Review bombing is the sad state of affairs in which players leave negative reviews about a game as a means of protest.
It happened on Steam when Metro Exodus was announced as an Epic Games exclusive, and it happened again when the same situation occurred with the upcoming Borderlands 3.
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By review bombing other games in the franchise on Steam, players are hoping to send a message to the developers and publishers, and it’s something that Valve wants to crack down on as it could affect user experience when choosing to buy a game or not.
Valve had been implementing ways to ensure that review bombs are picked up and removed, ensuring that a game won’t suffer because of them.
However, that seems to have backfired with the positive review bombing of Assassin’s Creed Unity.
Following the disastrous fire at Notre Dame cathedral earlier this year, Ubisoft decided to offer AC Unity up for free on Uplay, as the game contains a hyperrealistic look at the cathedral in all its glory.
Players touched by the chance to experience the cathedral before the fire by the way of the virtual experience ended up leaving positive reviews of the game en masse, which is possibly the first ever positive review bomb.
This threw a bit of a spanner in the works for Valve, who seemed pretty on the fence about removing the bombed reviews or not.
In a recent blog post, Valve writes: “Data-wise, [AC’s review bombing] doesn’t quite fit the pattern of negative review bombs: in the case of AC:Unity there was a significant increase in actual players alongside the increase in reviews…
“Without reading the actual reviews, the data here all looks very much like a game that’s gone on sale, or received an update.”
Valve went on to write that after reading the reviews it became clear that only a few referenced the Notre Dame fire or the free Uplay game, saying that “most just look like standard reviews of a new player, or a player that’s returning to a product they bought a while ago.”
The notion of marking reviews as “off-topic” was also addressed in the blog post, with Valve stating: “If we mark it off-topic, the only result will be that the Review Score won’t include the reviews over this time period…
“In this case, the Notre Dame tragedy has made it so that AC:Unity happens to now include the world’s best virtual recreation of the undamaged monument.
“That’s a context change that could be increasing the value players are getting from the game, so perhaps the game really is better than it was before? Or maybe that’s unrelated, and it’s actually players feeling good about Ubisoft’s significant donation to rebuilding the monument?”
In a surprisingly frank way, Valve admitted it’s “not really sure what to do here,” and wonders where its interpretation and definition of a review bomb needs to be revised.
For now, the game has not been marked as “off-topic,” with Valve citing that marking it would lead to a decrease by 1.3% which wouldn’t “have any significant effect on its visibility in the store.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Valve might handle any future positive review bombs that Steam might see.
Featured Image Credit: Ubisoft