Grand Theft Auto V

Signing an online petition or participating in a digital protest can sometimes feel a little bit like shouting your complaints into the uncaring void. Recent assaults on Steam user review ratings remind us, however, that even fairly disorganised protests can inspire changes not just to the games themselves, but to the business practices of their publishers as well. Below are five times where fans have forced publishers and developers to take notice.

OpenIV's shutdown 

OpenIV is a modding tool for GTA that’s been popular for years, but with GTA 5 and GTA Online, publisher Take-Two’s relationship with modders became very rocky over worries that mods could negatively impact the delicate online ecosystem. That was the excuse used when a cease and desist letter was sent to the modders

The fallout was huge. Once the OpenIV team announced that they were being shut down, players took to Steam to make sure Take-Two understood what a very big bear it had poked. Rapidly, the recent user reviews changed from ‘Mostly Positive’ to ‘Overwhelmingly Negative’, while the overall reviews changed to ‘Mixed’. GTA 5 already had a lot of positive reviews, so it took tens of thousands to tank its rating. On top of the glut of negative Steam user reviews was a petition that ended with over 80,000 signatures.

It worked, for the most part. Take-Two clarified its mod policy and started to communicate with the OpenIV devs, which led to the modding tool springing back to life. Lamentably, however, development on the ambitious ‘Liberty City in GTA 5’ mod ceased because it still contradicted the game’s mod policies. Coincidentally, publisher Paradox Interactive went back on an unpopular pricing change at around the same time, for the same reason: Steam user reviews.   

Paid mods on Steam

In 2015, Valve briefly allowed mod makers to sell their creations on Steam. It started with Skyrim, to test the waters, but the plan was for more games to support the feature. The mods weren’t curated by Valve or Bethesda, and creators could charge whatever they wanted. It didn’t go down very well, to say the least.

Players’ issues ranged from their belief that mods should always be free, and that premium mods go against the spirit of modding, to fears over modders stealing assets and selling them as if they were their own creations. Within a day, the latter had actually happened, though the mod was removed. A petition was quickly established. 

“Mods should be a free creation,” read the petition. “Creations made by people who wish to add to the game so others can also enjoy said creation with the game.” It received over 130,000 signatures. A few days later, Valve removed the feature and refunded everyone, with a representative admitting that they didn’t really know what they were doing. Valve does want to take another crack at it, however, so paid mods might return.

Mass Effect 3's ending

Mass Effect 3’s ending became infamous for not being particularly great, and for upsetting a lot of people. It’s almost become the Oblivion horse armour DLC of game endings. Ignoring a lot of the decisions players had made, the trilogy’s climax boiled everything down to three generally unsatisfying conclusions. Perhaps it didn’t deserve quite as much ire as it received, but it revealed just how incredibly invested players had become in Shepard and their crew’s story.

On Twitter, Facebook and on forums, players jumped between rage and offering meaningful criticism, and one even went so far as to make an FTC complaint, calling out BioWare for false advertising. The frustration was palpable, and for BioWare, impossible to ignore. Soon after, Ray Muzyka, BioWare Co-founder and general manager at the time, announced that the team was working on more content that would clear things up. 

The result was the free Extended Cut DLC. It didn’t completely change the endings, but did flesh them out considerably while, importantly, adding an epilogue that made it feel like your actions actually changed the galaxy. The later Citadel DLC, which wasn’t free, arguably does an even better job, serving as a sort of farewell party for the entire trilogy.

SimCity's always-online requirement 

When SimCity launched in 2013, it was stuck with an always-online requirement necessitated by the game’s misjudged hook: multiplayer regions. Absent a single-player offline mode, something that could have been novel and optional became the entire game. A substantial number of players weren’t fans. 

It wasn’t just an issue of people not really jiving with EA’s vision of a sort of shared, multiplayer city-builder—it contributed to an absolutely disastrous launch, with many players unable to even log into the game. That backlash was unsurprisingly substantial and included a nearly 80,000 strong petition demanding the removal of the always-online requirement. 

Though it defended the decision to make SimCity online, all of the negative attention forced EA to offer a mea culpa in the form of a free game, and then after several months make an announcement about a single-player offline mode. It arrived a year after SimCity’s launch. 

Dark Souls' PC port

When FromSoftware’s formidable RPG, Dark Souls, launched on consoles but not PC, there was much sadness at the prospect over not getting cruelly punished in Lordran. “We want to be murdered by Ornstein and Smough too,” people cried. Luckily, publisher Namco Bandai was listening. 

On the official forums, an almost off-the-cuff post from an admin inspired a petition. Within a few days, it had 70,000 signatures and the Namco Bandai rep assured fans that “every relevant” person in the company was going to hear about it. "If you wanted to have the attention of Namco Bandai Games, now you have it," they said. And it paid off. A few months later, the PC port was announced.

Unfortunately, Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition was shackled to Games For Windows Live, limited to 30fps, stuck with a fixed resolution and plagued by countless other problems. It was a mess. It was, however, vastly improved by modder Durante’s DSfix. It also opened the way for ports of the eventual sequels, which were all considerably more polished than their predecessor. 

Grand Theft Auto V - community

If you’ve never been able to decide between vintage vogue and cutting-edge chic, the Grotti Cheetah Classic will let you have it both ways. This beauty has been setting trends and breaking records ever since it rolled off the production line three decades ago, so if you want to ooze class and rocket fuel all at the same time, your number just came up. The Cheetah Classic is now available exclusively at Legendary Motorsport.

Imagine the calm, rigorous fun of launching yourself through the sky at the center of a distant target in a Ruiner 2000 with only the onboard parachute separating a top score from a deadly fireball. Well, Overtime Rumble is just like that, only you and every other adrenaline junkie in Los Santos are all hitting the accelerator at the same time. This can only end well.

This team-based vehicular remix of Darts is for up to 10 players, and has you trying to land your Ruiner 2000 on platforms of various sizes, each worth anywhere between 1 and 5 points.

Accuracy is rewarded with Double GTA$ & RP now through July 17th in Overtime Rumble.


For those with the entrepreneurial spirit burning deep inside them, we have a bevy of discounts on Executive Offices designed to help make starting your empire a little easier. Owning an Office comes with its perks; become a CEO at any time and tap into Special Cargo and Vehicle Cargo business opportunities through the SecuroServ network. Or expand your sights from high-rise offices to underground bunkers – tap into Gunrunning Businesses as a CEO to start a lucrative arms trafficking career:
  • Maze Bank West – 25% off
  • Arcadius Business Center – 30% off
  • Lombank West – 35% off
  • Maze Bank Tower – 40% off
  • Executive Office Garages & Custom Auto Shop – 25% off
  • Executive Office Garage Renovations – 25% off
  • Custom Auto Shop Renovations – 25% off

Pad that Maze Bank account with these Premium Race & Time Trial events:

From July 11th – July 17th:
  • Premium Race - "Big Drop" (locked to Sports)
  • Time Trial - "Up Chiliad"
Launch Premium Races though the Quick Job App on your in-game phone or via the yellow corona at Legion Square. The top three finishers receive GTA$ payouts and all participants are awarded Triple RP. To participate in Time Trials, set a waypoint to the marker on your in-game map and enter via the purple corona. Sizable GTA$ & RP rewards await those who can beat par time.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - (John Walker)

As the Steam Summer Sale closes, here’s the last of the charts influenced by the discounts, before they return to being exactly the same as they were before the sale, and indeed during it.

So this week we’re going to dig into the history of these familiar names, revealing some secrets of their pasts that many may not already know. … [visit site to read more]

Grand Theft Auto IV - (Alice O'Connor)

The modding project creating a tool to import Liberty City from Grand Theft Auto IV into GTA V has, sadly, shut down. It was the work of the team behind unofficial modding tool OpenIV [official site] but, after the fuss which saw the owners of GTA briefly shut down OpenIV with legal threats before making peace, they now say they can’t make it. Such a tool would be against the new Rockstar modding policy, see. But hey, at least OpenIV is back and its development will continue. … [visit site to read more]

Grand Theft Auto V

The team behind the Grand Theft Auto modding tool OpenIV that briefly shut down following a cease-and-desist order from Take-Two Interactive has issued a statement in which it shared some of its plans for the future of the software. It's mostly good news—as suggested a couple of weeks ago, development of OpenIV will continue apace. But the silver lining has a grey cloud. 

"First of all, we want to say 'Thank you' to everyone who supported us in this tough situation. We’re very grateful for your support; for demonstration of the fact, that modding community is still a minority, but very vocal, creative and determined minority. You made the impossible and this story is already scribed into the history of PC gaming and the Internet itself," the OpenIV team wrote.

"The development of OpenIV will be continued as before. OpenIV never supported GTA Online modding and will not support it in the future. Our work will be continued within the Rockstar modding policy," it continued. "Unfortunately, our highly anticipated mod 'Liberty City in GTA V' will not be released because it clearly contradicts with Rockstar modding policy. Liberty City mod is a big loss for us, since it was a huge part of our motivation to push OpenIV functionality." 

The Liberty City mod was a massive effort to recreate the entirety of Grand Theft Auto 4's home city in GTA5. The plan was to release it as single-player DLC, and it would actually exist in the game simultaneously with GTA5's Los Santos, on the other side of the water. Work had come a long way and it was expected to be ready for release this summer. It's great that OpenIV will continue, but the loss of Liberty City hurts. 

As for what comes next, that appears to be up in the air: the OpenIV team said only that "we are currently revising our plans for the future." 

Grand Theft Auto V

Update: Following its datamining-aided discovery last month, the GTA 5 Chiliad Mystery community happened upon extra terrestrial life legitimately last week. And while it was first thought players were required to grind out 600 sales in GTA Online's most recent Gunrunning update, it appears the secret alien egg supply mission can be activated with the same number of resupply missions—errands which can be completed quicker than sales. As reported by VG24/7, GTA Series Videos posted the following explanation video:

GTA Series Videos also posted the following description: 

"In order to trigger this mission you have to complete at least 600 resupplies. Once you have reached this number, start a new supply run between 21:00 and 23:00. Apparently there's no timer for this mission, nor rewards or unlocks for completing it.

"To achieve the goal in the fastest time possible we divided the team in three sub-teams (also with the help from some of our friends) working at the same time on sales, supplies and crates due to the fact that one of the required variables was the number '600'.

"Since we had our doubts on what the number was tied to, with almost a week of non-stop 24 hours grinding taking turns, we all reached the number 600 in sales, supplies and crates, and then we continued trying to unlock the mission during the 21:00-23:00 time frame."

The truth is up there. 

Original story: 

Last week, the GTA 5 Chiliad Mystery community discovered alien life for the first time in game's Online segment by way of datamining. Tied to the open world crime sim's Gunrunning update, The Gurus have now worked out how to trigger the extra terrestrial mission the old fashioned way—and it requires quite a bit of grinding. 

Billed by Guru Tadd as the "no shortcuts, no cheating, legit way", he outlines the correct method to spawn the alien mission as Rockstar originally intended. He credits Guru Mama Kaimeera for the find—who's "been grinding out the sales and gunrunning missions since [the update] came out"—as well as Guru Gramz, Guru Jared and Guru CME for their hard work. 

"As you may know from before," says Tadd, "We changed a global variable to 20 to forcibly trigger this mission. But we have now traced back to the source, the various requirements needed. It appears that (brace yourself) the player must have: 601 completed gunrunning sales (the check is for 600 but 601 to be safe). And then start a supply run between: 21:00hrs and 23:00hrs."

Tadd explains that "yep, it really is that simple" but that racking up quite so many gunrunning sales isn't exactly an easy feat. Tadd also notes that once triggered, the alien event won't happen again. "So make the most of it, or just watch our video and save yourself the time," he adds. 

Here's another look at first contact via the Gurus' footage from last week:

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - (John Walker)

As we learnt last week, the Steam Summer Sale feels> like the sort of thing that should enliven the charts. Nothing can enliven the charts…

Apart from me! … [visit site to read more]

Grand Theft Auto V - community
Thank you to the amazing GTA Online community worldwide – and especially all of you enterprising Criminal Organization bosses masterminding missions from your Bunkers, marauding in your Weaponized Tampas, and boosting through the skies on your Oppressor hyperbikes – for your incredible support for the massive Gunrunning update. In the summer weeks and months ahead, we’ve got lots more fun modes and high-octane vehicles coming your way – starting with today’s special Independence Week drop featuring a futuristic new Supercar, an intense new mode, patriotic liveries and more.


The future has arrived and it's here to snatch your soul. The Vagner is the latest experiment to escape Dewbauchee's R&D labs and it's designed for one thing and one thing only: speed. The Supercar of tomorrow can be yours today, exclusively at Legendary Motorsport.


In Los Santos, when it’s time to make a profit you do whatever it takes. In this case, that means parachuting from a chopper in the dead of night directly into a crossfire, using thermal and night vision to identify and gun down the opposition, and working with your team to track down the crate containing your tax-exempt profit margin. Time to make the deal.

Gun down your enemies under the cover of darkness as you race to track down highly coveted contraband in Dawn Raid, the newest mode added to GTA Online. Two teams of up to six parachute into a combat zone in search of a transmitter hidden inside of a package. Your objective is to find it and transport it to the evacuation zone. Armed to the teeth and aided with Night and Thermal Vision Goggles, you must utilize the Trackify app to locate the correct package. But be careful, using Trackify makes you vulnerable to enemy fire. Put those multitasking skills to the test in Dawn Raid and earn Double GTA$ & RP in this new Adversary Mode through July 10th.


Raise the flag, put your hand on heart, and wipe that red, white and blue tear from your eye – a wave of Independence Day mayhem is erupting across San Andreas. Firework launchers, classic outfits, the Western Sovereign and the Liberator Monster Truck are all back through July 10, and 25% off their original price. Plus this year also brings patriotic new liveries for your Mobile Operation Center and Mk II weaponry to help you flaunt your love of country.

Make some noise for Independence Day in style. Simply log in to GTA Online at any point between now and July 10th to unlock both in-game styles of the Rockstar Noise Tees that debuted at the Rockstar Warehouse this week.

And if you want to take the patriotic party to a hot tub beside a helicopter pad in a boat on the high seas, the dealers at Docktease are running celebratory specials on all Watercraft, including all three Galaxy Super Yacht models, along with 50% off Yacht Modifications:
  • The Pisces: 25% off
  • The Orion: 30% off
  • The Aquarius: 35% off
  • Yacht Modifications: 50% off
  • All Watercraft on Docktease: 25% off
  • Cunning Stunts Clothing & Tattoos: 25% off

Pad that Maze Bank account with these Premium Race & Time Trial events:

From June 30th – July 3rd:
  • Premium Race - "Spinner" (locked to Super)
  • Time Trial - "Fort Zancudo"
From July 4th – 10th:
  • Premium Special Vehicle Race - "Atmosphere" (locked to Rocket Voltic)
  • Time Trial - "Storm Drain"
Launch Premium Races though the Quick Job App on your in-game phone or via the yellow corona at Legion Square. The top three finishers receive GTA$ payouts and all participants are awarded Triple RP. To participate in Time Trials, set a waypoint to the marker on your in-game map and enter via the purple corona. Sizable GTA$ & RP rewards await those who can beat par time.
Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto 5's 'Chiliad Mystery' is fascinating. Since the game's 2013 console launch and PC intro two years on, an intrepid section of players has dedicated its time to unearthing a conspiracy of sorts that's tied to a cryptic mural, UFOs and weird egg assets.

Last week, new information was datamined by these players—a community of self-proclaimed 'Gurus' that better mirrors subculture status than hobbyist enthusiasts—relevant to the crime sim's latest Gunrunning update, however they were then unsure of how to spawn their discoveries in-game. They've now worked that out, and have made contact with an alien race. 

Could this mark the end of the 'Chiliad Mystery' as we know it? Perhaps, but lead Guru Tadd suggests the latest revelation could be tied to GTA 5's single-player portion. 

"This has probably raised more questions than answers for the 'Chiliad Mystery' and has a lot of the long-time hunters asking WTF," Tadd tells me. "I can't comment on what Rockstar's plans are in general, but I can say that two things are obvious: One is that GTA Online is set (time-wise) before single player mode, so hopefully this means this is some kind of set up for something in single player. And two: like with the beast character in-game (bigfoot vs the beast peyote hunt)—he came to Online first and then to single player in a nice little easter egg hunt. 

"I am not classing this as the end or anything. More that this could possibly be the beginning of what we have wanted for so long. It has however ruffled some feathers (as we knew it would) regarding the Chiliad Mystery, by not being included from day one."

Onto the discovery itself. First, here's the footage as it happened, followed by a description thereafter.

Tadd explains the above by telling me the Gunrunning scripts he and his team uncovered last week pointed to a damaged spaceship that was quickly located in the newly added game files by Guru Gramz. Guru members Tom and Shishya then helped Tadd piece together the remainder of the mission's code, before discovering assets from Michael's main game Grass Roots mission were being reused—most interestingly, alien models and related sound effects.  

"So anyway we then went on to chase everything through the scripts and realised it was being handled like any other Gunrunning supply run mission," explains Tadd. "People then went mad online trying to get the Gunrunning missions completed in hopes of having this spawn in game but no one was having any success. Despite us having all the code and exactly where and what would happen in game, we still couldn't work out the trigger for it, besides knowing that it all hinged on a global variable (a value used globally across all scripts) being set to 20. 

"We searched for days in the code, only to be lead to complicated script events and what looked like an element of randomness. Eventually our good friend Dexyfex helped me trace it back to a tunable (something Rockstar can tune, i.e turn on or off or increase the chances of it occurring for someone)."

Despite this realisation, Tadd and his Gurus still struggled to initiate the mission spawn—and it was perfectly likely Rockstar was yet to turn it on at its end. 

Tadd continues: But then using the knowledge we had gained reading the scripts our very own Guru WetNips (he's our Black Ops member who is willing to do whatever it takes to get a result!) decided to use a tool made by Polivilas (a member of our discord) to force the global to 20. He did so and began a supply mission like any other and the waypoint it set was at our crash site. He then went that and what you see happen in the video is what he was greeted with: an alien egg supply run mission."  

The result is what you see in the above footage. Tadd notes that the above is of course forced, meaning it wasn't triggered in the way the game is supposed to trigger it. He suggests there could well be a lot more to it, and has many more questions now—"What research will be done using the alien egg as the supplies for it? Where and how does the undamaged ship (imp_prop_ship_01a) discovered in the import export update tie in? Does it have any impact on single player mode?". Nevertheless, this is a stellar achievement for the Gurus and the Chiliad Mystery community as a whole.

Is this mystery solved, then? A sizeable number of players on the Chiliad Mystery Reddit seem to think so and don't appear best pleased for it—"The truth is out there The truth is very bland and disappointing," so says one user. But for the Chiliad Mystery Gurus, this is but the start of another chapter and another mystery to dig into. 

In Tadd's words: "The Guru Team work silently, day and night, on our Discord, our YouTube channel, and our website to find anything we can for the community. Most of us have been hunting for a long time, myself since the release of the game. 

"We enjoy the hunt and at first my own motivation was to be 'the guy who found the jetpack', but in my time searching for it I've become the number one chiliad mystery hunter and now have the best and most dedicated team with me. We have hackers, gamers, Mythbusters and we fully intend to tackle more secrets in GTA 5, and perhaps even other games (we're looking at you, RDR2.)"

Grand Theft Auto V

In early April, just a month and a half after it released on consoles and two weeks after it launched on Steam, action-RPG Nier: Automata passed a million sales. Despite a few performance issues on PC, Nier launched to acclaim and racked up thousands of positive reviews. It was the surprise hit of the year until PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and a wonderful success for quirky director Yoko Taro (whose previous few games combined likely sold less than Automata did in a month). And then, on April 28, this happened:

Nier: Automata's Steam reviews over time, via SteamSpy.

1,113 negative reviews slammed Nier's Steam page in a single day, essentially doubling the total number of negative reviews overnight. That's not enough to sink a game like Nier, but it is enough to drop its ‘recent reviews’ from positive to ‘mixed’ in early May. What happened? Why the sudden rush of negativity? On April 27, Square Enix released Nier: Automata in Asia—without Chinese language support. And hours after release, they doubled the price in China. It turns out that's a really, really good way to piss off thousands of players.

Review bombing isn't a new on Steam; we first saw the power of a flood of negative reviews back in 2015, when Valve briefly tried to roll out paid mods for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. But the reaction to Nier: Automata is indicative of changes in the power structure of the Steam community. 

By users, China is now Steam's third largest country, with around 17 million, behind only the United States and Russia. But by bandwidth consumed, China is actually in second place, swallowing up nearly 10 percent of Steam's total traffic (the US accounts for 19.7 percent, Russia only 5.8 percent). It's a huge audience, and it's growing quickly. This presents PC developers a huge opportunity to sell games to millions of players they couldn't reach just a few years ago. But that opportunity comes with new risks, too.

Tried-and-true review bombing

Even without tapping into a whole new audience in China, developers in 2017 have to keep in mind the possibility that their game could be review bombed for any number of reasons. Maybe a political or social issue will draw an angry mob; maybe gamers will voice complaints about a glaring performance issue or a price they consider unfair.

We've seen two high profile cases of this in just the last month. Take a look at the recent reviews for Grand Theft Auto 5 and Crusader Kings 2. 

Grand Theft Auto 5's Steam reviews over time, via SteamSpy.

Crusader Kings 2 Steam reviews over time, via SteamSpy.

If you've been following the news, you'll recall GTA5 publisher Take-Two decided to shut down popular mod tool OpenIV, racking up about 35,000 negative reviews in a few days. Crusader Kings 2 accrued just a few hundred negative reviews over Paradox's decision to raise the prices of its games in some regions. In both cases, Rockstar and Paradox backpedaled after an overwhelmingly negative response.

Did those negative reviews actually affect sales of either game? Hard to say for sure, but probably not—both have already sold loads of copies. "On the per-game basis, it seems that review bombing doesn't hurt short-term sales much," writes Sergey Galyonkin, creator of SteamSpy. "Payday 2 sold more in the month after the [2015 microtransaction] controversy than in the month before, but they had a pretty big discount :) And Ark sold twice as more in the month after the review bombing [over its expansion] than in the month before despite having a smaller discount during that period and no F2P event.  Of course, this kind of reaction is usually because of the diminished players' trust in the game, but it's something that is hard to measure."

This kind of reaction is usually because of the diminished players' trust in the game, but it's something that is hard to measure.

SteamSpy's Sergey Galyonkin

As Galyonkin says, damage to community goodwill is likely the bigger concern. And directly commenting on the actions of an angry fanbase is a touchy subject; unsurprisingly, the developers and publishers I reached out to for comment who have experienced Steam review bombing either declined to talk or did not respond.

For many gamers, leaving a negative Steam review is the only actionable way to make their voices heard. It's more direct, and likely more effective, than tweeting or posting on a message board. The system may be abusable, but in some cases it's working as intended: players are simply commenting on a game and giving prospective buyers valuable information. And Valve has taken steps to limit some potential issues with the system by removing reviews tied to free copies from a game's overall score.

Another change to Steam has also had a large positive impact: refunds. "Refunds are so great," says Lars Doucet, the developer of tower defense game Defender's Quest. "Now that they have refunds, if someone hates my game, they're going to ask for a refund, and usually the grumpiness that they would have directed at a review gets shouted into the refund system instead. Now I don't have an angry player, and the angry player gets their money back and isn't angry any more and probably doesn't feel like they have to post a nasty review (some will still do it, but not most). I have a separate channel for reading messages from people who wanted refunds, which is now where most of the really nasty comments go. That's fine. They can stay there. This system doesn't solve everything but it was a major plus for both developers and players in my eyes."

Defender's Quest continues to sell well on Steam after five years.

Doucet frequently blogs about Steam on a variety of topics, offering up some great data analysis and savvy commentary on Steam's Discovery system, reviews, the Controller, and more. Though Defender's Quest has a 97 percent positive rating on Steam, I thought Doucet would have some insight into review bombing, generally. He pointed out one issue he's written about before, with suggested improvements to how Valve sorts games based on user ratings. If Valve did improve its sorting, that could, potentially, change the visibility of some games on Steam with fewer reviews but higher positive percentages. And that could, in turn, make review bombing a more powerful tool.

If you're a small developer and you catch that storm you're fielding that red hot fire with your own face, and these mobs can get really nasty.

Lars Doucet

I also asked if he thought review bombing was a result of the review system working as intended, or if there's a better way for players to make their voices heard.

"Obviously as a developer the idea of being flooded with a torrent of hate over something players didn't like makes me super scared, especially when it's not something 'merely' personal like your twitter feed, it's my store page which has a direct connection to my livelihood," he says. "However, it's hard for me to feel too sorry for a big AAA company that does something obviously tone deaf and anti-consumer and pays a public price for it. At the same time, if you're a small developer and you catch that storm you're fielding that red hot fire with your own face, and these mobs can get really nasty. The one limiting factor here is, unlike in a Twitter mob, the only person who has a right to leave a review is someone who's paid for your game [on Steam]."

Doucet said that there's a trade-off with that new requirement, since developers who work to build an audience outside of Steam, through a Kickstarter, for example, lose out on the value of those positive reviews. "On balance, I will make the trade—I prefer being slightly less vulnerable to random hate mobs who just happen to have bundle keys for my game over boosting my user reviews with crowdfunding keys. Others feel differently, of course. I think if they smoothed out the hard thresholds using the Wilson score method [mentioned in his article on reviews], this tension wouldn't be as sharp."

Doucet has also written about the huge opportunities for indie developers in the Chinese market, which brings us back to the original topic. On top of these concerns, which have been building on Steam over the past few years, developers now have to consider the dangers of releasing a game in China without localization.

Football Manager 2017 had its Steam reviews hammered by Chinese players.

China is now too big to ignore

In October 2016, Chinese players filed hundreds of negative reviews against Football Manager 2017 protesting the lack of a Chinese localization. Some of the anger stemmed from comments made by the studio's director five years earlier, saying more sales in China would justify a localization. More anger came from the developer's decision to make community translations part of the game's Steam Workshop (it officially supported 16 languages at launch).

Publisher Sega stepped in after the outcry and announced a Chinese translation, which was released in April. On SteamSpy's review chart, you can see the jump in positive reviews and a decrease in negative reviews as some players reversed their earlier thumb down.

Football Manager 2017's negative Steam reviews following a Chinese outcry.

Still, many of the negative reviews remained; Football Manager 2017 still has a 44 percent positive overall rating on Steam. And the negative reviews didn't just affect FM2017; on the same days it was review bombed, so was Football Manager 2016.

Several Square Enix games suffered collateral damage after Nier: Automata's pricing debacle. Chinese players also review bombed Rise of the Tomb Raider on April 28, giving it negative reviews to punish Square Enix for Automata's price change in Chinese currency. It was the only significant spike in negative reviews after Rise of the Tomb Raider's first week of release.

Some fans gave Square Enix's other games negative reviews after Nier's price change in China.

Even more recently, Darkest Dungeon developer Red Hook launched the Crimson Court expansion and saw a smaller wave of criticism from a Chinese playerbase tired of waiting for a localization that had been talked about as far back as 2015 and still not materialized. (Darkest Dungeon has had a community-driven Chinese localization in progress for months, but it's not yet finished).

As always, it's hard to draw any real correlation between these negative reviews and a tangible impact on sales. It's a lesson all developers will soon have to take note of: If Chinese players are promised a localization, they expect it, and Steam reviews are how they’ll let you know.

With localization, Steam's rise in China could also be a new lifeline for smaller developers.

But with localization, Steam's rise in China could also be a new lifeline for smaller developers struggling to make a profit amid the dozens of games hitting Steam each day. Getting the pricing right for the region and properly localizing a game can be a huge windfall. As Doucet wrote about releasing games in China earlier this year: 

"I have never had a localization pay for itself this quickly, not to mention this unambiguously… Of all the revenue Defender's Quest has earned from China on Steam in its entire lifetime, 45% of it was earned last week. That's right, we basically doubled our lifetime sales from China almost immediately!"

Of course, it's not quite that simple—there's no guarantee every game will be a smash hit in China, and there's not even a guarantee that Steam will even remain available in China. Games are routinely banned in China, but so far Steam has escaped government regulation, possibly due to Dota 2's popularity. Megacorporation Tencent is re-launching a Steam competitor in China in July, which could massively upset the PC market there. The only real constant here is how fast things are changing.

But as long as Steam exists in China, expect the Chinese audience's influence to grow. 17 million players and counting are hard to ignore.

Data gathered from SteamSpy.Thanks to Sergey Galyonkin for an invaluable tool.


Search news
Jul   Jun   May   Apr   Mar   Feb  
Archives By Year
2017   2016   2015   2014   2013  
2012   2011   2010   2009   2008  
2007   2006   2005   2004   2003