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.
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.
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.
2K/Take Two has exclusive publishing rights for Borderlands 3 and makes all decisions regarding price-points, territories, distribution and platform partnerships. Please direct all inquiries regarding any of those topics to 2K. We are *just* the talent. 1/3
— Randy Pitchford (@DuvalMagic) April 1, 2019
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.
Counterpoint: 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.
We can throw out reviews or we can fix communication. https://t.co/y8IdydAyOl
— Chet Faliszek (@chetfaliszek) April 3, 2019
But how exactly do you go about fixing that discourse in a way that works for everyone? Right now, nobody has an answer.