In May, Valve updated Steam so that it highlighted recent reviews on games. The thinking behind this change was sound: it wanted to better show the current state of a game, many of which evolve quickly as developers issue updates.
Now, though, Valve is changing the default review score that shows up at the top of each product page – the one developers and potential customers put so much stock in – so that it does not include reviews written by those who obtained the product through a Steam 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.
This has to do with developers using “deceptive tactics to generate a more positive review score,” as they have been caught simply using product keys in order to post a positive review for their games. Valve said that “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: Some games have strong audiences off Steam, and some games have passionate early adopters or Kickstarter backers that are much more invested in the game.”.
In many cases, the abuse is clear and obvious, such as duplicated and/or generated reviews in large batches, or reviews from accounts linked to the developer. In those cases, we’ve now taken action by banning the false reviews and will be ending business relationships with developers that continue violating our rules.
Valve writes that it will continue to tweak the review system according to frequently raised concerns, such as the weakness of the “mark as helpful” system, which can sometimes make otherwise poorly performing games appear more appealing. The full statement can be seen over here.