Got a Steam game? Apparently, someone will review it if you pay them $5, a code, and your integrity.
As easy as it may be to clamor one way or the other about the ethics of reviews, scores, and other topics, there are some practices that are just right out. A report done by PCGamesN demonstrates an unethical, if perhaps unsurprising, problem with Steam user reviews. You can buy them, easily, for as low as $5.
A visit to Fiverr, a website that allows people to advertise various odd jobs or favors they will do for low cost, revealed to the folks at PCGamesN that several people will play and review a Steam game for a small fee. In the interest of learning more, Phil Iwaniuk contacted several of these advertisers, asking them to review “a Steam game” (not claiming that it was theirs) and providing a code. He went on to ask the thirteen sellers he spoke to if the review would be positive. Here were some of the responses:
“Of course. I would cite some PROS and CONS over the review but generally the review will be positive I assure you.”
“Yes, I will always post positive reviews and mention things about the game.”
“^^ yes the review will be positive.”
“it’s unspoken, but yes.”
The only seemingly ambiguous response he received was this one:
"I guarantee only that my review will be honest. If you’re looking for those kinds of fake reviews, there are plenty on Fiverr who provide such a service. However, I would suggest that you take great care because while in the short term such schemes may make your product look good, it usually ends up doing more harm in the long run."
Upon asking for examples of past reviews, most users linked their Steam profiles, showing an array of positive reviews they had given for games. Iwaniuk documented the reviewed games in common between the 13 people he had spoken to, and found 20 games that were repeated at least once. All the reviews were positive:
- Apocalypse Hotel
- Areeb World
- Blood of Magic
- Cat Simulator
- Centauri Sector
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
- Egyptian Senet
- Epic Character Generator
- Epic Showdown
- Garfield Kart
- Gods Vs Humans
- Home Design 3D
- Hospital Manager
- Moto Racer Collection
- Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy
- Super Hexagon
Granted, Iwaniuk doesn’t believe all of these games paid for reviews. For example, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Super Hexagon are big-name games. Thousands of people play them. Therefore, their repetition is likely a coincidence. The others, though? Perhaps less so, though there’s no way to tell. When Iwaniuk asked the developers to comment, he got the following responses:
“Sorry but we don’t pay for reviews, we just gift alot of keys to Youtubers, forum users, random guys from facebook, etc.” (Just1337 Studio, Shiplord)
“I used Fiverr for translations, proof reading texts and others things on Centauri Sector. Reviews, only 2 or 3, from which only one was really good, the rest not so much.” (George Neguceanu, Centauri Sector)
“Do you need a free license to review D3DGear?” (D3DGear)
In the end, none of the suspect games seem to have benefitted in any noticeable way from these positive reviews, paid for or otherwise. And at least from this small sample, it doesn’t look like big names want or need $5 positive Steam reviews. That being said, the service is available, and it’s obvious that some developers have taken advantage of it. Steam User Reviews have a certain reputation among some for being “more honest” than professional reviews. At least for the games listed above, it’s hard to say that’s the case anymore.