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Devs caught in the crossfire as Valve clamps down on Steam key abuse

Devs caught in the crossfire as Valve clamps down on Steam key abuse

September 13, 2016 | By Chris Kerr

UPDATE: Valve's Doug Lombardi said in a statement to Gamasutra, "We are hearing lots of positive response to this update, and some criticisms. Like all updates we issue to our games and services, we will be monitoring the community reaction and incorporating that feedback into the next set of changes we make to improve the service for everyone."

Original story:

Valve is making more changes to the way Steam reviews work, adding new filtering options, default parameters, and editing the rules behind recent and overall review scores.

It's the second time in four months the system has been altered, with the company adding rolling 'recent review scores' back in May to "better reflect the dynamic nature" of the market. 

As explained on the Steam blog, the latest changes will allow users to filter reviews by language, purchase source, and positivity or negativity. 

Valve will be setting its own default filters to "provide the most useful snapshot of a product's reviews," and, by default, will show a summary of 'helpful' recent reviews written by Steam customers who speak a user's language. 

More notably, both recent and overall scores will no longer count reviews submitted by anyone using a Steam key -- such as those given to Kickstarter backers or bought through third-party stores -- with Valve questioning the legitimacy of such feedback.

Although the change is being made the halt the progress of scammers, some developers have expressed frustration (shown below) at Valve's willingness to sacrifice legitimate reviews for what it percieves to be the greater good.

"It's too easy for Steam keys to end up being used in ways that artificially inflate review scores," reasoned Valve, highlighting a disparity between the number of positive reviews submitted by those who activate games using keys, and those who buy directly from Steam. 

"In many cases, the abuse is clear and obvious, such as duplicated and/or generated reviews in large batches, or reviews from accounts linked to the developer," continues the post.

"In those cases, we've now taken action by banning the false reviews and will be ending business relationships with developers that continue violating our rules."

To be clear, customers who receive games from an outside source -- be it a key giveaway, or by purchasing from another digital retailer -- will still be able to leave written reviews. Those reviews just won't contribute to a game's score. 

Valve admits the new measures will affect the score category of roughly 14 percent of titles, with some moving up and others sliding down.

For more on the latest changes, head on over to the Steam blog.

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