Valve drops free, gift copies from Steam ranking system

March 13, 2017 // 10:08 a.m.

Tags: #amazon #digital-distribution #rankings #reviews #steam #valve

Valve has announced that it is to exclusively use reviews from verified buyers in its Steam ranking system, in an effort to prevent morally-flexible developers from giving away free copies in exchange for artificially-inflated reviews.

As part of its ongoing overhaul of the Steam digital distribution platform first announced back in September last year, Valve is making it more difficult for dodgy developers to artificially inflate their games' review performance through gifts and giveaways. Following the company's move to lock out game copies distributed outside Steam from being counted for ratings last year, Valve's latest change to the system now requires that games were purchased and paid for within Steam - meaning that copies given away as Steam keys or which have been distributed for free using Steam's integrated gifting system will no longer be counted towards a game's review rankings.

'With the changes we are making now, the review score (shown at the top of store pages and in various places throughout the store such as search results) will no longer include reviews by users that received the game for free, such as via a gift, or during a free weekend,' Valve explained in the announcement detailing the change. 'Reviews can still be written by customers that obtained the game in any of these ways, but the review will not count toward the overall review score.'

The change is retroactive: all games are having their rankings recalculated in a way that excludes reviews from ineligible free copies, though the reviews themselves will remain visible - and any further ineligible reviews can also be published, but will not affect the overall score or a game's position in Steam's ranking system. The only exclusion: games which are distributed via Steam but as free or free-to-play titles, which will continue to use non-paying-customer reviews for ranking purposes owing to the obvious lack of paying customers.

Valve's decision to use only reviews from paid purchases for ranking purposes echoes a similar move from retail behemoth Amazon, which the company made to address the same issue of amateur reviewers being bribed with free products in order to boost said product's ranking on the site.

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