Usefulness of Steam review ratings

Have you ever looked at the summary rating for a game on Steam and wondered, ‘Is this biased?’ Or maybe, ‘Is this even a useful indicator?’

Steam review ratings lie on a continuum from Positive to Negative with Mixed in the middle. Quite often, a rating of Mixed is a death knell for sales because not only does it indicate that about half the reviews are negative, there’s actually a colour shift to orange.

However, reviews are themselves subject to a helpfulness review by regular Steam users. They can be rated helpful or not helpful (or funny).

In this way, reviews have a summary judgement of usefulness before you even read the review.

However you should be aware that this system can be hijacked by Steam users who simply disagree with the review.

Negative reviews, for whatever reason, get carpet-bombed with downvotes within a few days of being posted, while positive reviews are barely acted on in any way.

While this mass downvoting may not affect the impact a review has on the game’s rating, it does affect the reviewer who has taken a stand, highlighted the reasons why someone shouldn’t buy a game right now, and consequently are lynched by a silent mob. Some simply remove their review rather than watch it get dragged down to 10%.

In addition, reviews which are in the ‘Positive’ section may make you wonder ‘well, why is this reviewer still saying to buy this game despite the reservations they have about it?’

The conclusion I draw here is that Steam ratings may not always be an accurate indicator. There are factors which should make you cautious of a positive rating, but st the same time you shouldn’t outright dismiss a game just because the rating is Mixed, nor should you take it for granted that an controversial review is actually unhelpful.┬áThere’s always someone with an axe to grind, and an open system of review can be subverted by them.