When you're a small game on Steam, reviews can be hard to come by. This isn't a good solution to that problem.
For the past few days, debate has been raging over Epic Cards Battle, a Steam port of a mobile trading card game. The issue? In an attempt to garner more Steam reviews, the game's developers offered up an incentive: diamonds (an in-game currency that can be obtained with cash) for reviews. This practice is not unheard of in smaller mobile games, but it is frowned upon.
Steam players, unsurprisingly, flew off the handle. This sounds, after all, an awful lot like paying for positive coverage. However, in a (now deleted) forum post, the game's developer, Momostorm Entertainment, pointed out that they weren't asking for positive reviews — just reviews. Technically, their only stipulation was that longer reviews — which they presumed to be more "informative" — will earn players ten extra diamonds. The developer wrote:
"We repeat, we never ask any players to write POSITIVE reviews anytime. Player is rewarded no matter positive or negative review. To gather players' reviews, so we know how to improve it in future updates. And to write a review especially long and informative review takes a lot of time. In our option, player's time is precious and deserve reward for time spent."
Players argued back that this kind of thing — at least, in their eyes — implicitly encourages positive reviews, even if Momostorm didn't mean for it to. It's not to Momostorm's benefit to fork over some of that sweet, sweet virtual rock for a review that crucifies the game. Moreover, it'd be kinda weird for players to write a negative review and then receive currency for the game they hate. What's the point? There's also the tricky question of whether or not this kind of thing constitutes a paid endorsement, in which case a disclosure would be necessary for it to be legal.
So it's a mess, and players aren't happy. Bringing things full circle, the game's Steam reviews are starting to reflect that:
It is by no means a bad thing to collect a broad range of opinions on your game, especially on Steam, where people want quick information about what a game is and whether it's worth their time. But there's a line between saying, "Hey, this would really help us" and skewing the whole process — even if your intentions are pure as a baby bunny praising The Lord Jesus Christ by making angels in the driven snow. Probably try to avoid crossing that line.