Gamasutra is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
December 7, 2019
arrowPress Releases

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


Surprising effect of Steam's latest review system change

by Milan Babuskov on 09/13/16 11:16:00 am   Featured Blogs

5 comments Share on Twitter    RSS

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


I was completely shocked to open the Steam page for my first game Seeders today and see the customer rating suddenly changed from Mixed to Positive. Somewhere in the middle of the store page, there was a note that the review system has changed (Sept 2016) and a link to this announcement:

So what happened?

As I played with the "purchased" / "activated key" setting, I discovered that people who have bought my game consider it positive and those who got the keys via bundles are "mixed", almost bordering the negative. My games were featured in three different bundles, so number of owners via bundle is actually greater than owners who bought the game on Steam. Because of this, the "activated key" owners are a significant factor.

The Valve's change's aim was to actually prevent the opposite situation: games that use free keys to pump up the positive reviews. To quote:

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.

So while this wasn't aimed at games like mine, it actually helped to weed out those players who bought bundles for some other games and then tried a game in genre they don't really like and left a negative review.

Lessons learned for any indie to follow:

  1. If your game's target market is some niche audience, DON'T SELL IT INTO BUNDLES. People will pick up a bundle for some other game(s) and then leave a negative review on yours.

  2. If you still decide to bundle the game, consider twice whether you want to include Steam Trading Cards feature. Some players would only install the game for it, leave it running on their computer to get the cards. When done, they might actually play the game and possibly leave a negative review because they were never interested in the game in the first place. This isn't only a theory, it actually happened with my game.

    If you have a niche game yourself, please write how this change affected your game in the comments?

Related Jobs

Hidden Path Entertainment
Hidden Path Entertainment — Belleview, Washington, United States

Senior Gameplay Programmer
Disbelief — Chicago, Illinois, United States

Senior Programmer, Chicago
Disbelief — Chicago, Illinois, United States

Junior Programmer, Chicago
Kongregate Inc.
Kongregate Inc. — San Francisco, California, United States

Business Development Manager

Loading Comments

loader image