Update September 21, 2016: Last week, Valve made a number of changes to Steam's review system overnight and without warning, in an attempt to stop developers buying good reviews. This was done by making only verified Steam purchases eligible to write reviews that count towards a game's score, locking out Humble and Kickstarter purchases, among others.
Developers who have a large Kickstarter following or earn most of their cash by distributing to their customers direct were understandably annoyed, saying their most passionate fans were being banned from contributing their opinion.
If you’re just looking for something to play, here’s our picks of good free Steam games.
Valve have now tweaked this system so that it shows all types of reviews on a game's page, though third-party buyers still won't count towards a game's overall score.
"One frequent piece of feedback we’ve heard regarding the recent changes is that it has become more difficult to find and read the helpful, articulate reviews written by customers that obtained the game outside of Steam," said Valve. "We want to make sure that helpful reviews can be surfaced regardless of purchase source, so we're making a change to the defaults.
"Starting today, the review section on each product page will show reviews written by all users, regardless of purchase type."
We spoke to a bunch of games developers and asked them how they feel about Valve's decision. Click that link for some interesting perspectives.
Original Story September 13, 2016: Steam reviews are changing, Valve have announced. From now on, if a key is activated on Steam rather than bought through their store, reviews made for that game won’t count towards its rating, up or down. This is in an attempt to fight fraud, but it seems to be punishing a few legitimate developers as well.
In their blog post on the matter, Valve break down what was happening previously. Some developers, with whom Valve will be cutting ties in the cases where they can prove it, were using their free access to Steam keys to massively upvote their game. This gave it the positive or better rating that many users see as an easy way to tell if a game is worth playing or not.
Either through paid services or doing it themselves, these devs were defrauding the service, and Valve want to put a stop to it. They’ve removed the ones they think are dodgy, and the new system has a filtering mechanism that automatically gets rid of key-redeemed versions.
So far, so consumer friendly, letting Steam users see reviews from people on that service - if you bought it elsewhere, you can probably review it elsewhere, but it’s not like Steam will block you from offering your opinion, it just own’t change the percentage.
Unfortunately, it falls down a bit when you consider the massive adoption of Kickstarter and other outside funding that often rewards Steam keys. These are your most passionate fanbases, and various developers have already cited it as a problem. They’re hoping that Steam change their mind.
There’s a lenghty post on the issue from Valve, including the goals of the system and numbers on developers affected, plus what developers were doing that made them want to fix things.