Valve is issuing a number of updates pertaining to the customer reviews system on its digital distribution platform Steam. As detailed on the official Steam store, the update will be affecting reviews written by users who activated the game via a Steam key.
Users who have activated a game using a Steam key (as opposed to buying it directly from the Steam store) will still be able to submit a written review, but will no longer be able to enter a score for the game. According to Valve, this change is being implemented in response to the system being abused by developers for inflated review scores, whom Valve found “duplicated and/or generated reviews in large batches.”
Developers will still be able to do what they wish with the Steam keys for their games–whether that be giving them away, or selling the keys in other online or retail stores. However, Valve has reported that “an analysis of games across Steam shows that at least 160 titles have a substantially greater percentage of positive reviews by users that activated the product with a CD key, compared to customers that purchased the game directly on Steam.”
While Valve acknowledges that there are legitimate reasons for the discrepancy such as Kickstarter titles and strong external audiences, the “abuse” of the system is “clear and obvious.” The company will be ending its business relationships with developers who have violated the rules.
Valve has stated its intention to continue updating the Steam reviews system to address other issues, including reviews being marked as “helpful” without actually contributing informative content, or cases where a game’s community has had highly divergent opinions in its reviews.