Let’s Show Some Hype for Histograms
In light of the debacle between Pew Die Pie and Campos Santos, Steam has launched an addition to its User Review system to defang the bite of review bombing. While Valve doesn’t mention Firewatch, the game’s recent negative reviews could be read as part of the catalyst behind launching this feature now that they’ve been working on for awhile. Review bombing is when a metric ton of negative reviews in a short time frame happen for a game.
On the idea about review bombing is a core issue for Steam’s review system, Valve wrote:
So why is review bombing a problem? On the one hand, the players doing the bombing are fulfilling the goal of User Reviews – they’re voicing their opinion as to why other people shouldn’t buy the game. But one thing we’ve noticed is that the issue players are concerned about can often be outside the game itself. It might be that they’re unhappy with something the developer has said online, or about choices the developer has made in the Steam version of their game relative to other platforms, or simply that they don’t like the developer’s political convictions. Many of these out-of-game issues aren’t very relevant when it comes to the value of the game itself, but some of them are real reasons why a player may be unhappy with their purchase.
It’s important to note that review bombing sometimes has to do with a genuine frustration with a new change to the game too. Thus, Valve wanted to be careful in allowing users the freedom to voice their opinions while maintaining an accurate representation of the review for a game. Valve notes that they considered other options like locking reviews or removing the overall review score before coming up with a histogram feature.
In the picture above, you can see when review bombs take place as Steam’s Firewatch is a good primer for seeing how effective this is. More on this new feature, Valve wrote:
In the end, we decided not to change the ways that players can review games, and instead focused on how potential purchasers can explore the review data. Starting today, each game page now contains a histogram of the positive to negative ratio of reviews over the entire lifetime of the game, and by clicking on any part of the histogram you’re able to read a sample of the reviews from that time period.
Overall, it’s a rather diplomatic move that doesn’t censor users while allowing users a handy timeline of a product’s review scores to more easily determine whether the game’s legitimately bad or being review-bombed for nefarious reasons.