Naturally, The Borderlands Franchise Is Getting Review Bombed

Naturally, The Borderlands Franchise Is Getting Review Bombed

Randy Pitchford gave everyone a preview, and earlier this morning the news finally dropped. Borderlands 3 is finally dropping on September 13, but if you want the game on Steam, you’ll have to wait until April. So naturally, fans have been making their voice heard through Steam reviews.

Fans have been taking a hammer to the Borderlands franchise, with over 1000 negative Steam reviews since the Epic Store exclusivity was announced. Borderlands 2 has received the brunt of the anger, but it’s Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, the last game made by 2K Australia, whose public perception has tanked the most proportionally.

Valve has struggled with review bombing – or player activism, depending on the context and how you look at it – over the last couple of years. The most recent change sought to remove off-topic reviews from the review metrics entirely. Previous updates also highlighted “anomalous review activity”, leading to the current graph that, in a way, makes review bombing more prominent.

The system, however, also acts as a warning system for Valve. Whenever a review bomb happens, a team of support staff conduct an investigation. If Valve determines that a game has been unfairly targeted, reviews posted during that time period of activity aren’t counted towards the overall user rating, and the developer is notified.

Valve Says It Will Remove 'Off-Topic Review Bombs' From Steam Scores

Over the past few years, review bombs — people organising en masse to post negative reviews to a game’s store page to tank its review score — have become one of Steam’s most visible issues. Last year alone, review bombing happened in Steam reviews over everything from women as generals to sales that happened too early.

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But Valve also noted that review bombs are generally temporary, with scores settling down to normal averages after a while. Developers still have to deal with the complaints and tanking of their products’ public reputation, even if they’re not the ones responsible for the exclusivity contracts.

Many of the latest negative reviews are blaming 2K/Take Two for the Epic Store deal, but as far as Gearbox (the actual team making and managing Borderlands), the impact is the same. They’re still having to deal with the posts, forum threads, and constant mentions across social media.

So it’s understandable why there are plenty of developers who are genuinely excited for the Epic Store. It’s not just a better revenue agreement, although an extra 18 percent of revenue equates to a hell of a lot of money once you start selling a hundred thousand units or more. It’s also the prospect of not having to deal and manage another forum or channel that can get hijacked at any moment, whether your company is responsible or not.

A counter-point to all of this, as noted by former Valve writer Chet Faliszek, is that gamers resort to review bombs because it remains one of their most effective lines of communication. “We can throw out reviews or we can fix communication,” he wrote.

But how exactly do you go about fixing that discourse in a way that works for everyone? Right now, nobody has an answer.


  • Usually, I’m more “colourful” with my commentary, but like with Graham Burke’s antics another other issues I’m putting my usual antics aside.

    Just to get the main facts out of the way (and so I don’t have to fend of misconceptions about where I myself stand later), the Epic Store exclusivity deals are annoying.

    Yes, it stinks that Epic’s game manager is lacking in features (and that is as far as I’m going as I’m not touching the Chinese spying fears).

    Yes, it also stinks that others have to wait before the game will appear on other platforms like Steam.

    But at the end of the day, there is nothing illegal or immoral about this. It happens all the time in other sectors.

    If Epic wants to play this game for short term gain, then fine. The operative word here is short term – eventually the clock will run out and Epic will either have to life its game or be crushed by the behemoth that is Steam.

    For me, I’m waiting for the game to appear on Steam. It’s not going to kill me to not be playing the game at launch.

    As for the review bombing, I fail to see what the end goal is. If the plan is to send a message to Epic then it is a plan that is not well thought out.

    Instead, the review bombing will turn many potential customers away as many will see the “mostly negative” flag and look no further.

    Effectively, this is no different to the method used by Alex Mauer where she tried to use YouTubers to strong arm her former employer.

    If there is a message to be sent, send it Epic directly. Or better yet, just wait for the exclusivity term to run out.

    Review bombing will only fall on death ears and actually cause more harm than good.

    • Instead, the review bombing will turn many potential customers away as many will see the “mostly negative” flag and look no further.
      I think that is the point. They review bomb, it tanks sales, publisher looks why sudden drop and see that the choices they made resulted in direct drop in revenue.
      That’s my understanding of the theory anyway.

      • Or, publisher is stupid and decides that Gearbox is the problem.

        Hopefully the majority of people are smart enough to be aiming this directly at the publisher and not Gearbox themselves (although Randy has had to defend his team already due to the backlash) I’d hate to see Gearbox get screwed over due to the greedy higher-ups…but I guess that’s business these days.

      • Maybe, if anyone looked at Steam reviews for anything besides memes and confirmation basis. Screaming toddlers just enjoy throwing shit out of their crib.

        • I use them a lot but certainly not for AAA releases. They are very useful for indies to see if a concept has been well implemented or not
          I like your description of review bombing though

          • Good point, for indies.

            They can attract stupid “reviews” too, but at least they’re for the actual game and not a business decision involving something else.

      • No, it does exactly nothing. They’re review bombing a game on Steam that isn’t out yet and won’t initially be released on steam. Epic doesn’t allow user reviews unless the publisher wants it so review bombs will be non existent when it comes out and people aren’t going to be checking steam for reviews on the previous games to decide whether they want to buy the next one.

        The whole thing is pointless and childish.

        • You don’t seem to understand how the review bombing works – they are going after the Borderlands back catalog on Steam. So Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and the Pre Sequel are all seeing their review ratings tank by people taking out their childish anger on the fourth unreleased sequel. Personally I think Steam should dump reviews and have a rating system based on collective time played and progression made.

          • You’re incorrect, I understand review bombing perfectly…its a pretty simple concept.

            My point is they’re review bombing a game that isn’t out yet by going to the other games and leaving negative reviews…which as I said is pointless as no-one will be looking at the reviews on previous titles to decide whether they’re going to buy the new game.

            In terms of anyone buying those previous titles being influenced by the reviews it won’t hurt much there either as the vast majority of the relevant sales period for those titles has passed.

      • I must confess, I never buy on launch anymore anyway.

        I either wait for the game to go on sale, arrive on GoG or have the letters G, O, T and Y on the box.

        • That’s it, I’m making a game called Yogurt… No, wait… YOGURT! All in capitals, with an exclamation. Yes, that’ll work…

          Or should it be Y.O.G.U.R.T. and make it stand for something silly?

  • Christ. The sooner Valve does its promised purge of review bombs (and hopefully bans accounts of those doing them from posting reviews) the better. You want to call the waaaahmbulance over something you don’t like, go complain to the company on social media.

    #1 reason Epic Store is better than Valve – No user reviews. As said in the tweets, these tantrums make user reviews worse than useless and show they add nothing of value to game stores.
    #2 being the regular free games that I might already have on PS+.

    • This is the exact reason we need the Epic store & for devs to get away from hyper-toxic steaming cesspools, while actually getting a better cut of the profits. Never mind the competition & benefits this sort of exclusivity will ultimately bring to the consumer, as counter-intuitive as it may be & beyond the average IQ of Steamboys to comprehend. 🙂

      • Yeah sure; never mind the fact that the platform has shady refund practices, no community function, no legitimate review system, compromised security procedures and the ever looming potential Chinese spying issue.

        Also, how is the epic store buying up exclusives a good thing? We aren’t talking about mid sized devs without a publisher receiving assistance from a console manufacturer in exchange for exclusivity on a game that never would have happened otherwise. Games like Exodus and BL3 would have been made regardless and these exclusivity deals are just cash grabs.

        • If Epic truly has ‘Shady’ refund practices, then just point the ACCC at them. Its the only reason that Steam has the refund system it has now.

          • Everything have a starting point, Steam had a run and why not give Epic the chance to run?

          • Exacly. While I know people love to go on about the community part, I think people are being a bit disingenuous, forgetting that Steam hasn’t always had these features. They’ll come in time. It’s just a case of hating the new kid on the block. Steam has had a good run, but the fact is, Publishers and Devs are going to Epic atm because they get a larger cut of the pie? If Steam started giving up a bit of the cash back to the Devs, they’d see this is easy to take care of…

          • “They’ll come in time” is an excuse, it doesn’t work as a logical argument. There was a time when games had fixed resolutions, or didn’t support saving your progress, or required you to manually load external mouse and audio drivers. But nobody would dream of releasing a game these days that lacked the improvements that solved those problems.

            This isn’t 2003. Epic’s launcher isn’t starting from the same point Steam did. It’s been 16 years for them to learn what essential features should be there from day one in a storefront being released in 2018. The features Epic are missing are essential to running a successful storefront in this day and age. And maybe if they’d bothered to finish writing them before launching, they’d be more naturally appealing to gamers and wouldn’t need to pull bullshit tactics like buying third party exclusivity.

          • For starting out so logically, there are a couple of holes here…

            They’ll come in time. It’s just a case of hating the new kid on the block.

            Not quite. If the Epic Store was just as good as Steam, but people hated it yesterday, then this would be valid point. People don’t hate the Epic store because it’s new… they hate it because it’s inferior, but they are being forced to use it anyway because of the exclusivity deals. Essentially Epic is paying devs to force customers to use a worse platform.

            Publishers and Devs are going to Epic atm because they get a larger cut of the pie

            Or, they are getting guaranteed sale numbers (in the case of Phoenix Point). Don’t get me wrong here – I don’t blame the devs for making these decisions. From a financial viability viewpoint this is a no-brainer for the devs, because they will make more money, and they can use that to pay their staff to make more games. And yes, maybe this will get Valve to reevaluate their revenue sharing model. But, forcing customers to use a substandard platform to access these products is not cool. In bird culture, this is considered a dick move.

          • Dude the store doesn’t even have a shopping cart!
            When I buy I car I want it to have wheels! The epic store is the equivalent of Walmart opening and conducting business while the building is still being built!
            Their business tactics are predatory, their store front coding is shady and just upfront non compliant with EU GDPR laws, they have no regional pricing so the game is WAAAAAY more expensive to purchase if you aren’t American.
            The only good thing they do is the rev split… But wait they quite heavily gate the content of their store so not alot of independent indie devs will get on the store anyway…so the split is mainly benefiting massive publishers at the moment anyway, the Dev teams are not seeing extra rev split anyway.

          • @the non registered user:

            I get that, it’s a new platform. No community etc, that’s a drum that’s been beat a thousand times. So let’s flip the narrative. What’s Steam doing to stop this happening? Are they offering a better deal for developers/publishers? Are they enticing them back somehow to stop this happening? It doesn’t really seem so. At this point, Steam is acting like a fat, bloated roman emperor, content to laze about in its own crapulence, having been king for so long it’s forgotten what it’s like to have competition. If Epic does last, is anyones question, who knows if it will. But if it spurs Steam on to give a better cut? To change some of its own practices? That’s hardly a bad thing.

          • Steam fixed their policies at the start of the ACCC investigation, not at the end when the court ruling hit.

    • I extremely value user reviews – not individual reviews, per se, but seeing 90k reviews for a game that are mostly positive tells me a lot that I might not be able to get from a single reviewer. It tells me that the recommended specs are probably accurate, that it’s not going to crash on launch and performs acceptably, that the game is likely pretty much as advertised, and that it is generally liked by those who bought it. I can’t get that from a critic, or from any single review, because no single reviewer can test those things at such a large scale.

      When I see a long-term Overwhelmingly Positive game with mixed or negative recent reviews, I know either there was a game-breaking patch, a poor monetisation introduction, or a PR screwup/scandal, which then pushes me to find out more about what happened, and determine if it should affect my purchase decision. People (generally) don’t get irate in large numbers for no reason.

      • Some of the earliest reviewing bombing that I’m aware of was people smashing popular games for not having a chinese localisation. Nothing to do with gameplay issues, poor writing or anything, just that an english language developer hadn’t released it one particular language.

        • Almost every game I’ve seen that happen on wasn’t just because of innocently missing localisation. Nier Automata, for example, got bombed because SE specifically released it in the Asian market without Chinese language support, and then doubled the price in China. Stellaris released Chinese localisation then pulled it, essentially taking Chinese customers’ money and then making it impossible for many of them to even play. Darkest Dungeon got bombed by Korean players because the Korean localisation was terrible. Football Manager was bombed because they promised Chinese localisation, getting preorders from Chinese customers, then never released one. Dynasty Warriors 9 had Chinese localisation for every platform except PC, for inexplicable reasons.

          There may be some review bombs purely for missing localisation that was never promised, but I’m not aware of any offhand. All the scenarios I noted above are issues (one literally was poor writing/translation) that deserve to be called out.

          • Well, things like the Korean localisation issue shouldn’t be considered a review bomb, because its was an actual terrible localization. I backed DD in KS and I remember reading posts from them about all the drama that happened with the groups they’d paid to do the localization.

    • I disagree with banning people during review bombs. What if you just happen to review a game at the same time a review bomb is on and getting banned as a result?

  • I’d like to see user reviews scrapped in favour of other metrics if they can’t be moderated. Average play time, achievement completion, number of times launched, matches played, crash reports, etc… Review bombing is just childish, a ‘the fox and the grapes’ situation.

  • Not sure what the issue is here exactly.

    If you want to play the game on release, buy it from the Epic store. If you have some objection to the Epic store, whatever that may be, then don’t buy it until it releases on your preferred platform. It’s not going to kill you to wait. This isn’t any different to when some games are timed exclusives for a specific console.

    I can understand people having issues with all the different storefronts. I myself don’t use Steam at all, the majority of my digital PC purchases come from GOG, but I never complain if a game is a Steam exclusive.

    • Imagine if it was PS4 exclusive or something like that. Do you think there would be this massive outcry still?

        • That would be different though, as certain platforms would not be able to buy or play the game. This is not that case; PC gamers can still buy and play the game.

          And even in cases where games *are* exclusive to a particular platform, the uproar isn’t as bad as PC players have been on this matter. For example the timed exclusivity of Rise of the Tomb Raider for a year to Xbox. Or the timed exclusivity of a number of Destiny content to PlayStation.

          • Well let’s be clear about something… This isn’t some ‘PC players’ thing, this is very much a bunch of people pissing and moaning who just happen to play games on PC, it is a difference people love to forget as they lump everyone into the bullshit.

            I am very much a PC player and don’t particularly care about this. I’m not at all surprised by the move either, or the reaction to it.

            But if I want BL3 at launch? I’ll just buy it on the Epic store and go about my day like nothing happened, and I imagine there are a lot of people like myself in that regard.

        • Oh yeah lol 100%, I miss wrote my comment. I meant to say if it was a timed exclusive on PS4 for 6 months. Dang I am such an idiot.

      • It’s a bit different though than being a console exclusive. The game is still available on PCs, just the consumers are now being told where to buy it from, they just happen to not like the shop they’re being directed to.

          • Don’t do that. It’s not petty to have a problem with a company. There are good reasons for not wanting to do business with Epic, not least because exclusivity is shitty behaviour and rewarding it establishes precedence and prevalence.

            This is a power struggle, with Epic openly stating they’re trying to take power back from consumers and give it to companies. Protesting that move, increasing awareness of it, and fighting against it using the only tools consumers have to fight with is not petty. It obviously matters to people, myself included, and it’s not right for you to dismiss those concerns as petty because you personally don’t share them.

  • Honestly Steam is my least favourite launcher and website overall (i dont need your stupid algorithms for suggesting games, i dont need to have 300+ games in a pile of shame).
    But also Epic games exclusivity deals is questionable at best so im not sure how i feel overall about this situation.
    Though i mean its literally no different to the dozens of games that are origin only.
    Plus can’t you add non steam bought games to your steam launcher if you are really that bothered by having to open another launcher.

    • Difference with Origin is that its brand specific. Like Uplay, or Battle.Net, it caters to products from a specific company. For better or worse, at least its serving a purpose for EA.

      Epic doesn’t do that, its independent and is open to all publishers, not just their own products. If it was just Epic products, then yeah, I could understand it better, but it aint.

      • true true, you aren’t wrong.
        Though there is also no functional difference, its a game you want or not, who its by means nothing in the end, so its release place doesn’t really matter any more either in that department. I don’t see how it being an Epic games game or not makes any ACTUAL difference. you have to buy it at ‘X’ store because the publisher is releasing there, whether that be because they are owned by that site company or not literally makes no difference.
        Like i originally said i don’t entirely like the whole exclusive to 1 store, but its not functional different to Origin and Uplay.

        • I think its the perception mostly. Steam started for a reason, and has more or less been true ti that since then. It did a lot of good for developers, from making it so convenient piracy has been made irrelevant, and put more profit into the hands of developers. We won, because of the convenience, and later on gained more power when we could do things like user reviews on products.

          What Epic’s doing does nothing for us as consumers. It takes away the ability to say what we think about the games, and while its cut is considerably less than Steam, that isnt passed on to the consumer but pocketed by the developer/publisher. To me, thats greedy.

          Epic isnt a better product to us, its worse. It increases the number of launchers, which makes it that little bit harder to keep track of games (I already have a couple of games on 3 launchers…), its limiting choice by forcing us to use their launcher (which to be fair is no different to Uplay, Battle.Net, and Origin), and while it has a reduced cut of revenue, thats not being passed on to us but being pocketed by the developer.

          That makes their decision a greed based on, not a client focused on. To me, and clearly others, thats adding up to something people arent liking, even though the real result is just another thing to click.

          Personally I think its actually a step backwards for the developer as well. By being exclusive to just Epic, its reducing its potential customer base. That can only reduce sales. And again, thats like the 3 mentioned above, but them being specific to their publisher is at least consistent. I want an EA game, its an instant connection to Origin. Ubisoft, I know its Uplay.

          Gearbox, 4A games, etc arent a natural connection to Epic – operationally its no different to Steam – so that connection through just their own products isnt there. If it had just been Epic games, or even if they’d required Unreal engine games to go through there, again, not problem.

          But how they’ve done it just doesnt sit right with a lot of people, me included. Made more frustrating when there was a passive solution right in front of them that they could have used instead.

          I’ll probably play Borderlands 3 on console now. I want to play the game, I’ve loved all the others so cant see why I wouldnt. But I might wait a while and get it on sale, or second hand. I dont want to reward the negative behavior I’m seeing being shown through all this.

  • I’ll wait until it’s on steam, don’t get me wrong though I think Valve and Gaben are greedy pigs, but epic have been doing some really disgusting and shady things recently.

  • The only option left is to form a players association (like the NFLPA). Once we unionise, we’ll get awesome benefits. I’d pay $5 a year to get a chance to influence publishers and developers in a focused, rational way. Imagine, we could call it IGPA (International Game Players Association) and we could use it as a lobby group to get our concerns taken seriously.

  • It’s all too much for me. Gone are the says when a delivery arrived in the mail and you felt the packet to rising excitement knowing goodness was inside. Now self appointed judges pretend they’re the moral epitome of society while holding the keyboard with one hand…

    • What are they holding in the other? A cheeseburger?

      Can I haz cheeseburger?

      Personally, I think the joy of buying a game started dying for me when I excitedly went and picked up my collector’s edition of F3AR from EB Games (or Gamestop if I was in the US at the time), got it home… and found a Steam download code inside. It was the first time, and it wasn’t the last.

  • F*** anyone doing this, they’re the dumbest, pettiest entitled scum in the community. It has nothing to do with their previous titles so leave them the f*** alone.

  • So, just theorycrafting here, but what if there was a review system attached to each developer which tied to their revenue sharing %?

    So let’s say a dev takes the time to engage with their community and build goodwill – they get a positive score, which means they get a bigger cut of game sales. If they make a whole bunch of dick moves and burn all their bridges with their playerbase, they get punished with a smaller slice of the pie. Obviously it would need to be a bit more complex than this (i.e. maybe tying it to region, so that bad Korean localizations means a decreased score in Korea but not in the US), but tying goodwill to actual revenue might give devs a reason to treat their players with respect.

  • Again with the damn review bombs!? This crap annoys me more than any launcher exclusivity release…

  • I’m hoping the rumours of crossplay are true.
    At this point I will get it for xbox one at release and if my friend’s decide to buy on epic we can still co-op.
    Once it’s on steam I might then get a PC copy.

  • “Review bombing is making it clearer and clearer that players have no effective means of communication with developers where they feel their voices will be heard so they use the one avenue available to them.”

    This is true. I know publishers and Devs would prefer if their customers sat down and ate their bs without complaint.
    But here’s the fact, review bombing has been the most effective form of communication the customer has that I have seen in gaming. It always gets a response.
    Name any other avenue of discourse that we as consumers have at our disposal that are as effective as review bombing.

  • Look, the game industry cant have it both ways

    Either the game is a product and it stands on its own merits and what the oublishers do shouldnt affect your review

    Or games are a service and what the piblisher does really does matter because it affects the service that is your game and reviewing the service badly because they did something you dont like is perfectly fair

    The game industry has been oushing games as service for the last 5 years, 2K games especially

    So fuck off with this rejection of review bombing, if a restaurant got good reviews when it opened but suddenly started kick every customer as they walked in you wouldnt be like “well the recent reviews are off topic, everyone is only talking about being kicked and not about the food”

    Games are a service now, the triple A publishers made that very clear, so if your service sucks you gonna get bad reviews

  • I thought everyone stole your information and sold it to the Chinese government. I mean, I assume that’s who’s calling my mobile all the time. Could be marketers, now I think about it. My Mandarin game is pretty weak, admittedly.

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