In an effort to combat “off-topic review bombing”, Valve is adding a new layer to Steam’s review system – a team of actual people to review your reviews. They won’t be reviewing every single user-review left, but they will be looking at those identified as “anomalous review activity”.
Last August, Steam was updated with a review histogram to illustrate how a game has performed over a set period of time. That was an earlier step in the same direction against review bombing, you can read more about that here.
This new step basically adds to the existing histogram by highlighting periods identified as “off-topic review bombing”. To take it a step further, all reviews in the span of time flagged as off-topic review bombing are removed from the overall review score.
In Valve’s own words it’s pretty basic, “we’re going to identify off-topic review bombs, and remove them from the Review Score.”
That doesn’t mean those reviews will be deleted, they’ll still exist for everyone to read, they simply won’t count towards the overall review score. However, Valve is also adding a way to opt out of this new system entirely – it’ll be a checkbox found within your Steam Store options.
What does Valve consider an “off-topic review bomb”? As explained in their post, it’s a 2-part process; part 1 is determining what a review bomb is, part 2 is identifying if it’s off-topic or not.
A review bomb is “where players post a large number of reviews in a short period of time, aimed at lowering the Review Score of a game.” That could be for a completely legitimate reason, like the game being broken or just being bad in general.
An off-topic review bomb is slightly more specific, but also a huge gray area. According to Valve, it’s where “the focus of those reviews is on a topic that we consider unrelated to the likelihood that future purchasers will be happy if they buy the game”. An example might be a developer saying something on social media that people react negatively to. Or even complaints about EULA changes or the inclusion of DRMs.