Slashdot user jth1234567 has reported a negative Steam review for Warlander that has been pulled off from the Steam store page:

In late January, a Steam user posted a negative review for the game Warlander, warning potential buyers about the shady anti-cheat system the game was using, the apparent problems being intrusive data collection and difficult removal after the game itself had been uninstalled (the review text is no longer available). This review stayed on top as the most helpful review for nearly three months, which must have been a big thorn in the side for the developer and the publisher.

On Thursday, however, the devs behind the game were apparently able to get a Steam moderator to remove the review. The review was categorized as “attempting to scam users or other violations of Steam’s rules & guidelines.” As a result of this categorization, the 2,439 people who marked the review as “helpful” while it was still online received this in their inbox:

Steam voting review restriction notice

Any user who voted on that review or left it an award are now restricted from voting on any review on Steam for an entire month. Meanwhile the folks who voted on the review and contacted Steam support were met with this automated response:

You’ll want to check your email for details regarding the specific content that was banned. If you don’t remember voting on this content, you’ll want to carefully review the following account security article, as it’s highly likely that your account and PC are compromised: https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=1266-OAFV-8478. The email will also have details about when the vote ban will expire. Steam Support does not adjust the length of vote bans.

Less than a day ago it seems like Steam came up with a resolution that “removed the vote ban on all of the affected accounts” and provided clarification as to what caused the ban. Evidently the moderator that removed the review identified it “as potentially dangerous to other players” since some of the steps outlined in it required regisry edits, which “led to the additional lock that was placed on your account and voter accounts.” The review was unbanned since it doesn’t contain “phishing links, attempts to scam or deceive players, or anything else that warrants a lock.”

Even though Steam may have eventually resolved this issue, it highlights how flawed their review system is:

  1. Even though a negative review may actually be legitimate, devs/publishers can just use a mod to flag the review as a scam and ultimately remove it, thus forcing only positive reviews on their Steam store page.
  2. Even if a mod doesn’t mark the review as a scam, or doesn’t remove it entirely, users who vote that review as helpful can have their accounts suspended from voting on any review for a period of time.

Of course, there’s two sides to the coin here. Some negative reviews are left by trolls who have no good argument as to why the game is bad. There’s also the case of games getting “review bombed,” as demonstrated when Bioshock Infinite introduced a game launcher not too long ago. So, there’s a bit of a balance to strike here as far as what reviews get approved and which ones don’t.

In the meantime, I would exercise caution when leaving a negative review, or marking an existing one as “helpful.” Last thing you want to happen is for your review to get removed, or have your account suspended for voting any review, even though you have innocent intentions. And take the overall rating system with a grain of salt; a game with an overall rating of “Very postive” could very well be “Mixed” or “Negative”.

Friendly reminder that I do NOT approve of toxic comments. You’re welcome to disagree on the topic at hand, but any comments that are worthless will be removed!

WARNING: LGC will be shutting down March 7, 2024. See this post for more details.