The Nintendo Switch finally made its debut release and many people have been excited for it and its games! Well, for many people, a singular game: Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This is the flagship game that many people bought with the Switch, and even bought the Switch for the sole reason of playing it. Before its release, it was praised by critics and was on the mantel of being one of the best games ever made, which only got more people on the hype train. But not everyone.
Breath of the Wild is the latest in a long line of great games (along with movies, etc.) to get review bombed by many people, including trolls and do-gooders alike. Of course, review bombing can go towards negative or positive reviews (think Uno: The Movie with a 9.8/10 score on IMDb). With video games however, it’s usually negative.
So why did Breath of the Wild get bombarded with negative reviews? In short, many people felt like “fanboys” were over hyping it (as well as giving reviews without playing the game) and thought that critics were being paid for good reviews. The users giving negative reviews felt like they were doing the right thing by giving a lower score to help even out the average rating. Of course, this led to the other side of the coin posting positive reviews for no other reason than to try and balance out the negative reviews. This made the user reviews for the game a bit pointless while this was happening.
This was on Metacritic, but Steam has been known for review bombings to happen frequently due to reasons like new game features, YouTuber beef, developer’s opinions, and many more. The problem arises when the negative review is no longer about the game itself. With Steam, user ratings are what you see first, unlike with Metacritic. The difference between the two sites is that you have to buy the game on Steam in order to review it. It also does show how much time you’ve played in the game, but perspective buyers of a game may only first look at whether the game has a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Luckily, Steam is trying to fix this by changing the way the review scores are calculated.
Luckily for mobile games, Apple has at least offered up a way to stop reviews of apps that wouldn’t work at all due to iOS beta users. And not only that, but they’ve been working on getting rid of fake reviews in general for a long time. And Google Play is working hard on it as well to keep everything fair and balanced. That it doesn’t make them immune to it though, as CNN and other news apps showed in November when they got hit by one star reviews due to people deeming them as “fake news”.
This isn’t anything new. This has been going on for years and has been known to happen in many industries and to many companies online, including Amazon and Yelp. A study in 2013 by MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Northwestern University found that about 5% of reviews for one company were by people who hadn’t purchased the product and many of those were negative. What they found out was that these people were being “self-appointed brand managers”. If they didn’t like a company’s practice or the way a product looked, they’d give it a negative review without even trying it. With this mindset, there was a case in 2011 about people giving bad reviews to a book that they deemed to have too high of a price. The difference now is that it’s not as hard to spot a fake since sometimes they’ll even mention that they haven’t even bought the product.
There’s still the question of why do people still do it now? When Kotaku writer, Nathan Grayson, asked people about why they review bombed, most stated that “in their eyes, it’s not only a form of protest, it’s the only one that works for them.” For gamers, it seems to be about being on one side or the other. Are the ratings fair? Do people feel like the rating is misleading? Is there something going on in the background and they feel negative reviews will help bring it to light? For these people, it’s a war zone.
Many people seem to feel like revenge and hate would be the main reasons behind negative reviews. This doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, especially when it comes to the entertainment industry. For the user, it’s about perceived fairness or a protest against what they believe is wrong. This doesn’t mean that they’re right, or that this is how the system should be used, but until another system comes around that better accounts for these nuances, we’ll be dealing with these polarized reviews for a while. I guess, by now, if you’re not used to polarizing Internet comments, you probably don’t spend enough time online.