Borderlands 3 is the latest acquisition by Epic Games, which has been collecting exclusive titles left and right. For the first six months after release, Borderlands 3 will only be available for PC gamers through the Epic store, and will become available on other digital storefronts after the deal ends. Many of these exclusivity deals have been met with fan backlash, and this occasion is no different. However, how do you review bomb a game that isn’t out yet? Well, you just review bomb Borderlands 1 and 2 on Steam, but this time, Valve was prepared.
The practice of review bombing refers to flooding a title’s user reviews with negative ratings, usually in response to a corporate or creative decision that fans don’t like, and want the creators to notice. This can have the effect of altering a game’s overall average score, even when the majority of negative reviews are made long after the game comes out. This could be seen last year with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a fairly well-received game whose average score dropped to “Mixed” after hundreds of gamers bombed its user reviews in protest of the game’s price dropping.
Because these kinds of negative reviews, which are responding more to corporate decisions than the actual game itself, aren’t very helpful, Valve has been trialling different ways of filtering them out so only relevant reviews show up. Last month, Valve trialled a new system which prevents reviews deemed “off-topic” from impacting the overall score.
In order to identify which reviews are “off-topic”, Valve has created a tool which detects whether or not a review is related to the user’s satisfaction with the game, and if a large number of reviews drop in short proximity to one another. The reviews are still there to be read, but their negative verdicts won’t impact the overall rating. Hopefully, this will lead to average ratings being more accurate to the game’s quality in the future.
In response to seeing Gearbox’s other Borderlands titles review bombed on Steam, CEO Randy Pitchford Tweeted “Ironically, that this misuse is possible and that Steam has no interest in correct this misuse makes me kind of happy about 2K’s decision [to release Borderlands 3 on the Epic Games Store] and makes me want to reconsider Gearbox Publishing’s current posture on the platform”.
Whilst Pitchford seems understandably bothered about previous Borderlands games being tarnished by angry fans, he doesn’t seem to acknowledge why they’re angry. Epic’s exclusivity deals with Phoenix Point and Metro Exodus were both negatively received by many gamers who don’t want to make multiple different accounts in order to access their game library or who simply don’t like the Epic Store.
An impact of Steam’s massive influence on PC gaming over the past 15 years has been that most PC gamers have the majority of their libraries attached to Valve’s service. Considering how the Epic storefront still lacks many convenient features, like a shopping cart and achievements, it’s no wonder many feel like Epic is just holding games for ransom rather than truly competing against Valve. It remains to be seen if the Epic Games exclusivity deal will hurt sales, but it didn’t stop Metro Exodus from outselling previous Metro games on PC.
Borderlands 3 will release on PS4, Xbox One and PC via the Epic Store on September 13. Roughly six months later, Borderlands will be available on “additional digital PC storefronts” , according to Gearbox.