Updated: Aug 15, 2020
So when seeing the title you are probably wondering what in the hell. It's alright i'll explain and it's really straight forward. It's a pretty prime example of the hypocrisy in the industry so juicy you can scoop it with a ladle. It's also one of many articles that ill be writing pointing out the lack oversight on a company that has been making up their own rules for years. They dish out financial damage to developers and create labels for said developers that would describe their own actions.
Let's get some background knocked out first. Steam has quite a few times in the past removed developers for review manipulation. You can read about an example here where a studio asked its employees to write reviews for the game they worked on. Steam then proceeded to remove their portfolio from Steam for review manipulation. There are quite a few examples out there if you browse around its not hard to find some more. Oddly there are groups that have been dedicated to finding this type of material but no one has ever aimed their spotlight at the people who are supposed to be setting the example for everyone else.
Steam itself has addressed the topic of reviews in the past. They like to use words that create a picture for their audience like that of a developer using "Deceptive Tactics".
"But the review score has also become a point of fixation for many developers, to the point where some developers are willing to employ deceptive tactics to generate a more positive review score. " Steam quote from their blog
They have made their stance clear that they will stand up against these developers and their "Deceptive Tactics" like a holy knight on a crusade to rid the world of evil doers. They say they will accomplish this by ending business relationships with developers who have reviews linked to the developers account.
" But in many cases, the abuse is clear and obvious, such as duplicated and/or generated reviews in large batches, or reviews from accounts linked to the developer. In those cases, we've now taken action by banning the false reviews and will be ending business relationships with developers that continue violating our rules. " Steam quote from their blog
Now the question I've put out there is what if Valve reviews it's own games? If they did then wouldn't they be obligated to remove said games from Steam for using "deceptive tactics" or face anti-trust/unfair competition repercussions. While it might have the similar results if it was one company doing this to another it's much worse with massive legal fines if a monopoly is doing this to another company/companies while giving themselves and others preferential treatment.
Well this seems far fetched wheres your proof that they've left reviews on their own games?
(you can skip steps 1-9 if you don't want to reproduce results for yourself)
Step By Step Instructions Reproduce Similar Review Proof:
1. Visit https://www.valvesoftware.com/en/people scroll down and click on Alden Kroll
2. Text shows up on the right side and says "View Steam Profile" Click on view steam profile
3. Copy the address from your browser
4. Visit https://archive.org/web/
5. Paste the address in the search box
6. Click on 2011
7. Hover over a date like June 14th
8. Click on the time stamp
9. Scroll down to bottom see his review of Portal 2.
Portal 2 Review Left by Alden Kroll
Portal 2 and Team Fortress 2 reviews written by TomB
Portal 2 review written by A Farnsworth
The list could go on. You'll notice the review dates on the Portal 2 reviews are close to the launch date of Portal 2 so it's kind of obvious the intention of the reviews. Now most of these have been set to hidden or friends only so they can't be seen which is why way back engine had to be used. Why would they be hidden? The reason should be obvious. This isn't to say these are the only Valve employees and the only game they have done this on, it isn't, this is just one specific example and i'm sure if you give it a shot on wayback you'll be able to find more. Lot's of big companies have done similar it's easy to spot, for example a game launching and all of a sudden 10 of the 20 first reviews are all from accounts in the same city the game was developed(i'm thinking of someone specific but that is a separate article for the future).
Really it all boils down to peoples right to do business, fair playing field, and customers not being misled. Whats good for the goose is good for the gander. Personally I think it looks like an example of a "Bad Actor" using "Deceptive Tactics". It will be interesting to see how it's spun and who supports a fair market and customers rights or who leaps to the defense of a monopoly on the loose.
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