“Review bombing” is a common internet phenomenon where disgruntled fans leave negative reviews on a work to intentionally harm its sales. Sometimes, negative feedback is over unpopular changes to a game, but it can also be for unrelated issues. For example, people recently review bombed the post-apocalyptic shooter “Metro Exodus” on Steam after its publisher decided to make the PC version an Epic Games Store exclusive.
Valve identifies an “off-topic review bomb” as a large number of reviews in a short period of time aimed at lowering a game’s score, where the reviews in question are about a topic it considers unrelated to the likelihood that future game buyers will be happy if they purchase the game.
“Obviously, there’s a grey area here, because there’s a wide range of things that players care about,” Valve said.
The company said it’s built a tool that identifies anomalous review activity on all Steam games “in as close to real-time as possible.” The tool then notifies a team of people at Valve who will investigate. Once the team discovers an off-topic review bomb, it’ll mark the time period it happened and notify the game’s developer. The reviews within that time period will be removed from the game’s score calculation, but will remain visible on Steam. Valve said it’s making it clear when users are looking at a store page where some reviews were removed. It’s also improved the UI around anomalous review periods.
Developers have the option to opt out of the new review system entirely and keep off-topic review bombs in their game’s score, Valve said.