Free" members' ability to rate Marketplace content on Xbox.com in an apparent effort to curb ratings manipulation. The announcement was made on the XNA Game Studio Team Blog and was specifically addressed to the Indie Games Community.
"By implementing this change, we believe our customers will experience more consistent ratings and a significantly reduced potential for abuse across the entire Xbox catalog," said the statement. "We have also investigated rolling back suspect votes, however, we determined it will not be possible to do this."
Several weeks ago, developers of some of the top-rated Indie Games suspected foul play when their games began to slide down the Top Rated listing after receiving, by one developer's count, "hundreds of 1 star ratings" in a single week. While the XNA Team conceded that it would be unable to take away such seemingly unwarranted ratings, it did add that "we are investigating users who may have violated their user agreement during this series of events."
"Violating user agreements may result in actions up to and including banning from Xbox Live, removal of currently posted games, and loss of ability to post games in the future," the statement continued.
A few Indie Games developers have expressed gratitude, as reported by Armless Octopus, for Microsoft listening to their concerns and taking action. (Historically, it's been a somewhat rocky relationship between the two sides.) While limiting rating powers on Xbox.com to paying Gold members would seem to thwart the most egregious attacks and manipulation of content, it does not solve some of the other issues with the system; most notably that a user need not play, let alone purchase, content to rate it.