There have been many instances of Steam’s review system being abused in one way or another. Whether it’s incentivized reviews, or a publisher who full-on attacked people who had anything negative to say about their game, the system has needed some adjustments and now Steam is making changes.
One of the problems was that developers could give out free CD keys for their game in order to inflate their review scores. That doesn’t mean they were inherently being shady or asking for positive reviews in exchange for free games, but when someone gets a game for free vs someone who paid $60 for it, you can imagine the person who got it for free isn’t going to be grading it on the same scale.
So, in order to combat that, Valve initially made an adjustment where reviews submitted by people who acquired the game from outside of the actual Steam Store would not have their scores counted. So, if you got a game in a Humble Bundle, or a developer gave you a free copy, or if you purchased it on some shady cd key site, your vote doesn’t matter, which is fair enough when you look at the context of why they had to implement this. Your review score won’t be counted towards the total…
Again, it’s not likely to due widespread intentional abuse where people are sending out 1000’s of CD keys and begging for reviews or paying people to leave positive reviews, although that can happen, but rather just the fact that when something is free or very cheap, you’ll give it a lot more leeway which isn’t really helpful to other gamers who are thinking of paying full price and looking for a non-bias opinion on the game.
Valve has now taken this a step further…
In a recent move, Valve have made some changes to their review system once again in an effort to further combat these issues, seemingly because they realized their initial steps needed to be taken further. Now, anyone who receives a game for free will also have their review scores muted. Previously, it was people who got it from an outside marketplace, but now it includes people who got the game for free on Steam as well.
“The review score (shown at the top of store pages and in various places throughout the store such as search results) will no longer include reviews by users that received the game for free, such as via a gift, or during a free weekend,” Valve explained in a statement. “Reviews can still be written by customers that obtained the game in any of these ways, but the review will not count toward the overall review score.”
Valve believes that no longer allowing players from free weekends or what got free copies of a game to have their scores count towards the total will improve the overall trust and accuracy of their marketplace, however this move may annoy some developers who used such techniques to get their games noticed in a very crowded and competitive store.
Another possible downside is people who pay full price for the games, outside of Steam, for example from a Kickstarter campaign. Now, their reviews won’t be counted.