Game Exclusivity Wars Are Upon Us And Valve's Anti-Review-Bombing Process Is Without A Rip-Cord

from the convenient dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about the rather sudden emergence of Epic Games' entry into the game distribution business. In a move to directly compete with Valve's Steam, the Epic's store has been attempting to gobble up AAA titles into a program of limited exclusivity, typically six months. The lure for all this is a split for Epic and the game publisher that is more generous for the latter. Valve, meanwhile, responded to one of the larger stories about a game going Epic exclusive, Metro Exodus, by complaining that it was bad for gamers generally and Steam users specifically. That quite predictably served as a rallying cry for Steam users to go to the store pages for other Deep Silver Metro games and bomb those pages with negative reviews that had nothing to do with those games and everything to do with the exclusivity deal.

All of which is at odds with Steam's policies and the platform's stated goals of preventing review-bombing of this type. But as the exclusivity wars appear to be upon us, with more games jumping on with Epic, it's becoming clearer that this is probably a purposeful strategy on Valve's end. The latest example of this is the announcement that the next game in the Borderlands series has signed on with Epic to be exclusive for six months. The backlash on Steam was almost immediate.

Over the course of yesterday and today, Borderlands 2 has received nearly 1,600 new negative Steam reviews, while Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel has been hit with 420 and Borderlands: Game Of The Year Edition has picked up 320. These games are receiving renewed attention not just because of the Borderlands 3 announcement, but also because Gearbox recently updated the Borderlands Handsome Collection with new HD textures and put the series on sale. Still, you need only look at Borderlands 2's top reviews to see what much of the negativity is about.

“Love the game, but I can’t recommend it because the sequel will be exclusive somewhere else,” reads one highly upvoted review.

“Scummy company that insults every single person that purchased the game on this site,” says another. “Skip it.”

It's quite obvious that these are not legitimate reviews. They are, however, quite useful as a barometer for how gamers generally see these kinds of exclusivity deals. Much like the market fragmentation that has become the streaming entertainment industry, these types of deals can only serve to frustrate the gaming public. Suddenly, due strictly to business interests, gamers aren't certain where to find the games they want, or if their platform of choice will even have them, or when. That's not a great concept for maximizing the growth of an industry that has exploded mostly without this type of fragmentation. While the console market has always had some of this, expanding it to the PC market makes little sense, since there's no hardware-specific tie in. It's just going to piss people off, and that's already starting.

On the other hand, Steam and Valve sure seem to be taking the most cynical route possible, given that it recently committed to ending this kind of review bombing.

Last month, Valve revealed a solution to Steam’s increasingly ubiquitous review bomb problem: a new system where a human team digs through reeking piles of fishy reviews surfaced by an automated program, and—if they find those reviews to be sufficiently suspicious—they’ll “mark the time period it encompasses and notify the developer.” Then they’ll remove those reviews from the game’s overall score and stop other reviews posted in the same period from counting.

Currently, it’s impossible to say whether or not Valve has reached out to Gearbox, but the company has yet to make any marks or remove these clearly trolling reviews from Borderlands games’ scores.

That sure makes it look like Valve is just letting this all happen to punish a company that chose to do business with another platform. If that isn't what this is, then Valve should come out forcefully and say so. If it is what Valve is doing, then it's hard to conclude anything other than the company is undermining its own user review system, which is one of the most useful aspects of Steam.

Regardless, it appears the exclusivity wars have come to PC gaming. And that sucks no matter the specifics around Borderlands reviews.

Filed Under: competition, epic, exclusivity, platforms, silos, steam, video games
Companies: epic, valve


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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
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    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2019 @ 4:08am

    Gamers are retarded.

    Let's just get this fact out of the way. Every day, their retardation gets worse and the rest of us, who maintain common sense, can only watch as our gaming hobby dwindles into a pile of shit because it cannot compete against the growing retardation.

    Epic's arrival into the arena means one thing: competition. You know, this thing everyone keeps talking about that's supposed to be good for consumers?

    It means choice, and a possibility on increased options when competing stores offer the same product. Yes, right now, some games are exclusive, but this will not be the case in the future.

    Instead, publishers, who have literally taken advantage of retarded gamers, are going to milk this to the "Nth" degree by pushing the boundaries of "digital deluxe" with "features" and the increased price tags to go with them.

    You'd have to be completely retarded not to see this coming, just as you'd have to be completely retarded to use the phrase "AAA" game when very little released in the past 5 years comes close to the standards which formed the "AAA" moniker to begin with.

    I saw this retardation arrive in force for the first time when Microsoft announced the XBox One. "DRM!", these retarded gamers screamed. "Physical copies don't require always online!", they said, before renewing their Microsoft Live account for another year.

    This retardation needs to stop, so articles like this can stop.

    What Epic is doing is not wrong. It's jarring. It's DISRUPTIVE, a term Techdirt has used for ages when announcing how retarded people yell at clouds instead of seeing what the disruption is bringing.

    Yes, it sucked Metro was pulled from Steam after being available for preorder. What the article DOES NOT MENTION is these preorders were honored.

    EVERY. DAMN. ONE. OF. THEM.

    So while it's great and fun to rip on a situation without fully disclosing all the facts to receive eyeballs to ad revenue, this is just another blatant example of gamer retardation.

    Oh, the author. I should have known, given this is the same retarded gamer who screamed Microsoft was pushing DRM on the XBox One will clearly ignoring the fact consoles are DRM by default.

    Common sense, please rest in peace.


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