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Valve wipes user reviews over free Steam keys

RosePortal Games paid a high price for swapping game access for community reviews

Valve has wiped all Steam user reviews from RosePortal Games' Epic Quest of the 4 Crystals, after it was discovered that the studio had offered free keys to incentivise its players.

The "promotion" started on September 25, and an official response to the practice was posted yesterday. According to Valve, RosePortal's actions represented a "manipulation" of the user review system, which plays a significant role in games being discovered on Steam's increasingly crowded storefront.

"Unfortunately, we cannot tell which reviews were manipulated in this way," Valve continued. "To preserve the integrity of user reviews on the product, we're deleting all user reviews to date. If you wish to repost your review, we welcome you to do so. We've emailed all affected customers and included a copy of their user review.

"Advertising laws in many countries require you to disclose any compensation for your review. If you received anything from a publisher or developer in exchange for a user review please say so in your review."

Valve has modified its policies around user reviews over the last year, largely as a response to its own community-focused strategy. In October last year, for example, the introduction of the Steam Discovery Update prompted this clarification on the responsibility of Curators:

"If you've accepted money or other compensation for making a product review or for posting a recommendation, you must disclose this fact in your recommendation."

Thanks Kotaku.

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Latest comments (3)

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend5 years ago
Review/chart manipulation seems to be a staple marketing technique used in mobile these days, I would estimate there are way more cases of this on Steam than they are aware of.

If I had a pound for every email I get offering 1000 5star reviews on ios, android, steam, I am sure I would be rich! :D

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 1st October 2015 10:15am

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Dragos-Florin Stanculescu CEO & Co Founder, Holotech Studios5 years ago
I trust there is a fair amount of undisclosed advertising that is going on in the YouTube space (and similar) as well, not as much from top YouTubers (as one might think) but from some small or medium ones instead.

We’ve been approached (as a company) by medium sized YouTubers that typically do Let's Plays saying “hey if I’m using your program I’m advertising it to my audience, so you should be paying me - not to mention giving it to me for free” . At which point we said “Are you willing to disclose to your users that what you are doing is in fact an advertorial, for which you have received payment (and a free full license of the program)?”. And a surprising number of them said something like :“Not exactly, I’m just making my usual videos but also use your program.” And when we replied: “We’d love to collaborate on advertising (i.e: pay you, or offer other advantages), but if we do that you must clearly disclose that fact to your viewers. Otherwise you are taking advantage of their trust.” Quite a few of them were surprised by this stance, as they were accustomed to receive advantages for the promise of some form of undisclosed advertising on their part, and they didn’t see it as being morally/ethically wrong; ( some of them even got angry and called us stupid and greedy ).

An interesting aspect is that the large and the top YouTubers that have actually covered our software have made their videos without contacting us or without requesting anything from us (in fact we only found out about those videos after they were already posted- they didn’t even ask us for a review copy, which we would have been happy to provide upon request) . In our experience, all large/top tier YouTubers that we’ve come in contact with were quite professional/ethical in this regard, while at the other end of the spectrum, among the medium/small ones, there were quite a few of those who would ignore the ethics/morals for a small financial advantage.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dragos-Florin Stanculescu on 1st October 2015 2:54pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
@Barrie: We're supposed to note in reviews if a game code or retail copy was received from a developer or publisher. Most sites should note this at the bottom of the review (or even in the review proper). But as I note in my stock answer to the occasional query I get from a reader or three about the practice, a free game isn't a "good" game because it wasn't paid for.
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