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Steam user reviews can be bought for $5 - Report

It's surprisingly easy to get positive reviews for Steam games on the Fiverr website, PCGamesN found

We've all heard the occasional story about a company being caught for submitting its own positive user reviews on various consumer or retail websites. What's perhaps more distressing, however, is just how simple it is for a company to potentially pay a very small amount to receive a positive game review on Steam. An interesting report from PCGamesN has revealed that there are numerous sellers on odd jobs website Fiverr that plainly state, "I will play and review your game on Steam."

PCGamesN took the bait and created an account in order to contact every seller offering a paid-for Steam review. The publication did make sure to offer a Steam code and say it's "a Steam game," not "my Steam game," but what's to stop someone in marketing for a games studio or publisher from sneakily taking advantage of a service like this?

Publicly, none of the sellers on Fiverr explicitly says that the Steam review they will write will be positive, but PCGamesN writer Phil Iwaniuk bluntly asked 13 sellers if the review would be positive and only one person replied that a thumbs-up actually would not be guaranteed.

"I guarantee only that my review will be honest," the seller noted. "If you're looking for those kinds of fake reviews, there are plenty on Fiverr who provide such a service. However, I would suggest that you take great care because while in the short term such schemes may make your product look good, it usually ends up doing more harm in the long run."

Most of the other sellers replied without hesitation that their reviews would be positive. One person said, "It's unspoken, but yes."

The value of Steam user reviews of course is that other players are looking to fellow gamers for honest reviews from people who likely enjoy the same types of games as they do. It's an alternative to the professional review which some gamers may feel is tainted with bias. At this point, there's no evidence of game creators or publishers or PR actually buying Steam reviews, but the fact is that it doesn't seem like it would be difficult for them to do so. And other than making it clear in its guidelines, what can Valve really do to police the situation? We've contacted Valve for comment but have not heard back as of this writing.

The list of games that appear in the Fiverr seller's Steam review pages is below:

  • AdvertCity
  • Apocalypse Hotel
  • Areeb World
  • Blood of Magic
  • Cat Simulator
  • Centauri Sector
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • D3DGear
  • Egyptian Senet
  • Epic Character Generator
  • Epic Showdown
  • Garfield Kart
  • Gods Vs Humans
  • Home Design 3D
  • Hospital Manager
  • Moto Racer Collection
  • Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy
  • Prehistorik
  • Shiplord
  • Super Hexagon

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Latest comments (7)

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 9 months ago
And other than making it clear in its guidelines, what can Valve really do to police the situation?
This has (kind-of) come up before (Premium Game Time for reviews), and Valve have ended up removing all reviews, and requesting users re-submit them stating they weren't paid for. Devs have also been taken to task for it on their end, and have posted an apology on their game's Steam Community pages. This obviously requires it to be known about first, but that is the same with any such review, on any store website (Amazon, for example, may have a vast ton of paid-for reviews, but we don't know about them, so...).

It is also, btw, stated in the SSA that "consideration" should be explicitly indicated:
C. Promotions and Endorsements

If you use Steam services (e.g. the Steam Curators’ Lists or the Steam Broadcasting service) to promote or endorse a product, service or event in return for any kind of consideration from a third party (including non-monetary rewards such as free games), you must clearly indicate the source of such consideration to your audience.
(Section 6, Paragraph C)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 3rd March 2016 8:02am

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JP Vaughan Founder and Producer 9 months ago
Could they not remove the ability to review the game if you received a promo code for it?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by JP Vaughan on 3rd March 2016 8:19am

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 9 months ago
Could they not remove the ability to review the game if you received a promo code for it?
Not without damaging the whole review ecosystem, since there's no way to differentiate a promo key from a standard key. As it is, Steam keys are free to generate, and devs/pubs don't have to say where they're going (afaik), so they could easily generate a batch for Humble (as an example), and just throw one of them out to a reviewer. They could remove the ability to review the game if you were gifted it through Steam's gifting system, but that would really hurt genuine diamonds-in-the-rough (something like Undertale, for example, which had a lot of word-of-mouth from users), and still wouldn't really fix the problem.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 3rd March 2016 8:41am

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Show all comments (7)
Anthony Gowland Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant Workshop9 months ago
since there's no way to differentiate a promo key from a standard key
That's not entirely true, developers have a couple of pools of keys that act slightly differently - if they choose to give out standard retail keys then that's up to them.

Frankly I'm amazed anyone's even paying $5 for a Steam review - as soon as you list a game you'll be approached by dozens of people offering a review in exchange for just a key. If you really want bought reviews, $5 is the premium side of the market!
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 9 months ago
That's not entirely true, developers have a couple of pools of keys that act slightly differently - if they choose to give out standard retail keys then that's up to them.
Ohhhh, you learn something new everyday! :D
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 9 months ago
What duh? I get my inbox STUFFED every few days by indie devs who make games for Steam who want to send me codes for free just to check their stuff out. I had no idea Fiverr was letting users get shifty like this. Ah well...
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Paul Shirley Programmers 9 months ago
Surprised anyone's surprised. I regularly get offers for bulk fake reviews on the Android store. These guys seem a little more discreet!
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