Valve Updates Steam Review Policy to Defuse Review Bombing

Steam “off-topic review bombs” will no longer count towards a game’s Review Score

For example, when Metro Exodus publishers recently announced the latest installment would be a timed-exclusive on the Epic store, thousands of reviewers piled onto the older Metro games on Steam to vent their frustration.

A "review bomb" is a sudden influx of a large number of negative user reviews of a game, usually regardless of its actual quality, meant to discredit or punish its developer or publisher.

In a news post, Valve described a series of planned changes to Steam's review system aimed at minimising the impact of review bombs. This is a broad enough definition of irrelevant reviews that it could include many things, but Valve has confirmed that it includes those complaining about digital rights management (DRM) like Denuvo.

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. "We define an off-topic review bomb as one where the focus of those reviews is on a topic that we consider unrelated to the likelihood that future purchasers will be happy if they buy the game". As the review bomb filtering system just excludes a certain cluster of reviews from counting towards the overall score, this will also filter out any legitimate reviews during that period, but at least it will be across a period decided by real flesh-and-blood humans.

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Algorithms will flag incidents likely to be review bombs, and then Valve moderators will manually review those notifications to determine which ones count as off-topic. Valve had previously made changes to its user review system back in 2017 to tackle spamming.

Valve also noted that review bombings due to DRM and EULA changes will be considered off-topic and therefore also removed from the review score calculation. Again, the reviews aren't being removed, they just won't be factored into the overall score. To be clear, this will only impact what you see: You can not influence whether off-topic reviews are included in review scores for other people. Those with comments on the actual game should be aware of other reviews before deciding to post as a result. It's possible the update isn't fully rolled out yet, although the new option to exclude off-content reviews from review scores is present; I've emailed Valve to clarify and will update if I receive a reply.

"We had long debates about these two, and others like them", reads the blog post.

"We remain in active conversation with you, the community, about what you want from reviews along with the various partners who sell their games on Steam".

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