Borderlands 2 is the first game to get Steam’s “off-topic review activity” flag in its user reviews, under new measures that went into effect last month to combat so-called “review bombing” of games by gamers who are unhappy with their publishers or developers over something else.
On Borderlands 2’s customer reviews page, the 2012 game is listed as “overwhelmingly positive” in the opinion of its 92,497 user reviews, and 1,107 recent reviews are listed as “very positive.” Accompanying that is the note that the April 3 to April 6 time range of reviews “contai[n] an abnormal set of reviews that we believe are largely unrelated to the likelihood that you would enjoy the product.” These reviews are excluded from Borderlands 2’s aggregated reputation score.
The anatomy of a review bombing campaign
Gamers are crapping on a nine-year-old game on Steam because Gearbox Software and 2K Games announced on April 3 that the Windows PC version of Borderlands 3 will be exclusive to the upstart Epic Games Store for six months after launch. It’s the third major exclusive for Epic’s storefront, which launched in December 2018. Metro: Exodus and Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 both eschewed Steam for the Epic Games Store, similarly pissing off gamers but not to this degree.
Review-bombing has become enough of a problem to Steam and the publishers and developers selling games there that Valve, on March 15, announced plans to target and remove off-topic complaints. It was the latest in several attempts to thwart abuses of its consumer reviews system. Past methods included graphs highlighting “temporary distortions” in the feedback cycle and a means of rating whether someone’s review was helpful, unhelpful, or “funny.” Still, a game’s overall score factored in every review, however questionable its intent may have been.
Valve’s Doug Lombardi told Ars Technica last night that when a period of gamer review activity is flagged as suspicious, any review left in that span does not count toward the game’s overall review score. However, the reviews will remain and will be available to read, and individual users may change their preferences to include them in the overall review score.
The fury over the Epic Games Store, explained
Epic Games has come under fire from a host of allegations, some spurious, others less so, but all related to the fact a AAA game is on its store and not Steam. Epic Games Store does not yet feature user reviews, and Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney has said the platform won’t add that feature until the company is confident it has measures in place that counteract review-bomb campaigns. Sweeney also said that when user reviews are implemented, developers will have the choice of opting in to allow them for their games. If they don’t, none will be accepted.
Epic Games announced at GDC 2019 that the Epic Games Store has three more highly anticipated games lined up as PC exclusives at launch: Remedy’s Control, Obsidian Entertainment’s The Outer Worlds, and Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, the first game from Patrice Désilets’ new studio, Panache Digital Games. Quantic Dream also announced it is taking three games from its back catalog — 2010’s Heavy Rain, 2013’s Beyond: Two Souls and last year’s Detroit: Become Human — to PC as Epic Games Store exclusives. These have all been PlayStation exclusives to date.
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