Steam tweaks community reviews to fight spam

Combating the few manipulators that drown out most of the voices.

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In this article: gaming, review, services, steam

Valve has known that its platform Steam, the biggest marketplace for PC titles, has had a review problem for years. Groups of users abuse a game's rating by 'review bombing' them, propping up negative feedback with far more 'this was helpful' votes than is humanly possible. While Valve tried a passive solution two months ago, but it didn't fix the problem. So the company is trying a couple more changes: Diluting the effects of likely review-manipulators and making sure a game's top ten reflect the title's overall approval rating.

In other words, if 80% of a game's players left a favorable review, eight out of its top ten reviews will be positive. That will help keep the small amount of artificially-inflated 'bombed' posts from drowning out feedback that's representative of the community's opinion.

The other fix tracks how many times an account votes that reviews are 'helpful' for a single game. Most users just mark a few reviews as helpful or not, and that feedback will continue to be counted normally. Those that blatantly mass-downvote other reviews -- typically around 10,000 times on a single game, the Steam blog noted -- will see each additional vote diluted more and more.

It's continual tinkering that reflects how difficult it is to provide democratic and current feedback for a game to prospective buyers. Recently, Steam implemented a change that heavily weighted recent reviews to reflect the current state of the game and highlighted those with the highest percentage of 'helpful' votes; This unintentionally enabled 'review bombing.'

This won't be the last fix coming to Steam's review system, either: Future tweaks will address how players feel about a game now after updates and changes, as well as filtering to account for issues that only affect players in certain regions.

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