Sometimes events happen in succession that might seem related but maybe aren’t. Like an athlete saying he’s trying a new approach and then getting injured the next game. Players get injured all the time and it’s not always due to trying something different. Or thinking you need to phone someone and having them call just seconds later. You’re not psychic; it’s just a coincidence.
With that caveat in mind, consider this: People have been urging Steam to do more with its reviews, particularly to address the problem of “review bombing.” That’s when a bunch of angry gamers get together to give negative reviews to a game due to some perceived slight by the developer. That tanks its rating and, theoretically, makes it less desirable to potential new players, hurting sales. We saw it when Payday 2 introduced microtransactions, after promising not to. More recently, it’s happened to Firewatch in the wake of the recent incident involving PewDiePie and Campo Santo’s threatened DMCA takedown of his videos.
Finally, Valve has decided to take action. In a blog post yesterday, Community Manager Alden talked about the various methods Valve had considered for addressing review bombing, even going so far as to discuss removing reviews altogether. Rather than that drastic route, Valve has decided to add charts to games’ review pages, so players can “see how a game’s reviews have evolved over time.” If a game has received an unusually high number of negative reviews recently, a notification appears above the chart, alerting Steam users to that fact.
So why take this step now? It’s possible that these new charts are just the culmination of months, if not years, of efforts and discussions by Valve.
But then there’s this:
That’s the review graph for Dota 2. It’s been getting bombed in recent weeks, and at first I thought that was due to the awful reception to Artifact. It turns out that’s probably not the case but instead is due to the recent publication of the Half-Life 2: Episode 3 script by a former Valve employee, which coincides almost perfectly with the major influx of negative Dota 2 reviews.
So, to recap: Valve’s biggest current game gets review bombed on Steam. Less than a month later, Valve implements a policy to try and combat review bombing on Steam. Are these two unrelated incidents that happened to roughly coincide, time-wise? We’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.