There are plenty of reasons to distrust any given individual Steam review. It might be obsessively hyper-focused on a relatively slight issue or, god forbid, a game taking a political stance. It might be part of a review bomb. It might be a meme. Now, though, Valve has taken aim at one of its system’s more fixable problems: reviews that are out of date.
These days, people play some games for hundreds or even thousands of hours. Those games evolve over time thanks to updates and community interactions. It stands to reason that somebody’s take on a game might be a little different at hour 567 than at hour five. So now, if you put substantial additional time into a game you’ve reviewed, Steam will ask you to “revise your review.”
“In response to dev feedback, this is now a thing!” he said. “Devs have been asking us for this for a while, but we first needed to build the new library before it made sense (technically) to add it.”
It will be interesting to see what kind of effect this has on reviews, which despite their flaws, are a key metric on Steam and one determining factor—though far from the main one—in how the Steam algorithm decides to display games. Largely, this seems like a change for the better, though in the past I’ve seen developers lament the trend of players who’ve spent hundreds of hours with a game flipping their thumbs-up to a thumbs-down largely because, after so many hours, they’re fed up and burnt out—not because the game is necessarily bad. That hurts smaller games whose main source of reviews is a diehard player base, whose score might get tanked by just a handful of those sorts of reviews. Will this new system bring more of those sorts of players out of the woodwork? Hopefully not.
Update: 10/30/2019, 7:20 PM ET: In an email to Kotaku, a Valve representative clarified how the system works, saying that it currently operates around “some thresholds as reasonable starting points with the intention that we will add more nuance over time as we study the effects.” The company also added another similar feature meant to encourage people who haven’t reviewed games to give it a shot.
“When a player visits the app page in the new library for a recently played game they have not yet reviewed, the Steam client will ask them whether they would like to leave a review,” Valve said. “The goal with this addition is to make reviewing easier and include more voices in the system.”
Lastly, Valve changed the review interface such that it prominently points users in the direction of technical support, in case that’s where many of their grievances with a game lie.