Customers who have obtained a game by redeeming a key as opposed to buying directly through Steam will no longer be able to attribute a score to their reviews.
The move is designed to quash the danger of developers artificially inflating their review scores by handing out keys to players who in turn leave a favourable rating.
Valve has revealed that some analysis of the situation has led it to conclude that at least 160 games have obtained a substantially greater percentage of positive reviews” as a result of key redemptions. It acknowledged that sometimes there may be a legitimate reason why this is the case, but also stressed that in many cases the abuse is clear and obvious”.
In these instances, it has gone as far as to not only remove the reviews but also cut ties with the offending developers.
Buyers who obtain a game via a key will still be able to write reviews for titles, but will not from this point on be able to leave a score.
We know the review score has become a valuable shortcut for customers to gauge how well the game is matching customer expectations,” Valve said. But the review score has also become a point of fixation for many developers, to the point where some developers are willing to employ deceptive tactics to generate a more positive review score.
The majority of review score manipulation we’re seeing by developers is through the process of giving out Steam keys to their game, which are then used to generate positive reviews. Some developers organize their own system using Steam keys on alternate accounts. Some organizations even offer paid services to write positive reviews.”
Valve added that as a result of the move the review score for around 14 per cent of games on Steam will change. Around 200 titles will no longer have a score at all until a direct buyer goes on to leave one.
The decision could potentially impact smaller devs who rely more heavily on direct sales, and especially those who have crowdfunded their titles, not least because review scores now occupy such a prominent place in the Steam storefront design.