Valve Overhauls Steam’s Reviews To Combat Sleazy Reviews

The review process for Steam has changed. The overall score is changing. How reviews are presented is changing, and attempting to game the system is changing.

Over on the official Steam page, Valve updated users on how they’re addressing user reviews. The major change is that there are now filters for user reviews.

You can now filter reviews based on what’s positive and negative, as well as reviews that are from legitimate Steam purchases and what was activated by a key. There’s also a customization option for the language (but that has been there for a while).

The new review scores also have been modified. If you picked up a game outside of Steam and leave a review, or if you get a free press copy, or if you use a key activation, your review will not count toward the review aggregate anymore.

Recently we wrote about odd user reviews for ARK, and part of the overhaul from Valve seems to address the very issues brought out in the article, as they write…

“The majority of review score manipulation we’re seeing by developers is through the process of giving out Steam keys to their game, which are then used to generate positive reviews. Some developers organize their own system using Steam keys on alternate accounts. Some organizations even offer paid services to write positive reviews.”

It wasn’t just ARK: Scorched Earth, though. Other games have also been pointed out for having skewed scores that didn’t quite match up with the actual sentiment of the community.

But what happens when a small contingent of gamers have an axe to grind and have the most helpful review as something negative? Or what happens when a small contingent of gamers fanboy for a game and make the most helpful a positive one even though majority of the reviews are negative? Well, Valve doesn’t quite have an answer for that yet.

There are still some changes to be made but ultimately they’re trying to make the user reviews a good guide for potential customers, so that people have a sound idea of whether or not a game is worth purchasing. Given that so many games out there from some developers have what appears to be fixed reviews or paid reviews or padded reviews, it’s nice to know that Valve is at least attempting to fix some of these issues.


Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

  • Sevuz

    This is only gonna make me more suspicious of reviews on steam :/

  • C G Saturation

    Hmm. I bought Dark Souls 3 from Play Asia because it was way cheaper than my local price (not as cheap as the practically free Mexican version, of course), and Play Asia gave me a key. So that means my review won’t be counted towards the review aggregate, huh. Sounds kind of broken to me.

    • I know, it’s not perfect but after seeing a bunch of accounts using free Steam keys to pad review scores for some games either through giveaways or bot generation, I can sort of understand the reasoning behind it.

      They should, however, make exceptions for people who have put in a certain amount of time into the game before posting the review. So they can have a simple if playtime > (average user playtime) flag = true.

      So anyone with a higher than average playing time who purchased a key from a third-party will have their score counted toward the aggregate.

      • C G Saturation

        Good idea.

  • Sounds like cracking a nut with an industrial pile driver here.

    I mean, sure some developers are doing that, but the steam key trade is huge now, what with key selling stores and bundles and whatnot all over the place.

    I doubt it’s going to help that much with review quality.

    • moomistercowman

      The problem is that it went from bribing (real) reviewers to exploiting the key giveaways by giving them to reviewbots:

      • Seems like a poor solution to the problem, though. It’s just too generic.

        I think they need to get some proper data analysts at Valve who can work out which games have bot reviews, do a proper investigation, and actually have the balls to refuse to do business with devs that are using them.

        Also, as a reader of user reviews, I’d rather be able to filter out 2-line reviews, and reviews by people who have played for < 1 hour. That kind of thing.

        • I’d rather be able to filter out 2-line reviews, and reviews by people who have played for < 1 hour. That kind of thing.

          Same here. That’s a really good suggestion. A lot of times I notice some of the shady things happening seem to occur from reviews with less than an hour on their profile. I would love to be able to filter those out and only get informed by people who put in the work and the time to beat the game.

        • C G Saturation

          Weird. I thought it was already required to play the game for several hours before being able to give a review. It seems like an obvious prerequisite to me, otherwise we’d just end up with garbage trash like IGN’s 10 minute God Hand “review”.

  • scemar

    I did not know people did that, the ark scheme, but glad to hear valve is doing something about it and their method seems practical

    also glad to see they are still trying to improve the user review system
    it’s not perfect, but it’s great to have it around and it’s worth improving

    • C G Saturation

      If Valve was a non-gaming site they would probably ban legitimate reviews and then shower the bots with money, like how CON is treated. “Complaining about spambots is harassment! They have feelings too!”

    • scemar

      been reading more about this, and it seems it’s actually going to be bad for some smaller developers specifically, those who relied on good rep from initial sales from keys, that’s a real shame

      valve should see if there’s a way to make it work for them too

      • C G Saturation

        I think a thumbs up/down and some text doesn’t really cut it. It’s easy to get away with fake reviews on Steam; their review setup is too damn simple. You like or no like? Got some words? Done!

        I mean, you can probably immediately tell if a review is useless if it just gives max scores for everything and only lists positives.

        If it was me, I’d have a review system that requires people list pros and cons under specific categories, or grade those categories.

        Now that I think of it, that’s almost how 4gamer does it. They have people score the graphics, sound, enjoyment, story, content, and then two sections for pros and cons. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a review bot on their site. Then again, Japanese people probably aren’t as likely to sink that low.