Why, Valve… Just Why? (Updates to the Steam Review System)

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.

Valve, September 12, 2016

So what does this mean for you?

Well, for one thing, if you’re a bundle hunter like myself or if you prefer to buy from online stores like the Humble Bundle because you’re a charitable human being (who also enjoys getting a deal), then your opinion somehow matters less. Shame on you if you don’t sacrifice all of your money to Lord Gaben.

Give him all your money or face his DIVINE WRATH.

If you’re a lucky contest winner–whether from the developer themselves If you’re a developer seeking to get some exposure by encouraging people to write reviews and share their (hopefully) honest feedback, this means that those opinions won’t be counted towards the overall score of their game.

If you’re a developer or otherwise malicious person seeking to boost or lower the scores of a game, then you’ve been thwarted… unless you actually buy a copy of your own game from the Steam Store, I guess. Who has the money nowadays?

So, yay. One problem solved-ish.

Or is it? A member of a Group I’m a part of on Steam figured out a reach-around already.

So what’s next, Valve?

I notice there’s a lack of forum link or comment thread despite their invitation to give feedback…

The “Next Steps” sound great–in theory–and we’ve needed those changes for a good while now (particularly the bullshit habit some people have of marking bullshit “funny” reviews as “helpful), but that doesn’t detract from the fact that Valve chose to implement this change first–without warning, no less.

So, essentially, Valve is aiming to achieve the same level of monopolistic power as Apple. God forbid you buy a key from a different store or pick up the latest bundle because there’s no way to tell if your key was bought, won, or given as a bribe.


I was given this key for review and apparently I don’t own it as of Valve’s recent update and can’t review it as a result.

Update: Oddly enough, once I removed the check that indicated that I received this product for free, I was allowed to post my review. After that, you can’t re-check it.

How would one even differentiate the source of a CD key? How could you tell what was purchased, what was stolen, what was given from a developer per request of a content creator–etc? Valve hasn’t been able to, but they  certainly have made it so that hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of reviews are basically irrelevant because they may or may not be bought. There’s a good chance they haven’t been, but Valve would rather it not be counted just in case.

And don’t even get me started on the people who support Kickstarters. As a super backer myself, I know that, after helping to fund a successful campaign, one is given a Steam CD key to the game. Because I wanted to help out a developer make their dream game into a reality, my opinion no longer matters?

Cases like Mighty No. 9, for example.

With over 60,000 backers, it’s hard to believe that 672 of those reviews were bought…


One such developer Gordon Little (Spell Casting: Meowgically Enhanced Edition) is feeling the negative effects of Steam’s new policy:

@G_O_R_D is  the developer of Spell Casting: Meowgically Enhanced Edition

And he’s not the only one.

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You can’t force objectivity. A lot of factors go into how one feels about a game they’ve played: how much the gamer paid versus how much they feel they’re getting out of it; whether or not the genre is one they enjoy; what mood they’re in while playing; the hype built up about the title; the expectations the gamer enters the game with… I think you get the idea. The same can be said about the reader who is hoping for insight on whether or not the game is worth spending their hard-earned dough.

It takes all kinds. No two people will interpret one thing the exact same way, so how on earth could Valve create some magical algorithm that will ultimately decide what is helpful and what is not?

Are they going to phase out curators pages next? It wasn’t listed in their plans, but then neither was this update out of left field. I can’t imagine many developers will hand out keys to advertise their game if doing so means that the feedback they receive won’t be considered as valid as the sometimes-bullshit, sometimes-informative review someone who purchased the game types up. You know the ones: those joke reviews that tell a story or create an image and are, for some damn reason, up-voted instead of marked as funny.

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In fact, that’ll probably stop people from even bothering to leave a review in the first place.Do you mean to say someone who bought a game on Steam and says , “10/10 would play again” is to be taken into consideration over a well-written and well thought out review typed up by someone who genuinely enjoyed a game and were: 1. lucky enough to be given access to for the purpose of review or 2. had bought it from another authorized key seller?

I fear especially for indie devs, who rely on word of mouth in order to get their game out into the mainstream.

Thoughts, anyone? I for one am not a fan of the new change. As a content creator and avid supporter of indie games myself, I don’t appreciate being silenced.

Stay in the know, gamers ❤



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