Are Steam’s new review policies really hurting Devs?
Valve rolled out some new and revamped policies to Steam reviews and the whole world shook.
Just a couple of days ago, development and publishing giant Valve who is known for the digital marketplace which we call Steam has rolled a some few revisions to their online digital distribution service. Initially, the change focused on Filtering review responses from Positive and Negative to reviews from people who actually purchased the game on Steam and those who got their copies via code or key activation from non-Steam sources.
Filtering Reviews via Key Activation may look a bit puzzling for some people, but this update is accompanied by a much more bigger change which will definitely affect every developer both positively and negatively, and that is how acquiring the game can affect overall Review scores on Steam.
According to the additional Review System Changes “recent and overall review scores we show at the top of a product page will no longer include reviews written by customers that activated the game through a Steam product key” meaning that unless the game is directly purchased via Steam, the review score does not count.
As of today, the recent and overall review scores we show at the top of a product page will no longer include reviews written by customers that activated the game through a Steam product key.
Customers that received the game from a source outside of Steam (e.g. via a giveaway site, purchased from another digital or retail store, or received for testing purposes from the developer) will still be able to write a review of the game on Steam to share their experience. These reviews will still be visible on the store page, but they will no longer contribute to the score.
Steam Reviews was first put up back in late 2013, and, as Valve states, it was made to “help customers make an informed decision when considering the purchase of a new game” by putting emphasis on “written reviews that encourage customers to share their experience“. Netting good reviews would also help a title to be stand-out in Steam’s rampaging ocean of video games using a filter system which makes it a pretty big deal, especially for small time and independent developers.
So how does it affect game makers? While Steam may be the largest online digital distribution service of today, more and more developers have been prone to using other digital distribution services to market and sell their products, particularly ones like Kickstarter and IndieGogo, which in turn, also secures development funding through a pseudo-pre-order system in which backers are generally able to secure their copies of the game once it is completed through these non-Steam platforms, although they are still able to activate their titles via Steam, if a PC version is included via Steam Key. Its is stated though, that Reviews via Steam Key activated games are still visible in the game’s store page, and can also be viewed exclusively using the new filter system, although these scores will never affect the final aggregated review score.
Valve states that the reason for this change is to help prevent Review Manipulation as they point out that some developers “are willing to employ deceptive tactics to generate a more positive review score” some of which are handing out free Steam keys in exchange for positive reviews, and even going as far as actually paying people to provide positive reviews for these titles.
But how are these changes really affecting Steam reviews for small developers? Rob Fearon, creator of Death Ray Manta stated that out of 140 reviews, only 80 of it now affect the game’s review score, although Fearon is still thankful for he is fortunate enough to still end up with a “Very Positive” review from people who purchased Death Ray Manta on Steam.
For some perspective, out of 120 odd reviews. I've just lost 40. I'm fortunate that I've retained 'very positive' because they're all legit.
— Rob (@retroremakes) September 13, 2016
Simon Roth from Machine Studios on the other hand had a very grim reaction stating that the change will possibly put him out of business as he was looking forward to crowdfunding and direct sales to help improve his Review scores, Roth also follows up his statement by adding that once your game goes below the “Positive” mark “sales die pretty fast. So you can’t get new reviews to get a better score“.
That's me probably going out of business then. My crowdfunders and direct sales were how I hoped to improve my score pic.twitter.com/pvxXGQhweL
— Simon Roth (@SimoRoth) September 13, 2016
Not everyone is crying foul over this change though, and some are looking forward to hopefully seeing Valve backtrack on these updates and implement newer and better changes to help combat, not only abusive developers who take advantage of the Review system but also obscure and abusive reviews from players themselves.
Still, the general atmosphere is pretty much against the update at this point with most of the gripe coming from Developers who have to live through non-Steam platforms and campaigns to get their titles out in the market and put it up on Steam.