Valve to remove "off topic" review bombs from Steam user scores

Remigio Civitarese
Marzo 17, 2019

Steam users will be able to set whether or not the store page automatically ignores off-topic review bombs in its Review Score calculation.

Should it find a slew of what it considers reviews unrelated to the likelihood that future purchasers will be unhappy if they buy the game, it will not count toward the review score. For example, when Metro Exodus publishers recently announced the latest installment would be a timed-exclusive on the Epic store, thousands of reviewers piled onto the older Metro games on Steam to vent their frustration. At that point, Valve says a team of people will investigate those anomalies, and, if they determine that something fishy is afoot, they'll "mark the time period it encompasses and notify the developer". Valve have said they are now rolling out a new feature to remove "off-topic" reviews from their overall ratings calculations.

While it's not now clear how effective Valve will be in identifying off-topic reviews (or whether it will help in solving the issue), this is good news for developers who may have been anxious about their own titles.

Developers who don't want this new tool combing through their games' comments and Valve declaring when an off-topic review bomb is happening can opt out of the process by going into their Steam Store options. The review graph will also indicate which segment of offending reviews has been removed from the score.

In brief: Valve first tried to implement measures to combat review bombing in 2017 but a new announcement from the company admits that there's room for improvement.

The downside to this process is that every user review during an off-topic review bomb will be removed from a game's overall Steam score, even the good ones. But review bombs "tend to be temporary distortions", it added, so the impact on the overall review score will be negligible, and the reviews themselves will still be up to read.

Valve have finally admitted that "review bombing" on Steam (leaving swarms of negative reviews for questionable reasons) is a big enough problem to have a human clean things up from time to time.

Despite the simplicity of the proposition, Valve's blog post goes into some depth about what they consider off-topic, and the potential flaws of the new system. Our reasoning is that the "general" Steam player doesn't care as much about them, so the Review Score is more accurate if it doesn't contain them. To be clear, this will only impact what you see: You can not influence whether off-topic reviews are included in review scores for other people.

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