Borderlands review bomb triggers Steams “off topic” fix [Updated]

  • Recent reviews for Borderlands 2 now show a large asterisk indicating the presence of an off-topic review bomb.
  • As of this morning, it wasn't hard to identify when the review bomb started for Borderlands 2. Valve
  • It's… not hard to find a pattern in the recent negative Steam reviews for Borderlands 2 Valve
  • The original Borderlands shows the same suspicious review patterns on Steam… Valve
  • …as does Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Valve
  • Even Borderlands DLC isn't immune from the review bombing. This graph is for the BL2 "Psycho Pack." Valve
[Update 10:30 p.m.: In a statement sent to Ars Technica just now, Valve's Doug Lombardi says that "after a review of current review activity on Borderlands titles, the decision was made to tag the franchise for off-topic reviews on Steam, effective immediately. As a result, user reviews submitted while the titles are tagged will not count towards the games Review Scores. User reviews written during the tagged period will still be accessible and users can choose to include these reviews in the Review Score by changing their preferences."

Steam reviews for Borderlands franchise games since April 2 are now shown in a histogram view with a large asterisk and the warning "Period(s) of off-topic review activity detected. Excluded from the Review Score (by default)." The "Recent Reviews "summaries for those games have also flipped from "Mixed" to "Very" or "Mostly Positive" as a result of the move.]

Original Story (12:21 p.m.)

Last month, Valve announced a new policy intended to curb the problem of "off-topic review bombs" on Steam, wherein a horde of players post negative reviews of a game for reasons other than the game's actual content. This month, that policy is so far failing to correct for some clear off-topic review bombs on Gearbox's Borderlands games.

In the six months leading up to March 31, Borderlands 2 received a total of 412 negative reviews on Steam—a paltry 4.5 percent of all the reviews posted in that period. In the few days since April 1, by contrast, the game has received a flood of 2,156 negative reviews, or nearly 62 percent of reviews during that time. You can see similar recent review patterns on the Steam pages for the original Borderlands, The Pre-Sequel, and various series DLC packages as well.

Dive into the text of those recent negative reviews, and you'll find practically no one criticizing the games themselves. Instead, you'll find hundreds of people expressing their displeasure with Gearbox's recently announced decision to release the upcoming Borderlands 3 exclusively on the Epic Games Store for a six-month period.

One characteristic reviewer with over 300 hours spent on Borderlands 2 writes that the game is "one of the few looter shooters that actually keeps me engaged." But the reviewer then justifies their "thumbs down" rating "[because of] Epic Games exclusivity [for Borderlands 3], please don't play into Epic's game." Plenty of other reviews use copy/pasted ASCII art of double middle-fingers to express their general distaste for Epic and Gearbox's decision.

This would seem to be a textbook case of the kind of off-topic review bombing Valve is trying to combat. The company defined that kind of review bomb back in 2017 as "issue[s] players are concerned about… outside the game itself." Valve restated that definition in March as a situation "where players post a large number of reviews in a short period of time, aimed at lowering the Review Score of a game [and] where the focus of those reviews is on a topic that we consider unrelated to the likelihood that future purchasers will be happy if they buy the game."

This isn't the first time Steam users have taken aim at companies that are Read More – Source

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