When it comes to selling anything in an online store, having a review system of some sort is almost obligatory. It doesn’t matter if the company is selling physical items or digital ones, consumers will want to express their opinions on the products they purchase.
So, it should come as no surprise that Epic Games will finally be adding a review system to its online store. After all, EGS’ major competition offers that feature, and to say it’s heavily used by gamers on the platform would be a gross understatement.
That said, there is going to be something a bit different about the review system on the EGS. Epic is making the review system opt-in for developers. According to Epic founder Tim Sweeny, this decision is spurred by the issue of “review bombing” and attempts at “gaming-the-system”.
We’re working on a review system for the Epic Games store based on the existing one in the Unreal Engine marketplace. It will be opt-in by developers. We think this is best because review bombing and other gaming-the-system is a real problem.
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) December 26, 2018
Review bombing is a common issue on any site that allows general public participation. It occurs when consumers work together to leave negative reviews with the intent to harm sales of a particular item.
In many cases, such as the current review-bombing of the Metro series on Steam, these reviews have nothing to do with problems the consumers have with the item itself. Often the reviewers haven’t even purchased the item in the first place, or are angry for other reasons.
Not surprisingly, gamers are already questioning the decision. Many note that if developers have the option, they will not allow reviews. These gamers assert that an opt-in system “completely defeats the point of having review sections.”
On the other hand, some note that any dev that opts out of reviews should already be considered “shady” as a good game won’t need to hide from reviewers, and the developers shouldn’t be concerned about review bombing in the first place.
While review bombing is certainly an issue, Epic’s current stance seems a tad harsh and overreactive. Surely there is a more centrist approach that could be taken.
For example, Epic could make it so that only those who own the game on the Epic Store can review the game. Although it might alienate some users who own particular games on other systems or through other storefronts, it would be a reasonable compromise among Epic, developers, and the gamers who use the marketplace.
Still, this move is presumably another example in a growing line of how Epic Games plans to differ from Steam; it may be just another incentive for developers to forgo Valve’s platform in favor of the EGS.
It remains to be seen how users will ultimately react.