Steam Takes Steps to Combat Review Inflation

Steam has rolled out changes to their game review system this week in an effort to  strengthen trust in the system.

Regular Steam users may have noticed that the review section of the store’s game pages has been overhauled. Review layout has been altered and users now have more control of filtering reviews. Review type, purchase type, language preference, and display format can all be easily accessed and applied from one menu.

Steam has also made newer reviews more accessible. Recently posted reviews will be more visible instead of being immediately buried by old reviews with more up votes. This is not just a superficial redesign however as Steam has also made changes to how overall reviews are tabulated.

New Steam Review Format

New Steam Review Format

The overall score of games ranging Overwhelming Positive to Overwhelming Negative, will now only include review scores submitted by users who have bought the game directly from Steam. They will exclude the scores of users who used keys to activate the game. These users may include key given away by developers, bought legitimately or not so legitimately on 3rd party sites, and keys sent out for press review.

Responding to feedback from users that the review system isn’t always clear as to the current experience a game provides Steam is taking steps to make the system more reliable for users. Reviews are an important factor when users are deciding whether or not to invest their money and both Steam and game developers recognize this.

“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.”

Steam appears to have conducted an internal analysis and discovered that some developers have been attempting to game the system.  Reviews that are linked to key activations tend to more positive feedback. While many of the users who used a key are legitimate it also appears that some developers are using the keys to inflate their scores by manipulating some of the early reviews.


Steam Reviews for Batman: Arkham Knight Sorted by Key Activations. Based on user who use a key to access the game the reviews appear “Mostly Positive”


Steam Reviews for Batman: Arkham Knight Sorted by Steam Purchases. The reviews by users to purchased the game directly from steam fall significantly to Mixed.

In order to combat this sort of manipulation and to restore the legitimacy of reviews Steam has chosen to limit the effect of reviews that stem from key activations. According to Steam it is difficult for them to accurately determine the difference between legitimate reviews from keys and intentionally manipulative ones which has lead to this blanket solution. Steam has noted that some games will see adjustments to their scores as the solution is retroactive.

Nothing else has changed in terms of Steams attitude towards key. Game key are still free for developers to distribute as they see fit and people who use keys, acquired from developers or third party platforms, can still submit reviews but their scores will not be used to calculate the overall score of the game.

Steam will continue to work towards making the platform a fair and reliable place for game reviews. They are working on helping determine what reviews are actually helpful to users to filter review that are poplar simply because they are funny or promoted by a small group of over active fans within the community.

Have you ever had trouble with the old Steam review system? Do you think these changes are a good move for Steam?

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