Steam’s user review system is being gamed by fake reviews, pushing undeserving titles into the spotlight with the “overwhelmingly positive” rating. The latter can be achieved by obtaining 500 reviews (positive ones, naturally); and it seems there are ‘services’ out there who will gladly provide this.
An extensive Reddit thread, largely focusing on the game ZombieRush, explores the highly suspicious circumstances surrounding that game’s high review ratings (now, thankfully, dropping after this was brought to light). Before the purge, ZombieRush’s community reviews were full of dubious offerings from users with names seemingly generated by a random text seed, all of whom had played the game for the same amount of time.
Further to that, a Steam group for these users (and probable bots) was found, showing every single one of them either playing the same game at the same time (in this case Electric Zombies), or logging out of their accounts at the exact same moment. Not suspicious at all!
Game developers have been contributing to the thread with tales of being regularly approached with offers of multiple positive reviews in exchange for cash (or at the very least free keys). More troubling still, at least one of the developers claims that if you refuse this offer, you can expect your game to be flooded with negative reviews. Kind of like a lovely little extortion racket. He adds that Steam have been, at least, pretty good at removing review floods of that kind.
Speaking of Steam taking action, it appears that the group linked above has been ‘disabled’ for now, and it’s clear that ZombieRush (and some of the other titles involved) are having their user reviews, well, reviewed. Whether Valve are just taking situational action here, or planning to act on a wider scale on what is clearly not an isolated problem, remains to be seen.