“Review Bombing” is the act in which large group of disgruntled gamers gives negative user reviews for a video game. This is often done in response to developers or publishers who add anti-consumer gameplay mechanics to their games. This is usually done in an attempt to force developers and publishers to listen when other attempts and avenues have failed. Most notable example of review bombings was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim which was review bombed in 2015 by gamers who were angry about the game’s introduction of paid mods, leading Valve to reverse their decision and remove the paid mod functionality. The latest review bombing comes courtesy of the Borderlands, after Gearbox Software revealed that the game will be a timed exclusive on the Epic Games storefront.
Which leads to my actual question, is review bombing ethical or not? But before you get to the actual question you need to ask another question why would gamers review bomb a game? The answer boils down to one single rather simple answer. Developers and publishers make themselves completely inaccessible to their fans, prime example would be Hello Games and the No Man’s Sky debacle. Months after the games and even to this day we are yet to get a press release addressing the lies and missing features from the game. This has become pretty much common practice throughout the game industry, either ignore the fans or do a press release playing the blame game. Or turn around and belittle and blame your own fanbase for your failures, as CEO of Gearbox Software Randy Pitchford demonstrated during a recent interview:
What is Randy exactly trying to say here? If it is to alienate the Steam userbase, success! If It is to further piss off PC gamers that don’t like exclusivity deals timed or otherwise, success! If it is to bring himself down to the same level as his worst critics, well then, I can congratulate him on a job well done! Hey Randy, remember when you said this and then you proceeded to make a deal with Epic making Borderlands 3 a timed exclusive, who then posted your game’s cover art with Epic’s logo and not yours? Hypocrite much?:
So, taking the above into consideration do you think review bombing is ethical? While I do not support the act of review bombing, I can certainly understand when it is being done for the right reasons. Not just because you disagree with a new feature a developer added or a game mechanic that you dislike. Those are the wrong reasons to review bomb a game, and the reason why most gamers resort to review bombing a game? Because there is no other venue for them to vent their anger and frustration, most game forums are run with an iron fist.
I have been banned from over half a dozen video game forums because I dare share an opinion about something I disliked in the game, which the developers or publishers took issue with. Not to mention social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook were developers and people who work for development companies regularly call out their fanbase as racist, sexist or homophobic and generally treat them like shit. There is no rules or regulations that monitor and regulate the industry and there are simply no way gamers like me can fight back when being screwed over by developers or publishers. In closing, I can understand the intent when people review bomb a game.
Some gamers out there are performing an action hoping to prompt a proportional response from the developers and publishers. And theoretically, leaving a negative review about missing features or unsavoury business practices would spur the developers and publishers to either fix their games and include those missing features, and not fuck over their fanbase. In the case of Gearbox Software/2K Games I think it is justified, considering the comments that Randy has made thus far. It’s this lack of accountability that gives the whole review bombing exercise legitimacy in my eyes. Even if I don’t particularly agree with it.