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Update 3: One of the reviewers, Terrance, spoke with us some about his experiences. You can read what he had to say here.

Update 2: Since last night, Fiverr has removed three of the gigs that allowed for Steam reviews to be purchased on their website. It should be noted, however, that the removed gigs were only the examples sent to Fiverr by TechRaptor. Currently, there are still eight other sellers on Fiverr offering Steam reviews, although it is possible Fiverr is investigating their pages further. 

Update: Fiverr has responded to us with the following statement: “We take this issue very seriously. As with every marketplace built on content created by users, we rely on our community to help us identify inappropriate Gigs. The Gigs you referenced are a clear violation of our terms of service and not in the spirit of our marketplace. We are reviewing the flagged Gigs and taking the appropriate action.”

Website PcgamesN has reported a sad truth, that developers can still take advantage of Steam Reviews quite easily. 

In this case, PcgamesN found out that a large quantity of reviews are being advertised for sale on the website Fiverr

Fiverr, for those who may not know, is a website that offers people items, tasks, or feedback for the low price of $5.00. So if you need something designed, created, or some other oddjob or task done, it acts as an independent marketplace where you can get your job completed.

It seems, however, that Fiverr is also host to a number of people offering their services to review games on Steam. According to Phil Iwaniuk of PcgamesN, within an hour of setting up an account and sending out a message to various members saying they would write reviews, he received thirteen replies. In cross-referencing their Steam library lists, Iwaniuk found twenty games that at least two of the people seemed to have in their library as a positive review.

Of those twenty games include Super Hexagon and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, but Iwaniuk is quick to point out that they are both quite popular on Steam and owned by a large quantity of users. Ruling them out leaves 18 games that have positive reviews attached to them. The list of similar games, according to Iwaniuk and including Counter Strike: Global Offensive and  Super Hexagon, is as follows:

AdvertCity
Apocalypse Hotel
Areeb World
Blood of Magic 
Cat Simulator
Centauri Sector
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive 
D3DGear
Egyptian Senet
Epic Character Generator
Epic Showdown
Garfield Kart
Gods Vs Humans
Home Design 3D
Hospital Manager
Moto Racer Collection
Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy
Prehistorik
Shiplord
Super Hexagon

Photo courtesy of PcgamesN.com

Photo courtesy of PcgamesN.com

Iwaniuk also noted that each “seller” of a review has different criteria for their games; some had multiple accounts to review different games, others guaranteed playing the game for one hour before sending a review, and if you pay them extra they will play up to 10 hours of the game. Interestingly enough, none of the accounts note that they guarantee a positive review on their Fiverr page, but upon further inquiry Iwaniuk found that most of the sellers admitted through email that the review would be positive. Only one of the thirteen sellers said they do not guarantee a positive review, and even goes as far as revealing how he received his free Steam key in positive reviews on Steam itself. Due to his honesty we can state for sure that at least Blood of MagicHome Design 3DShipLordZamarianD3DGear, and Natural Soccer paid for reviews. It is possible, given he discloses receiving keys, that Egyptian Senet and Cat Simulator were paid for as well, and he later updated his disclosure to include the payment information. 

The report notes that six of the other sellers guaranteed a positive review, and each seller has positively reviewed the list of games above. Iwaniuk has contacted several of the game developers regarding free Steam keys, and all that replied have noted they do not give out Steam keys for positive reviews. Contact with the sellers, however, says otherwise regarding reviews, and each seller believes there is nothing unethical about this practice at all.

Photo courtesy of PcgamesN.com

Photo courtesy of PcgamesN.com

Now, Iwaniuk is quick to point out that people should not jump to conclusions regarding this discovery, even going on to say that the entire issue is important, but not earth-shattering:

And it is important not to make generalisations or jump to conclusions here – that list doesn’t tell us that anyone associated with those games are paying people to leave positive reviews. But as you join the dots, you wonder how and why they would appear so frequently in seller’s review pages if they weren’t. 

Some are published by the developers themselves, others are published by companies who have no website, social media footprint or contact details. None are represented by major publishers, or for the most part anyone I’ve heard of during my time writing about games, for what that’s worth.

The problem, however, comes from the honesty found in Steam Reviews being compromised for smaller, independent games. Games such as the MMO Otherland have already come under fire for having fake, paid reviews on Steam, and the problem of paid off reviews is not only relegated to the PC. Mobile games have been advertised as well on sites like reddit, offering people $1 to review and refer games on the Apple App store. Another potential issue with this practice is that the amount of quality reviews can manipulate Steam’s discoverability algorithm. Essentially, games that are given more positive reviews are more often placed in users’ discovery queue and given greater visibility over games with negative reviews. 

Now, it should be noted that Valve has wiped out user reviews in the past. One company, RosePortal Games, had numerous reviews removed from Steam on their game Epic Quest of the 4 Crystals due to RosePortal giving out free Steam codes in a “promotion” for the game. Valve ruled that this was a case of manipulation of the user review system, and even noted that most countries require reviewers to disclose if compensation was given. “Advertising laws in many countries require you to disclose any compensation for your review,” stated a Valve spokesperson. “If you received anything from a publisher or developer in exchange for a user review please say so in your review.” Valve has also changed their own policy to require disclosure for paid endorsements, which the Fiverr reviews would fall under, as the sellers were compensated with both a Steam code and $5.00.

The question of ethics has been brought up for a long time in video games journalism, and accusations of corruption are wide-spread. This is one case where the violation of ethics can be put not just on developers who may be supplying Steam codes to non-professionals, but those non-professionals who do not advertise that they were paid to do reviews. Developers may not even be offering Steam codes for review; it could be practically anyone who is a potential buyer and seller on a website like Fiverr, which offers a small but arguably dangerous loophole in Steam services.

Both Steam and Fiverr have been contacted for a reply. Fiverr replied, and it is posted above. Valve has not replied as of yet. We at TechRaptor will update this story with their responses if they do.

Thanks to Phil Iwaniuk of PCgamesn for reporting this story. What are your thoughts on this report? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!


Robert Grosso

Staff Writer

A game playing, college teaching, erudite-minded scholar who happens to write some articles every so often. Have worked as a journalist, critic, educator and blogger for over five years now, with articles published (as user editorials) on Game Revolution and Giant Bomb as well as a contributor for the websites Angry Bananas and Blistered Thumbs. Now making TechRaptor my home.



  • DEADBEEF

    We need to hold devs who pay for false positive reviews to account. This undermines trust in the entire Steam review system.

    I’ve seen far too many user generated review websites ruined by shilled positive reviews on shit products and shilled negative reviews on decent products.

    Not fucking cool.

  • Hawk Hopper

    I actually read Steam user reviews before even considering to buy a game. I haven’t purchased or even know about the games on that list besides CS:GO and Super Hexagon. But I wonder how many Steam reviews were actually paid for, even if only $5.

  • NorBdelta

    Unacceptable

  • GrimFate

    That sucks. I use Steam’s user ratings as my main way to determine if a game might be worth buying. (That and watching the trailers.) I don’t recall buying a game with glowing user reviews that turned out to not be worth my money, though, so I’m not sure how significant or widespread this issue is. Regardless, the less the better, because even 1 paid-for positive review is too many.

  • Cy

    At least Steam seems to be holding user reviews to the same standards that professional reviewers are (or should be) held to. Ethics are ethics and should apply to newspapers, bloggers and users equally.

  • Reptile

    That is fucking lame, you must be too insecure about your product to use this kind of shit to make people review your game positively.

  • Pewpschute

    Lol now it’s actually about ethics in user journalism. SMFH. lol.

  • Reptile

    It is only wrong when users receive $5, not when the developers sleep with reviewers.
    I don’t even clicked on that PcgamesN link,the link at the bottom of the browser made me stop.

  • Robert Grosso

    The question is how many of those users are there? PcgamesN found about a dozen at least, there might be more.

  • Reptile

    Yeah, but they also would need more than $500 to get at least 100 reviews, also those reviews must “find” other reviews helpful so that it shows on top of the page.
    It don’t seem to be a good business to me, because they will have to spend too much to pay for those reviews, even being $5 dolars each, so that they can be effective, And even after that people who buy and see that all this is a lie will post a negative review. Even if those $500 makes them $1000 yet people will still know the truth before the 2 hour period and refund, so at least more than half would do it, making them actually loss money. Not counting those people will mark positive reviews as not helpfull and negatives one helpfull.

    That is if their game is bad, if it isn’t they don’t really need to pay people to praise their games, again, they only loss money in this scenario.

    In short, too much money for too much little impact. Specially with refunds.

  • coboney

    It influences a products visibility because steam considers user review score in it’s discoverability algorithm. A game with more and and a higher percentage of upvoted reviews gets an advantage over another title in visibility on the steam store.

  • Javier Vega

    They also deleted review comments

  • Reptile

    Oh I see now, Damn, on the launch this is significant.
    I Hope Valve or at least Fiverr manage to find a way to stop this.

  • stalemate666

    It would have been more profitable until steam enabled refunds, now it’s just if the reviews lied and the game sucks get a refund no issue, this business model isn’t going to continue.

  • Zepherdog

    Talk about conspiracy theories come to life. For a given value of ‘conspiracy’ anyway.

  • j-justbecauseimagirl

    There is a great deal of manipulation of steam reviews particularly on unpopular indies. There are several steam groups for indie devs where they exchange game keys for steam reviews. I have found games with positive ratings with all of the reviewers accounts in the same location as the dev studio and/or friends with the devs steam account. Then theres devs using their ability to generate keys as currency and tossing 50-100 copies of their game to random giveaway groups in hopes of promotion without the groups ever disclosing where the keys come from.

  • Dindu Nuffin

    $500 for such “highly targeted” advertising is a fucking STEAL. How much do you think a single banner ad costs? Let alone anything with any significant impact?

    Targeted ads can be anything from $5 CPM (per 1000 views) up to about $30 per 1000 if you want a site specific ad.

    Each day.

    So, let’s not try to downplay the potential advertising a hundred “positive” reviews can bring, shall we?

  • Dindu Nuffin

    Refunds are an important tool in our “fightback” consumer arsenal, but you also have to remember,; not everyone uses them. Even for utter dreck.

  • Mr Snow

    Damn, and I thought this was the last bastion of honesty, because you had to actually own the game to review it…

  • Galbador

    This is why Gamergate was actually born; bought reviews and corrupt journalism. You can’t trust anyone but yourself in these days. This makes me sick!

  • Angry Cucumber

    Positive reviews could never make me buy games with those titles.

  • Dave

    i cant believe theyve done this what a bunch of noncerponces! uehh~