Last week, Valve made some big changes to Steam reviews. Developers, especially, didn’t love them. Developers were worried by the part where Steam would default to not showing reviews by people who received game keys from places like Kickstarter, as opposed to directly purchasing from Steam. Valve made the change to counter fraudulent reviews and other means of artificially bolstering review scores. Today, though, they announced that they’re walking it back a bit.
One frequent piece of feedback we’ve heard regarding the recent changes is that it has become more difficult to find and read the helpful, articulate reviews written by customers that obtained the game outside of Steam. We want to make sure that helpful reviews can be surfaced regardless of purchase source, so we’re making a change to the defaults.
Starting today, the review section on each product page will show reviews written by all users, regardless of purchase type. By default you’ll now see reviews written by all players of the game, including Steam customers, Kickstarter backers, bundle customers, streamers, and other users that acquired the game outside of Steam.
Review scores, however, will continue to be based exclusively on purchases made within Steam.
It’s good that Valve listened, but many developers value reviews because large numbers of them (especially positive ones) give them a big leg up in Steam’s search and discoverability algorithms. I imagine some developers are still gonna be pretty upset that their scores won’t be affected by users they acquired fair and square outside of Steam.
That’s not to say it doesn’t make sense for Valve to bring reviews of Steam games, you know, inside Steam. And certainly, preventing fraudulent reviews is an admirable goal. It’s just that when you encourage developers to create communities outside Steam — to pull their lifeblood for things like Greenlight campaigns from elsewhere — and then randomly turn that foundation upside-down without changing other systems to match, you risk a lot of honest people getting caught in the crossfire.
Valve added, however, that reviews are still very much a work-in-progress. The “helpful” system, for instance, is apparently up next for an overhaul. As for where the rest of this all goes, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, if only because I don’t imagine Valve will tell anyone until the next round of changes is live, and the cycle of “Wait, what the fuck” begins all over again.