Valve launches new tool to fight review bombs

Alex LaFreniere


The announcement of the much-anticipated Borderlands 3 has been met with quite a bit of hype in the gaming scene. It’s also garnered more than its fair share of controversy, largely based on publisher 2K’s decision to make the PC versions of the game exclusive to the newly launched Epic Games Store. Fans of the game and users of Valve’s popular Steam store have responded with a practice known as “review bombing,” but Valve is fighting back with new tools that could make a huge difference in the PC game store environment.

Valve launches new tool to fight review bombs

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Image courtesy Gearbox Software

Though the Borderlands 3 controversy is only the latest incidence, the practice of “review bombing” has been around for some time. Essentially, users will intentionally leave bad reviews for a publisher’s game as a form of protest. The goal is to systematically bring down a game’s aggregate score on a particular digital storefront. As many online storefronts rely heavily on reviews, large quantities of bad reviews can have a major adverse effect on a game’s success or failure.

In the case of Borderlands 3, the outrage stems from fans who are upset with the decision to make the forthcoming game exclusive to the Epic Games store, bypassing the more popular Steam service. In response to the perceived slight, Steam gamers have review bombed other titles in the Borderlands franchise. Valve is responding to the review bombs by taking steps to rectify the problem.

Valve has launched a new tool designed to counter the review bombs. The tool in question automatically scans game reviews for one-sentence or off-topic reviews, and prevents those reviews from affecting the game’s overall score. Reviews are still able to be seen by other users, but won’t be able to have an adverse effect on the game’s rating.

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Image courtesy Valve

As seen in the image above, players will be able to see the breakdown of reviews and whether or not they affect the game’s scores. The tool blocked all reviews made from April 3 to April 7, when the majority of the review bombing was occurring. This new tool could do quite a bit to help Valve fight back against the growing popularity of the Epic Games store. Though still the top PC game store, Steam has seen an increasing number of titles migrating to the Epic Store. As major titles become Epic exclusives, Steam loses out on post-release profits, and review bombs also contribute to profit loss. As pointed out by Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford, the review bombing practice can have the adverse effect of driving more developers to the Epic Store:

Only time will tell whether Steam will retain its seat as the king of PC gaming, and taking steps such as these will doubtless help the embattled storefront retain its position.

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