Histograms Added To Steam To Combat Review Bombing

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Steam has added histograms to Steam reviews, in an effort to combat the recent trend of review bombing.

Valve announced via a post on the Steam site, that they had considered many different methods of changing how review scores were shown and calculated, to combat review bombing.

For example: “An obvious one would be to simply remove the Review Score. Then, as a potential customer you’d be forced to read the User Reviews themselves to see if the product sounded interesting. If you saw reviews talking about something outside the scope of the game, you could decide for yourself if it was an issue that would affect your happiness with the purchase. Unfortunately, we’re pretty certain that this isn’t really an option – scores were added in response to player demand in the past, and that demand for a summary of some kind is likely to still be there, even if players know it isn’t always accurate.”

Instead, Valve have settled on showing histograms for user reviews, allowing the viewer to see the context of when user reviews come in. Alden from Valve said of this “Starting today, each game page now contains a histogram of the positive to negative ratio of reviews over the entire lifetime of the game, and by clicking on any part of the histogram you’re able to read a sample of the reviews from that time period. As a potential purchaser, it’s easy to spot temporary distortions in the reviews, to investigate why that distortion occurred, and decide for yourself whether it’s something you care about. This approach has the advantage of never preventing anyone from submitting a review, but does require slightly more effort on the part of potential purchasers.”

An example of how Steam user review histograms will look is here:

steam histogram

Alden went on to say of histograms: “It also has the benefit of allowing you to see how a game’s reviews have evolved over time, which is great for games that are operating as services. One subtlety that’s not obvious at first is that most games slowly trend downwards over time, even if they haven’t changed in any way. We think this makes sense when you realize that, generally speaking, earlier purchasers of a game are more likely to enjoy it than later purchasers. In the pool of players who are interested in a game, the ones who are more confident that they’ll like the game will buy it first, so as time goes on the potential purchasers left are less and less certain that they’ll like the game. So if you see a game’s reviews trending up over time, it may be an even more powerful statement about the quality of work its developers are doing.”