'Review bombing' Metro games on Steam is immature and pointless
Want to protest the way a new game is being sold? Fine. But don't do it by tarnishing the reputation of its predecessors.
Last week, publisher Deep Silver announced that Metro Exodus, the long-awaited sequel to the post-nuclear action horror games Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, would be releasing exclusively on the Epic Games Store, and that it's planned to remain that way for a full year. Preorders already done through Steam are going to be honored, but for the foreseeable future, the game is going to be absent from Valve's service.
This news came mere weeks prior to Exodus's expected February 15 launch, and the response from fans was, justifiably, an angry one. After all, Metro Exodus has been advertised on Steam for months, which was a clear signal to people that it would launch there. Also, the Epic Games Store is devoid of features at the moment, including basic things like regional pricing and screenshot capturing, among others. In addition, there are valid reasons to be concerned about how secure Epic Games-designed software is. Earlier this month, an exploit in Fortnite was discovered that left millions of accounts at risk, and Epic Games is partially owned by Tencent, a Chinese internet company that has faced controversy surrounding user privacy before. It's easy to see why PC players aren't happy.
Regardless of how justified the disdain for the Epic Games Store is, though, players have taken it too far by flooding Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light with negative reviews, also known as "review bombing." Here's why review bombing Metro Exodus's predecessors is immature and pointless.
It tarnishes the games' reputations
The biggest reason why review bombing Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light is stupid is because neither of them are related to the situation with Metro Exodus in any way, shape, or form. Both of these games are critically acclaimed works of art, and to see that reputation stomped on by outraged fans hurts, especially when you consider the catastrophically awful working conditions that developer 4A Games dealt with during development. Imagine being someone that wants to try the Metro series, only to see all of the negative reviews. That would be quite a turnoff, and it may steer people away from experiencing some of the best gaming experiences in history as a result.
It's an abuse of the user review system. The point of a review is to give an informed opinion about whether a game is good or bad, and to explain what makes the game good or bad. It's not to type out edgy hatemail to publishers or to create crude text images of sexual organs and obscene gestures, as many of Steam's more childish users have recently done with the Metro games.
It won't change anything
Another reason why the review bombings are idiotic is that they won't actually change anything. The best way to inspire a change in the gaming industry is to vote with your wallet and not buy something that you don't support. In this case, that would mean refusing to buy Metro Exodus on the Epic Games Store — not spamming games that are nearly five years old with bad reviews.
The publishing division behind Metro may lose some money from copies of the older games not selling due to the backlash, but that would only be a marginal concern. In terms of market relevance, the first two Metro titles have come and went, and nearly all people who wanted to play them have done so. Not earning money from them a half-decade later is something that Deep Silver can surely live with. Not earning a lot from Metro Exodus, the current title in the series, is what would hurt.
I suspect that most people angry about the situation are going to avoid buying Metro Exodus. However, the attempt to try and cut Deep Silver deeper by tacking on review bombing of the other titles in the series is not only petty, but it will also be completely ineffective.
One of the biggest reasons why many gamers dislike the Epic Games Store is because the user reviews Epic is planning to implement will be developer opt-in. This means that developers will be able to choose if their games can be reviewed by users on the Epic Games Store.
From Epic Games Founder Tim Sweeney:
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.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, 2018December 26, 2018
Personally, I think that opt-in is a terrible idea, as it's likely that the people who publish or develop games with shadier business practices will opt out of reviews to try and hide them, which would prevent deserved negative reviews from being written. However, by review bombing a series that Epic recently became involved with, it's almost guaranteed that they're solidifying Epic's stance on the manner.
The richness of the irony present is nearly too great for words. Epic Games wants to avoid allowing open user reviews due to the risks of review bombing, and what do Steam users do? They pointlessly and immaturely review bomb the Metro series, shooting themselves in the proverbial foot and making themselves look like complete fools. It's completely counter-productive to their own goals, and will only make Epic's refusal to implement open user reviews look right, even if it isn't.
Metro Exodus is expected to be released on February 15. It will be available on PC via the Epic Games Store for $49.99 and also on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 for $59.99.
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Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.