Valve has taken firm action to deterring review bombing on Steam. A new algorithm will flag potential review bombs and notify a team of real people for investigation. If that team determines a malicious review bombing campaign has taken place, all reviews in that time frame will have their scores removed from the game’s total user score. The reviews themselves will remain.
Review bombing is “where players post a large number of reviews in a short period of time, aimed at lowering the Review Score of a game,” to quote Valve’s post. Valve specifically calls out off-topic reviews as focusing on elements outside of the game itself, such as a game’s DRM, or comments a developer has made online.
In 2017 Valve was well aware of review bombing. They added a histogram to track reviews over time, making it obvious to see when review bombing occurs. Today’s new system comes after years of testing and discussion. Valve has pledged to not remove the reviews themselves. But their downvoted scores will not be counted toward the game’s overall review score. Review scores have become an increasingly important tool for consumers to quickly gauge whether or not a game is worth their time.
Unfortunately any legitimate reviews that happen to be posted during a review bomb period will be affected, and their scores hidden as well. “[…] it isn’t feasible for us to read every single review. But as we mentioned back in our first User Review post, our data shows us that review bombs tend to be temporary distortions, so we believe the Review Score will still be accurate, and other players will still be able to find and read your review within the period.”
Reviewing bombing is a well-known tactic for online trolls, and isn’t limited to video games. Most recently popular movie site Rotten Tomatoes removed the ability to post user reviews on unreleased movies, due to a reviewing bombing campaign with Captain Marvel.
If any of this is upsetting, Valve has a catch-all solution. You can simply turn this feature off entirely. There’s now a checkbox in your Steam Store options where you can re-enable all review scores. “Reviews are an important part of Steam,” states the post, “which is why we continue to do the work to make sure that they are not being manipulated by anyone.