Gearbox's Borderlands 2, originally released back in 2012, has become the first game to trigger new measures against 'review-bombing' on Valve's Steam digital distribution platform, following discontent with the news that the sequel would be a timed exclusive on the Epic Games Store.
A variant of social-networking brigading, 'review-bombing' refers to the practice of protesting against a developer or publisher through the coordinated publication of negative reviews on popular distribution platforms, in particular Valve's Steam. As well as targeting publishers' most recent games, review-bombers also go after older titles - particularly where the real target of their ire has not yet been released, as is the case for Gearbox's upcoming looter-shooter Borderlands 3. The news that the game would be exclusive to the Epic Games Store, albeit for only six months, has not gone down well with Steam fans, and the company's previous Borderlands titles are bearing the brunt of their displeasure.
Back in 2017 Valve introduced measures to detect and block review-bombing, both from those attempting to artificially reduce a game's score as well as those looking to do the opposite and boost a game's popularity. In recent years that has been extended, and now SteamDB reports that Borderlands 2 has become the first game to trigger the service's 'off-topic review activity' protection measures following an influx of thousands of negative reviews in just three days.
'Borderlands 2 is the first game on Steam to make use of the "off-topic reviews" marking,' the site explains via its official Twitter account. 'Over 4000 reviews are excluded from the rating calculation.'
The mechanism for the trigger, a message on the game's Steam page explains, is the detection of 'an abnormal set of reviews that we [Valve] believe are largely unrelated to the likelihood that you would enjoy the product,' made beginning April 3rd - the very day publisher 2K Games confirmed that Borderlands 3 would be an Epic Games Store timed exclusive. While the reviews are still visible, they are excluded from the platform's calculated average review score and sentiment analysis system - though users can choose to include the reviews in their Steam preferences.
Epic has been receiving considerable flack for its aggressive poaching of upcoming titles from rival Steam, and while comments made in March suggested the company would back off a little Epic founder Tim Sweeney confirmed that the company would continue to sign 'funding/exclusivity deals with willing developers and publishers regardless of their previous plans or announcements around Steam'.
September 18 2020 | 18:30