Game Offers Rewards For Steam Reviews, Players Not Pleased

Game Offers Rewards For Steam Reviews, Players Not Pleased

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:

Game Offers Rewards For Steam Reviews, Players Not Pleased
Game Offers Rewards For Steam Reviews, Players Not Pleased

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.


Comments

    I was going to check out Epic Cards Battle but the promotional images on the store page featured Evony-esque busty anime girls and I was concerned anyone seeing me playing it would assume I was a pervert suckered in by their advertising.

    If there's one thing I'm not, it's someone easily swayed by exploitative advertising.

      It kind of sounds like you are swayed by exploitative advertising. Just not in the way the advertiser expected or wanted.
      I'm the same. I probably would have been turned off by that marketing too, if I was mildly interested. I don't necessarily see the review/reward thing as a major issue, but coupled with that kind of advertising, it really makes them seem dodgy.

        I wouldn't say easily, but you're mostly right. I don't like to reward devs for using exploitative gimmicks like this so it made me less inclined to give their game a chance.

      "I'm waiting for you my lord"

      Yeah, you can keep on waiting too, static big busted marketing hook.

    When a game starts offering rewards for positive reviews - it makes me want to avoid the game. Screams people making false reviews just to score free stuff to me.

      yeah but at the same time why would they even bother writing the review? if the game was bad why would they want the ingame currency to keep playing?

    It's also a retardedly shitty game, with the MONUMENTAL arrogance to start its store page description with "Abandon the brainless card games" when it itself is THE most brainless TCG out there- you pick 6 cards then everything else is automated. The hypocrisy is staggering.

    I made a thread on the game's discussion forums pointing this out. Predictably, it was deleted immediately.

    or.. you know.. just dont bother reviewing and play the game..

    Many businesses do this with various promotions "Provide feedback on your experience and go into the draw to win an iPad etc" and it's not illegal as long as the business doesn't encourage people to leave positive reviews only, or only reward positive reviews.

    As long as they rewarding ALL people equally who leave reviews, even negative ones, I don't have a problem with it and its perfectly legal.

    Last edited 16/07/15 3:43 pm

      Illegal and immoral are two different things. Apple banned this ages ago on their app store, Steam should do the same.

        Immoral is subjective. That's why we have laws.
        Just because it's immoral to one person, doesn't naturally follow that it's immoral to all.

      But it does prey on human nature.

      If I offered somebody something they wanted and all they had to do is tell me what they think of me, it's natural that many and most would approach from a positive angle.

      It's not illegal no, it's clever. You would even think that it will backfire now that the company has expressed that reviews can be negative, but if it gets out of hand they will simply drop the reward system under the noble guise of realising it might have been misconstrued.

      Many businesses do this with various promotions "Provide feedback on your experience and go into the draw to win an iPad etc"

      the difference being that feedback goes to the company, not publicly displayed on the wall.

        Not true at all. Many tell them to go to a particular review site (Such as their Facebook page, or a review website) and post the review there.

        They use it to target a particular online site/platform where they are publicly getting slammed with negative feedback but not the positive feedback that they already internally receive from their own feedback gathering.

        Soure: Work in an industry where it occurs all the time.

        Last edited 17/07/15 9:37 am

    I don't see any major problem with this... sure, if they were giving out stuff for good reviews it would be more then a little immoral, but they aren't even doing that just asking that you leave something.

    yes you could say that there is inherently more incentive to leave a review if you intend to keep playing the game otherwise you wouldn't care about the rewards, but at the same time that doesn't necessarily translate to people who have no problems with the game and also weeds out a lot of people who have little to no interest in the game getting people who actually want the game to grow/get better to speak up about it's pros/cons. there isn't even any incentive to lie.

    giving free stuff to people who are actively giving you negative press doesn't make sense if this was an attempt to drum up positive publicity, and yet they're doing that anyway because it seems to me like they just want to get discussion started, regardless of whether it's good or bad feedback, it's hard to react to it when there isn't any.

    seems to me like people are crucifying a dev because they tried to get their community to tell them (and others) what they honestly thought of the game.

    Seems to be the Week of the Idiot.
    Similar to the Reddit fiasco earlier, a group of users have complained loudly about what they perceive to be a problem, instead of taking a moment to assess the situation.
    Even at first glance, it was obvious that Momostorm wanted more that the oneliners that are predominantly Steam reviews.

    "tricky question of whether or not this kind of thing constitutes a paid endorsement"
    There's nothing tricky about it. If the company is not asking you to endorse the product, then it's not an endorsement.
    You might want to look that word up, because I do not think it means what you think it means.

    "where people want quick information about what a game is and whether it’s worth their time"
    Absolutely, it's become the gaming version of MetaCritic, but it's still worth encouraging reviews of substance - eg: a paragraph detailing the game, than the usual "kicked a chipmunk 10/10 would do again, lol" juvenile banality.
    Those gamers that do leave a decent review, even if it's not a favourable one, gives some impression upon which both the buyer and the developer can make their judgements.

    Or we can keep on pandering to the Perpetually Enraged, afraid that we might offend someone.

    Last edited 16/07/15 4:24 pm

    I'm on the fence about this one. It wasn't a great idea, but it wasn't a terrible one. Positive reviews weren't implied, they were inferred, and that's not really something the developer has much control over. The developers should have been clearer, that's without question.

    However, the reaction to this is really disproportionate. Offering incentive to write a review isn't any more unethical than offering incentive to like the game on Facebook or Twitter (which is incredibly common in mobile and free-to-play titles) or games that offer exclusive content if you go sign up on their website (I'm pretty sure either Mass Effect or Dragon Age or both had content like this).

Join the discussion!