Valve adjusted how it calculates average customer review scores on Steam earlier this week, a change that prioritizes the opinions of Steam buyers over key activators. Although they no longer factor into the default overall score, reviews based on game keys from third-party sources are still viewable on Steam — and the difference can be major.
Steam Spy has gathered a list of 427 games that have been most affected by the new system. A Google spreadsheet lists every game by its old and new user score, as well as the number of reviews that still count after the change. Simple Ball: Extended Edition, Lands of Devastation, Bathory — The Bloody Countess and other indie titles top the list, with huge gulfs between their old and new review averages. Simple Ball falls to just a 14 percent rating under the new system, for example; only seven of its reviews were written by people who bought the game through Steam.
The implication here is that developers of these titles sent Steam keys to influencers or others who may be more inclined to write a positive review. That’s a leap for those analyzing Steam Spy’s data to make on their own, but past reports have gone in-depth on the Steam gray market, where keys are falsely acquired or developers can purchase positive coverage of their games.
Some games are seeing even higher averages under the new system
Lands of Devastation is no longer available to purchase for this reason. Its buy button was disabled in June after publisher Rai Studio Games discovered that a network of bots had somehow posted a swath of illegitimate reviews, according to a post on the game’s Steam page.
Yet what’s more interesting is when games actually see a bump in user score after the system change. Mushroom 11, Mighty No. 9, Cibele, Sportsfriends and Citizens of Earth all fare better with people who picked them up on Steam than through other methods. This could be because slighted Kickstarter backers or Humble Bundle buyers are less fond of these titles than those who decided to pick them up through Steam, but the reasons remain vast and undefined.
The entire list is worth poring over, if you’re a fan of quantitative analysis and hard data. Steam Spy ascertains both the reviewing and buying habits of Steam users, regularly updating lists of the biggest sellers on Steam — regardless of whether developers want the website’s owner, Sergey Galyonkin, to do so.