It doesn't take a gaming Sherlock to spot that there are some fishy review scores knocking about on Valve's digital PC gaming storefront, Steam. The Half Life developer has now announced plans to crack down on those looking to manipulate review scores to give their games an unfair advantage.
Review scores, of course, drive sales, and Valve believes that some developers are using shady practices to push the user-generated review scores for their titles in a more favorable direction.
"The majority of review score manipulation we're seeing by developers is through the process of giving out Steam keys to their game, which are then used to generate positive reviews," reads a post on the subject on Steam.
"Some developers organize their system using Steam keys on alternate accounts. Some organizations even offer paid services to write positive reviews."
Pay to bray
This means that, going forward, you'll need to have bought a game directly through Steam in order to leave a review verdict on it.
Changes will be made retroactively too - some 160 games, around 14% of Steam's catalogue, will see their review scores change as a result.
Valve obviously has to take action - dishonest review scores can lead to ill-informed purchases for players, and with Steam's refund system already being regularly critiqued, efforts need to be made to ensure gamers are getting what they pay for.
But it's not a perfect solution to the problem, either. Many third-party services offer Steam codes for sale, from Kickstarter devs to Humble Bundle game packs. They're even on occasion packed in with PC gaming hardware.
For the most part, the new system should silence those falsifying review output - but it could cost the voices of genuine gamers, too.
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Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of iMore.com. Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.