Valve has been in the news quite a bit in the past year with numerous announcements that have been nearly guaranteed to toss up the gaming community and the markets associated with it. With Steam OS, Steam Machine, and the Steam Controller all coming to fruition within the next year or two, it’s a bit surprising to hear about yet another new concept being incorporated by these geniuses.
If you’re a frequent user of Valve’s Steam platform, you’re aware of the recommendation system that has been used since 2010 and today you’ll find that there are over 7 million different recommendations for over 1000 games. The usefulness of it can be contested by Steam’s fans, with some claiming that they’re hardly noticeable and some claiming that they add nothing to the actual decision-making process before purchasing a video game.
This is now being taken to the next level in a way that it might even rival the likes of Metacritic. On November 25th, Steam announced the open beta of Steam Reviews which will replace the recommendations currently found on the platform. Users who have written a recommendation in the past can opt to have it made public as a review or they can simply leave it invisible or friends-only.
How exactly would this work? From a basic perspective, Steam Reviews has the following features and conditions:
- You must have purchased the game (or otherwise played the game) via Steam before publishing a review.
- Your review can be rated by readers, either as helpful or unhelpful (much like Amazon).
- Your review can be commented on by readers, allowing them to ask questions or provide an additional perspective on top of your own.
- Your review can be commented on by developers, which grants them special flair beside their name to indicate their status and can spur developer-consumer communication, which may or may not drive changes to the game that are much needed or are popularly demanded.
- Your hours with the game you’ve reviewed are made public, demonstrating to the reader how much ‘authority’ there may be behind your opinion. For example, a review from someone with 200+ hours is likely better than a review from someone with less than 2 hours of playtime.
- These reviews are not intended to replace the Metacritic rating beside each game, but meant to complement them. They will appear alongside pre-existing ratings.
- Steam Reviews will, at first, not feature any numbers. This is a feature that will need more in-depth study as the intention is to drive developer response and community participation, and thus any numerical review for a game such as Terraria could be incorrect as there may have been content updates since then.
- Developers will never possess the ability to censor reviews they don’t like. As long as the review remains civil and doesn’t devolve into improper conduct (excessive cursing, racism, sexism, etc), the review will remain public unless the user chooses to delete it.
In general, I think if you’re looking for a comparison to something that already exists you’d be best off looking at an online store like Amazon. Steam’s review structure will likely incorporate many of the features and appearances of Amazon’s, and it’s a good choice. I always look at reviews of products on Amazon before even remotely considering to buy the product, and the community does a great job of making the best reviews hover at the top that tell you the benefits and drawbacks of the product in a mostly unbiased manner.
If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Valve deserves kudos for understanding this fully and not switching it up too drastically. Hopefully, it ends up being something that is both useful and not ultimately detrimental.