After scandals with a massive decline in the rating of games, developers often begin to wonder if this will affect them as well. Some suggest radically solving the problem and completely banning gamers from rating. But according to the authors of the Dusk retroshooter, this can only aggravate the situation.

Review-bombing is periodically faced by the creators of both big-budget and indie titles.

Released in June last year, The Last of Us Part II came under a barrage of criticism in the first hours since its release. Although critics warmly received the game, players wrote thousands of negative comments and gave it extremely low ratings on Metacritic (3.9 out of 10 points). Gamers did not like the controversial and politicized plot.

A few months before that, in February, the indie metroidvania KUNAI lost almost the entire rating. A disgruntled user single-handedly managed to collapse the title’s score from 8.1 to 1.7. Previously, he also successfully “bombed” another game, Insurgency Sandstorm.

This state of affairs does not really suit the developers. For example, Johnnemann Nordhagen, who participated in the creation of Gone Home, is sure that there should be no player reviews in the same Steam. In his opinion, they often do not carry useful information for developers and are only needed to promote the platform.

Indie activist Rami Ismail agrees with him:

Despite the problems that the feedback of players can cause, the feedback function also had defenders. Game designer David Szymanski, known for the shooter Dusk, wrote a big thread about this on Twitter.

The main points from the Szymanski thread:

  • in his opinion, when developers urge to abandon user reviews, they always give only negative points as an example. Many turn a blind eye to good reviews, although they can push the player to buy and dispel concerns about the poor quality of the indie title;
  • Szymanski writes that it is indies who do not have an extra hundreds of thousands of dollars in their pockets for visual, who should especially appreciate reviews. “What if you have a good game, but it looks bad? If all gamers can start from is footage from the game and its description? Then it will end in failure for you”;
  • reviews are the only thing that can save the author of a game with a bad visual, Szymanski points out. He reminded me about the trash shooter Cruel Squad. Despite the disgusting graphics, the title collected extremely positive reviews (97%) on Steam;

  • according to Szymanski, the biggest problem of an indie developer is not the abuse of feedback from gamers. It is much more difficult to single out a project among thousands of others and involve the audience in it;
  • but if gamers manage to get involved, hundreds and thousands of people right on the page in the store will write something like: “this game is cool, buy it”;
  • at the same time, Szymanski agrees that negative reviews reduce sales. But in 2021, developers have enough resources to test the title before releasing it.
  • he notes that for 95% of indie developers, review-bombing is not a problem. This is less common than it seems, and is almost always associated with a failure somewhere else, usually in the marketing of the game. Although there is nothing good about review-bombing, getting rid of the feedback system just because of it is wrong, concludes Szymanski.

В электронном письме для портала “They are not thinking about what is best for everyone, but about what is best specifically for themselves. Almost always, those who are angry do it because gamers have poorly accepted their game. Or they were scared by stories that a crowd of Gamers with a capital “G” is so eager to bomb some indie game.”

Szymanski’s point of view was supported by his Dusk colleague Dave Oshry. He believes that developers are often unfairly angry at the feedback from gamers, although the problem lies much deeper.

“If you release a product that is fine and the players have nothing to complain about, there is only one reason for negative reviews. They JUST DON’T LIKE THE GAME. And this is normal!” — writes Oshri. “But what are the developers (especially indie) messing up? They communicate incorrectly with the audience. Often I see that the game is “not what they expected” or “it’s not what was advertised.” Well, whose fault is it? The problem is in communications and marketing.”

He indicated that he had personally communicated with a lot of dissatisfied users. According to Oshri, just by talking to people about their problems, it was possible to turn negative reviews into positive ones. “Most of the time they don’t hate your game. They’re just upset. We’ve all been through this,” Oshri pointed out.

At the same time, Oshri believes that Steam should change the work with outdated reviews. He noticed that indie games are usually launched on the platform in an early access format. Over time, the titles are updated, so some of the reviews are not true.

You can also implement a neutral rating in addition to likes and dislikes in the Valve store. But Oshri is not sure that this will really be useful: what if users more often put likes by default and stop doing it after the innovation?

“A more detailed review system will lead to better reviews. But users will write them less often. This means that the players’ voices will become quieter for developers, and I’m not sure that this is a good thing,” concluded Oshri.

The imperfection of Steam reviews is obvious to both Szymanski and Oshri. But at the same time, some marketplaces do not have such a function at all, while others use hidden algorithms. According to Kotaku, the Nintendo store does not show discounts on games with a rating below 70 points on Metacritic. And on the Epic Games Store, you can only see reviews taken from OpenCritic.