In the age of user reviews, the practice of review bombing has become a serious problem. The tactic involves large groups of people who leave negative reviews in an attempt to destroy a product's review results, and nowhere has it been more obvious than on Valve's Steam Marketplace. In recent years, the company has seen measures to combat review bombs, which is less about evaluating a game and more about retaliation, and now they add a new tool for the arsenal.
After evaluating feedback from both players and developers, Valve explains that it will now begin to hide the review of topic reviews and not include them when calculating the total user score for a game. To achieve this, a review bombing campaign will be identified and managed in several stages, including both automatic and human evaluation. The first is to determine if a review is off-topic:
"We define a review bomb as a survey as one where the focus of these reviews is on a topic that we do not consider related to the probability that future buyers will be happy if they buy the game and thus not something that should be added to the audit result. "
When a "divergent review activity" is discovered as close to real-time as possible, a team of Valve employees, who then investigate and decide whether a bombing campaign is taking place, is reported. If so, they will mark the beginning and end of the attack, the audit activity will be done between submitting the review assessments.
These reviews will be hidden by default and labeled as not included in a game's score. The downside, however, is that neutral or even serious positive reviews provided during a bombing window will be removed from review results. "Our data shows that review bombs tend to be temporary distortions, so we think the review score is still accurate and other players can still find and read your review within the period," says Valve.
Users will still be able to opt out of the auto hide feature, with an option in Steam's settings to allow the topic review to be included in a game's total score.