make that much money from sales so cutting off their other means of financing seems the obvious first step to clearing the out (well, outside of Valve actually doing some QC themselves).

Callate:
Wouldn't this most likely include, like, almost every review from a professional reviewer (who most likely received their copy from the publisher?)

Ruh-roh, Raggy.

Professional reviews arent likely to be published in the User Reviews section.

TrulyBritish:
Am I the only one confused about why Steam hasn't gotten rid of the Trading Card system yet?

Because Valve gets a fair amount of dosh out of it.

And with the imminent death of Greenlight it should be alot harder to get cheap shite onto Steam.

gigastar:
Professional reviews arent likely to be published in the User Reviews section.

True, but a number of professional and semi-professional reviewers have a presence on Steam, and some offer capsule versions of their reviews and a thumbs-up or down; shouldn't their opinions count?

Callate:

gigastar:
Professional reviews arent likely to be published in the User Reviews section.

True, but a number of professional and semi-professional reviewers have a presence on Steam, and some offer capsule versions of their reviews and a thumbs-up or down; shouldn't their opinions count?

Capsule versions of reviews was pretty much what Steam Curators was supposed to be before Totalbiscuit made the Framerate Police and people began using it for cataloging instead.

Not counting reviews for games that were gifted just seems silly to me since this change seems to revolve around preventing reviews from sources that hadn't paid for the game. People playing on a free weekend obviously didn't pay, and not counting key-redeemed reviews is for the purpose of weeding out keys that were given away for free, but a gift copy was most assuredly paid for by -someone-. Hell, I just had a friend buy me the new HD remake of Spooky's House of Jump Scares because he owed me $7, in what way is my review now less valid than if I had paid the $7 myself?

Unless of course devs can give out gift copies the same way they give out keys in which case this is, once again, valve fucking the review process for everyone just because the .01% of the dev base that is russian shovelware hockers do whatever they can to game the system.

Aaaaand,

Right with this announcement, Torment: Tides of Numenera's review aggregate went from mixed to mostly positive.

I guess the shafted kickstarters will have to find a new avenue for their rage.

None of the proposed changes bother me but they'd exactly make sense to me either.

Being GIFTED a game generally means less favorable reviews because the owner likely wasn't hyped for the gifted game else they'd have bought it themselves in many cases. This change could be seen as potentially skewering reviews in a more positive direction.

Playing a game on a free weekend leads to all sorts of potential problems. The user might be rushing content, they might be experimenting with a genre they don't normally play, they might not get the time needed to properly 'review' the game, etc. This change is more valuable to me as a reader because I'd rather not get a knee-jerk product review for lack of a better term. Especially since games are INTENTIONALLY crafted to have a strong start before settling in to the core experience. I'm sure plenty of weekend reviews could be 100% valid but it's simply more difficult to treat those reviews reliably.

So as an experienced gamer I accept the downsides of these changes for what they are. I really don't see these things as anti-consumerist or harmful in a meaningful way. It does mean that all reviews will be viewed upon as more favorable than before though. Because who plays a game for a free weekend then BUYS it just to write a purely negative review?

gigastar:
And with the imminent death of Greenlight it should be alot harder to get cheap shite onto Steam.

...Or easier, which seems to be the direction Valve wants to go in.

Maybe we'd have some better accuracy if Steam (and others) would stop relying on such a simplistic binary +/- system to score a game/product?

Although admittedly, this change does appear to be having a more significant impact on game scores than I expected. Finding far fewer randomly mixed scores every which way.

Ender910:
Maybe we'd have some better accuracy if Steam (and others) would stop relying on such a simplistic binary +/- system to score a game/product?

Metacritic allows users to rate games on the scale of 0 to 10, but they seem to use zeroes and tens almost exclusively. So why bother, I suppose?

As for the situation as a whole, it is a real shame people who buy games from places other than Steam get shafted. Looks like a pretty aggressive move to try and get buyers to shop through Steam exclusively.

The vast majority of buyers don't even leave reviews. I highly doubt there's a significant contingent of people who would buy a game specifically on Steam (rather than a key bundle or whatever) just to make sure their rating is counted.

Fulbert:
Metacritic allows users to rate games on the scale of 0 to 10, but they seem to use zeroes and tens almost exclusively. So why bother, I suppose?

Hmm, good point. I do think there has to be a better way to represent middle-ground feedback aside from just the written portion though. I'd also like to see better details on what constitutes a "recent" review.

Valve frankly just needs to do some actual work on the Steam client and store/site design in general. The Steam workshop alone is quite cancerous in its current state.

That's stupid, 2-4 pack co-op game bundles can only be gifted, why shouldn't my mates or me review it, they are mostly awesome anyways.

Although heavy handed, I can see some sense in this move. An important part of any user review is whether or not a user finds the game "worth" the full price.

That opinion might change dramatically between someone who got the game for free or someone who had to pay for it.

Ender910:
Maybe we'd have some better accuracy if Steam (and others) would stop relying on such a simplistic binary +/- system to score a game/product?

Although admittedly, this change does appear to be having a more significant impact on game scores than I expected. Finding far fewer randomly mixed scores every which way.

I prefer the yes/no of it. When I read User Reviews, I read first the top positives, and then the top negatives, and try to figure out what influenced who and why. Also if there are any glaring technical issues.

Saelune:

Ender910:
Maybe we'd have some better accuracy if Steam (and others) would stop relying on such a simplistic binary +/- system to score a game/product?

Although admittedly, this change does appear to be having a more significant impact on game scores than I expected. Finding far fewer randomly mixed scores every which way.

I prefer the yes/no of it. When I read User Reviews, I read first the top positives, and then the top negatives, and try to figure out what influenced who and why. Also if there are any glaring technical issues.

Technical issues can usually be patched and fixed, and who knows how many of those negative reviews will remain negatives with outdated information. Hell, even AC: Unity is perfectly playable these days yet it carries the stigma with it (Though the "women are hard to animate" comment did not help them).
I tend to get lucky with tech issues though, as my computer is only a year old and can probably handle games for the next 3-5. Also the fps cap controversy I don't really care about. It all looks the same to me.

Zydrate:
Does it just like... delete reviews right out of my profile or something?

There seems to be a lot of confusion around here (not just from the quoted post). Nothing is deleted from anywhere, and anyone who owns a game, no matter how they got it, can still write all the reviews they like. The only thing that is changing is which reviews are used to calculate the average score for the game. This won't make any difference at all to any sane person - anyone who buys a game based only on a percentage score without bothering to actually read the reviews is an idiot. That said, there is one clear benefit:

Gennadios:
Aaaaand,

Right with this announcement, Torment: Tides of Numenera's review aggregate went from mixed to mostly positive.

I guess the shafted kickstarters will have to find a new avenue for their rage.

All too many reviews have nothing to do with the actual game, but are instead people venting their anger at something else. Kickstarted games are a big problem for this, when people spend their whole review complaining about the handling of funding and communication, complaining that it's not the game they dreamed of back when it was first announced, and so on. Things that may be worth complaining about somewhere, but not on store reviews where the point is supposed to be to let prospective buyers know if the game is actually any good or not. The fact that a promised stretch goal was cut, for example, might be annoying to someone who paid with the expectation it would be there, but is completely irrelevant to someone looking to buy the game now. Things like gifted games can have similar issues - I see plenty of reviews essentially complaining that a game just isn't a genre they like, which is irrelevant to anyone who knows what genre it actually is and can make that decision for themselves. Obviously someone who doesn't like a particular genre is far less likely to have bought such a game themselves, but may well have been gifted it and then decided to complain about it in a review.

So overall, it seems like a decent change in theory, but one that shouldn't actually mean anything in practice. Reviews that are more likely to be judging a game for things that shouldn't be relevant to a review will be filtered out from the score, but no sensible person should care about the score in the first place.

Zydrate:
That still doesn't make sense to me, personally. If someone plays 20 hours during a 3-day free trial, why is their opinion rendered invalid?

It's a lot easier to overlook flaws when playing a game for free for a couple of days over paying $60 for it and hoping to get a month or more of enjoyment out of it.

It's flawed in a lot of ways - I dislike the "Yes / No" voting system and would rather see a score that reflects various aspects of the game. Some people dislike scores or reviews altogether; but I'm on a limited budget and would like to know how much enjoyment I'll get out of my purchase.

I'd also do away with the reviews that have a playtime of less than an hour. So many 0.1 hours of playtime and "This game is the best EVAR!" that counts towards the score, and then person never plays it again or doesn't come back to change their review about it.

Conversely you have those people that play some games for thousands of hours and then leave a negative review. They must've had some fun with it right? I am guilty of this with Space Engineers, a game I love but is so bugged and the developer would at times release weekly patches that might horribly break the game that they wouldn't fix for a month or more. We hoped by changing our review scores the developer would take note - but people often don't review or change their score, and I don't think anyone places much weight in a review from a user that has thousands of hours in a game. Unfortunately, it's possible for a game you love to play daily to receive a patch and become absolutely broken and unplayable. So many factors to consider.

I generally look for a review with a good write up and list of pros/cons. You can get a good idea about the game by looking at the negative reviews and seeing what the complaints are, for instance a game like Avorion - "The game is hard", "I flew my spaceship into an asteroid and destroyed it!" - well yes, the game can be hard and it punishes you for making mistakes, but it's also an early access alpha so, it is what it is.

That isn't a problem.

That just motivates us to post our reviews here, on The Escapist, the best site for game reviews in the entire world.

(now where is my paycheck)

Valve I do not believe is the best game development company/corporation; they once deserved the title but all they have now is the hype of previous years.

Censoring who can post reviews based on if they spent the money on Steam? I can just tack that onto the list right below lack of customer support and not making any good new games since Portal 2. And before people mention it, yes I am excluding the complicated memory-eating Dota 2 game available exclusively on PC and the VR-only The Lab game which requires investing in a headset gimmick which arguably is not as good as the PS4's VR.

Free online gameplay and fancy mods for the elite gamers are only going to sway people for so long if the other problems keep piling up.

They need to rethink how they approach community communications and what people are allowed to say and post because this is definitely a step in the wrong direction.

I would say Sega is behaving better than Valve right now, and Sega has a ton of bad games in their recent history.

How you treat the community, via social media and direct responses via PR and customer support, will make or break you in the long-term. In that regard Sega has been doing some quality investing in recent years compared to Valve. Can't say there isn't a part of me that cringes these days when the Stema community acts like Gabe Newell is a god-emperor considering how the mighty Valve hath fallen to the level of forcing users to pay to not get their reviews censored.

 

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