Review bombing is a popular form of protest on the Internet. It refers to gamers taking to the user reviews section for a game on platforms like Steam or Amazon and leaving negative reviews to punish a developer or publisher for making a decision that doesn’t sit well with them.
Suffice to say, such a move ensures that a game and its creators could be maligned and results in an overall user review that’s not truly indicative of its actual quality.
In an attempt to prevent this, Steam owner Valve has introduced histograms for Steam reviews. Available on all game pages, it shows a graph of positive to negative reviews over a game’s lifetime, allowing a more nuanced view for would be consumers to peruse through, what with spikes in negative or positive reviews visible.
Valve claims this has been done to accurately represent how a game evolves over time.
“It also has the benefit of allowing you to see how a game's reviews have evolved over time, which is great for games that are operating as services. One subtlety that's not obvious at first is that most games slowly trend downwards over time, even if they haven't changed in any way,” claims Steam engineer Alden Kroll.
“We think this makes sense when you realise that, generally speaking, earlier purchasers of a game are more likely to enjoy it than later purchasers. In the pool of players who are interested in a game, the ones who are more confident that they'll like the game will buy it first, so as time goes on the potential purchasers left are less and less certain that they'll like the game. So if you see a game's reviews trending up over time, it may be an even more powerful statement about the quality of work its developers are doing.”
While Kroll’s post outlines the best intentions, it doesn’t account for users who intend to misuse the system, such as popular indie game Firewatch review-bombed because of its creators filing a copyright claim to prevent YouTuber PewDiePie from monetising videos of the game due to his use of racial slurs during a live stream.
“After looking at it in-store, it feels even worse. Putting up a big yellow banner saying “CHECK OUT THIS REVIEW BOMB!” isn’t positive,” tweeted Dan Teasdale, Founder of No Goblin the studio behind PS4, PS VR, and PC game, 100ft Robot Golf.
“Seems like a copout, putting the onus onto the new customer to figure out if the mob are angrily spamming or not,” suggested James Spafford , Community Manager at Doublefine Games.
Could we see Valve rescind this move considering early developer feedback isn’t too welcoming? How it reacts to this remains to be seen as such a move could also increase the number of review bombs.