Last night, reddit user Documental38 was looking through the Amazon reviews of Rock Band 4 and discovered that several of the positive reviews had in fact been left by employees of Harmonix. As of the initial reddit post, they had found reviews by seven Harmonix employees, not just one or two. None of the employees had identified themselves as such, though it was easy to figure out who they were by simply Googling their names.
The reviews are all positive (of course), and at least one of the reviewers describes himself as a “new fan” of the series.
Destructoid picked up the story this morning and reached out to Harmonix. They received this official response:
“Harmonix has clarified its internal policy about posting reviews of our own products on retail sites, and we’ve asked that existing reviews be edited to identify Harmonix employees or be removed entirely. While we believe the reviews posted by a few employees were sincere and without ill intentions, as a studio we don’t believe these are appropriate actions. We appreciate the feedback from the community, and take our relationship with our fans seriously.”
Since this statement, at least one reviewer has edited their initial review to identify himself as a Harmonix employee:
Matthew Nordhaus, who is a project manager at Harmonix, wrote “I added this review half in jest (as you might be able to tell from the tone of the original). In hindsight, it’s probably important that I note that I worked on the game and work for Harmonix.” Of course, using a silly tone hardly helps an online product review stand out as a fake, and the star rating will still impact the game’s overall star rating (albeit only slightly).
Several (possibly all) of the other employee-identified reviews have been deleted from the Amazon product listing.
The timing of this discovery is interesting: Amazon is currently in the middle of a lawsuit against over a thousand users who are accused of posting fake product reviews in exchange for money. It’s the first lawsuit of its kind, and many other review-based sites such as Yelp are paying close attention to see what will happen. Product reviews are a vital resource for shoppers, not only for picking a good product but also for discovering illegal (and potentially dangerous) knock-offs.
It is incredibly unlikely that Amazon would pursue any action against Harmonix or these employees, but it could be harder in the future to post fraudulent reviews, depending on the result of the lawsuit. Perhaps in the future, lone reddit users won’t need to Google the names of every reviewer before they trust a product rating…But you know some of them will anyway.
In any case, other Rock Band 4 reviewers have been joking about the story, adding sign-offs like “-Not A Harmonix Employee.”
Rock Band 4 came out earlier this month. You can read our review here.