Valve, in its ongoing battle against artificially inflating reviews, has made a bold move: Users who were given a game via Steam Key instead of purchasing it can no longer review games.
As explained in their recent update, Steam has been paying close attention to customer complaints and how review scores are calculated for games. They detail their findings: “The majority of review score manipulation we’re seeing by developers is through the process of giving out Steam keys to their game, which are then used to generate positive reviews. Some developers organize their own system using Steam keys on alternate accounts. Some organizations even offer paid services to write positive reviews.”
The update goes on: “An analysis of games across Steam shows that at least 160 titles have a substantially greater percentage of positive reviews by users that activated the product with a cd key, compared to customers that purchased the game directly on Steam. There are, of course, legitimate reasons why this could be true for a game… in many cases, the abuse is clear and obvious… [but] it’s becoming increasingly difficult to detect when this is happening.”
So, Valve has moved to not count Key user scores towards the overall aggregate. Some 14% of games are expected to be affected, many on the border between “positive” and “mixed” (70% vs 69%). This is not a complete fix, and it presents its own problems, but it’s a sign that Valve is listening.
Their next fixes, according to the update, will largely involve how users mark reviews as “helpful” and skew a game’s perception.