User-reviews limited to Gold subscribers; Games and devs await permanent ban

Microsoft crackdown on Indies ratings abuse

Microsoft has corrected vulnerabilities in its ratings system for Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG), after people were found to be unfairly improving the ratings of games.

The firm could also ban developers thought to have abused the system, and remove their product from the store.

“Starting today, only users with Xbox Live Gold subscriptions will be allowed to rate content on the website,” the company said in a statement.

“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 amendment to its user-review system comes after it was discovered that an organised group of people made dishonestly high and low ratings to some Xbox Live Indie Games.

At the centre of these claims was indie group Crosse Studios, the creator of XBLIG title College Lacrosse. That studio had asked fans on its Facebook page to improve the user rating of its game.

Those that complied had given the game strong review scores despite not needing to play the title. In turn, the game rose up the ratings charts and gained more prominence on the XBLIG digital storefront.

It is believed, though not proven, that fans were instructed on how to rate games without the need to play.

The impact was that some users went one step further and allegedly rated rival games will low marks – causing their chart ranking to fall and have College Lacrosse leapfrog ahead.

Microsoft said restricting these actions only to people with Xbox Live Gold accounts will give the system “more consistent ratings and a significantly reduced potential for abuse across the entire Xbox catalog”.

The firm had looked into the possibility of nullifying “suspect votes”, though confessed the operation would be implausible without prohibitive levels of work.

“We are investigating users who may have violated their user agreement during this series of events,” Microsoft added.

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