In an effort to squash review bombing on Steam, "off-topic" reviews will no longer count toward the overall game score.
Valve is working to counter review bombing on Steam by removing what it considers off-topic reviews from the overall review score.
It works like this: when the team at Valve notices an influx of negative reviews, it will investigate. Should it find a slew of what it considers reviews unrelated to the likelihood that future purchasers will be unhappy if they buy the game, it will not count toward the review score.
A team at the company built a tool which identifies "anomalous review activity" as close to real-time as possible. Should instance of review bombing be found, the team marks the time period it encompasses, and reviews from said time period will be removed from the score calculation. The company will then inform the game developer of the removal.
Unfortunately, any legitimate reviews submitted during this time period also won't be included in the review score. Because review bombs tend to be "temporary distortions," all reviews will be caught in the net. Steam users will still be able to find and read the review, it just won't count toward the score.
What Valve considers an off-topic review is rather unclear, but complaints over DRM and EULA changes were both used as an example.
"We had long debates about these two, and others like them," reads the blog post. "They're technically not a part of the game, but they are an issue for some players.
"In the end, we've decided to define them as off-topic review bombs. Our reasoning is that the "general" Steam player doesn't care as much about them, so the Review Score is more accurate if it doesn't contain them.
"We believe that players who do care about topics like DRM are often willing to dig a little deeper into games before purchasing - which is why we still keep all the reviews within the review bombs. It only takes a minute to dig into those reviews to see if the issue is something you care about."
Steam users can still see raw review scores, even those that are considered off-topic if they choose. Again, the reviews aren't being removed, they just won't be factored into the overall score.
If you use Steam and wish to see all reviews, regardless of context, you can do so by setting your Steam Reviews default to "Include reviews from all Steam purchases in Review Scores" under the "Review Score Settings" in your Steam Store Preferences.