Steam Implements Histogram Charts to Counteract Review Bombing

The charts give a diachronic look at a game’s review rating over time.

Valve has decided to implement new charts on Steam that give a diachronic look at each game’s user review history. The new charts come as a response to the recent review bombing incident carried out by users against Campo Santo on their 2016 title, Firewatch. 

If you’re unfamiliar with review bombing, it’s basically an act where people who are upset with a developer take their frustrations out by posting poor review scores for their game en masse, often upvoting the negative reviews at the same time to actively try lowering a game’s overall user rating. 

Firewatch is the most recent subject of review bombing, but there have been other games hit by review bombs in just the last few months, such as Grand Theft Auto V. Review bombing can often be motivated by reasons external to the game itself, which is why the activity poses a problem for those looking for unbiased game reviews. 

An extensive blog post on Steam’s community blog explains the reasoning behind using histogram charts to counteract review bombings. “Starting today, each game page now contains a histogram of the positive to negative ratio of reviews over the entire lifetime of the game, and by clicking on any part of the histogram you're able to read a sample of the reviews from that time period,” explains Steam UI designer, Alden Kroll.

“As a potential purchaser, it's easy to spot temporary distortions in the reviews, to investigate why that distortion occurred, and decide for yourself whether it's something you care about.” 

This is the diachronic customer review chart on Steam for Grand Theft Auto V. A review bombing incident can be seen around late summer.

The new charts appear just above the review section of a game on Steam. The first chart reveals a game’s user review history over time, while the chart beside it depicts the game’s most recent review scores. If a high volume of negative reviews are detected, a notification will appear above the charts allowing viewers to exclude or view that data set. Clicking the bars on the charts will load up all the user reviews, either positive or negative, from that particular date range. 

Although the new charts are not the most elegant in terms of design, this added data might help consumers make a more informed decision about whether a game is good enough to purchase on Steam, which is ultimately what user reviews are intended to do in the first place. 

While diachronic review charts will most likely do little to prevent review bombings from occurring, their implementation makes more sense than trying to stifle or limit user reviews altogether. We’re of the mentality that having more data available to consumers is generally a good thing, and that Valve's decision is a step in the right direction. Leave us a comment below and let us know what you think of these new Steam histogram charts.


Larryn is a full-time editor who has written guides and editorial features for various gaming websites. She is obsessed with Witcher 3 and is known to put hot sauce on everything.

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