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Microsoft Alters Rating System For Xbox Live Indie Games
Microsoft Alters Rating System For Xbox Live Indie Games
April 19, 2011 | By Mike Rose

Microsoft has amended the ratings system for its Xbox Live Indie Games channel, allowing only Xbox Live Gold members to leave ratings for games on the service through the web site.

[UPDATE: Microsoft has clarified to Gamasutra that Xbox Live Silver members will still be able to rate Indie Games through the Xbox 360 console, but will no longer be able to provide rankings through]

The company began investigating claims that users were manipulating ratings on the service last month.

Robert Boyd of Zeboyd Games -- makers of Xbox Live indie RPG titles including Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World -- noted the alleged manipulation on the Facebook page for XBLIG game College Lacrosse: The Video Game.

The developer of the game was urging fans to provide 5-star ratings to boost the game up the XBLIG charts. Boyd also alleged many of those fans went further than that, providing the minimum 1-star rating to competing XBLIG titles to help improve the Lacrosse games' positions.

A post on the XNA Game Studio Team blog has revealed that the rating system has now changed. Only Xbox Live Gold members can rate the games on the service from today.

"By implementing this change, we believe our customers will experience more consistent ratings and a significantly-reduced potential for abuse across the entire Xbox catalog," said the blog post.

Concerning the alleged 1-star voting, the team explained, "We have also investigated rolling back suspect votes, however, we determined it will not be possible to do this."

However, it did note, "In addition, we are investigating users who may have violated their user agreement during this series of events. Violating user agreements may result in actions up to and including banning from Xbox Live, removal of currently posted games, and loss of ability to post games in the future."

Xbox Live Indie Games developers have already been voicing their concerns in the comments section of the blog post, with Matthew Doucette of Xona Games (Decimation X, Duality ZF) arguing, "I'm also voting for efforts on cancelling the bad votes."

"The damage done is devastating. Our two top-30 games have ratings below 160 now, off the charts. That type of damage can only be repaired by Microsoft. And according to stats, we were receiving a fairly consistent five 1-star votes per day, so should be easy to nail down."

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Jacob Pederson
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This isn't going to help much. Gold members aren't necessarily nicer that silver ones :) The only thing that would fix this would be to only allow game owners to vote; however, it appears they are not willing to write the code for that.

Duncan Saunders
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How about only allowing people who paid for a game to rate it?

It's one thing to ask people to rate other games down, but I doubt it would be as effective if they had to buy the game too.

Ujn Hunter
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Of course it's not a complete fix, but it does help because who would pay for gold just to downrate other games? Most of these ratings come from silver accounts created by a bot.

Matthew Doucette
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Jacob, this is a bad idea in light of someone purchasing lots of copies of their own (bad) game to rate it up, and then having no one wishing to buy the bad game to self-correct it and rate it down. It lends itself to abuse that is difficult to counteract.

E Zachary Knight
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Can silver members purchase Indie Games? If so, why block them from rating them? The best solution and the one Microsoft should have taken was to only allow those who downloaded the game to rate them. They know which XBox users have downloaded, so it should have been simple.

Ujn Hunter
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Silver users can purchase Indie Games but they can only rate them on an actual Xbox 360. Not from where all the down ratings are happening from. It's the work of bots.

Jamie Mann
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It's nice that something's been done, but it's a quick-and-crude solution: I can't be the only XBLIG user who only has a silver account...

@Duncan: the problem with "paid votes only" is that it tends to produce only positive votes - people only tend to buy something if they like it!

I still think my original proposal (only those who have downloaded the game can vote, with daily vote counts limited after a set period of time) would be the best approach, but hey. I'm biased ;)

Robert Marney
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I've noticed it often takes the 360 a while to load licenses and game history, so doing a lazy check like "Gold membership required" could be better for dashboard responsiveness than a more complicated system. Regardless of the permanent fix, though, rolling back the affected ratings should be a simple database update.

Ujn Hunter
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I believe there is an error in this article. I recall Microsoft specifically saying it was only blocking Silver accounts from rating on and it wouldn't affect Xbox 360 users.

Henry Shilling
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This effects only. Any user that has an xbox and is signed in to xbox live can rate a game.

Recently some group posted looking for a developer to deliver 5000 verified xbox live silver accounts and bots to use them.

I'd prefer that MS does similar to apple and require that the user must have at least downloaded the demo of the game to rate it.