Valve’s ever-lasting attempts to ensure fair use of the Steam reviews system have now turned their attentions to the problem of review spamming.
The current system in part relies on users giving existing reviews a thumbs up or thumbs down for ‘helpfulness’. Like all of these mechanisms, it relies on the good will of users and is thus open to exploitation, normally by bots or community campaigns. That’s why sometimes you’ll see games with an overall positive rating flooded with negative reviews on their front page, and vice versa.
“Up to now, our system simply looked at how many people had rated each review as 'helpful' and how many people had rated it as 'not helpful' and then highlighted the ten reviews that the most percentage of people found helpful. Since games can change (sometimes dramatically) over time, we introduced a change a while ago that prioritizes showing recently-posted helpful reviews, as they are more likely to reflect the current state of the game,” Valve said.
“In a perfect world, people would truthfully mark a few reviews that were helpful for deciding to purchase or not purchase the game and we could use that data to directly determine the ten most helpful reviews. Alas, it turns out that not everyone is as helpful as we would like.
“Of the 11m people that have used the helpful buttons, most follow a reasonable pattern of usage. However, we found a small set of users on the far extreme that are clearly trying to accomplish something quite different from normal players, and are rating more than 10,000 reviews as helpful or unhelpful on a single game. This behavior is not only humanly impossible, but definitely not a thoughtful indication of how 'helpful' each of those reviews were. These users also tend to rate up just the negative reviews while rating down the positive reviews (or vice-versa) in an attempt to distort which reviews are shown by default.”
Valve says the contributions from these identified accounts will be vastly reduced, with the feedback from users who exhibit normal behaviour prioritised. It is also changing the presentation of store reviews to be more in line with a game’s overall rating.
Added Valve: “For example, if the game is reviewed positively by 80% of reviewers, then the ten reviews shown by default on the store page will be 80% positive, showing eight positive and two negative. This should keep the reviews shown on a game's page from being so easily manipulated by a few determined players and should more accurately represent the overall sentiment of the people playing the game.”