We’re in day 9 of the Great Xbox Live Indie Games Ratings Scandal of 2011, and the controversy isn’t growing any less contentious. Crosse Studio’s Carlo Sunseri is now seeking legal counsel about possible damages caused by developer Robert Boyd’s allegations that lacrosse fans have been downvoting Cthulhu Saves the World and other indie games on the “Top Rated” list. Sunseri claims the article has caused his own game to drop in ratings and sales.
“It’s simple, ever since Robert publicly accused College Lacrosse 2011 of “manipulating ratings” the game has fallen from the fifth top rated game to the eleventh. On top of that sales have dropped,” [sic] Sunseri told Armless Octopus.
The discord began when Sunseri posted a video on Crosse Studio’s Facebook page – which has more than 175,000 followers – that instructed fans on how to create a free Microsoft account and rate its game. The video never encouraged or even mentioned voting for other games, a fact that Boyd acknowledged in his article. During the weeks following the video’s posting, Cthulhu Saves the World plummeted from the 6th to 21st spot on the “Top Rated” list, and Boyd blamed the drop on fans who watched the video and rated his game 1-star without having played it.
Boyd expressed his dissatisfaction with the situation to Armless Octopus, but said that he wasn’t worried about the possibility of a lawsuit.
“Even if they can prove that what I said was not true, my articles fixed the blame on Lacrosse fans, not their game or the developers behind the game. In fact, my articles specifically said that the Lacrosse game developers were blameless,” Boyd said.
Sunseri doesn’t buy it and isn’t even convinced the ratings issue was caused by his fans at all.
“I’m not sure if adding my games title to his story made it a little more sexy or if he intended on College Lacrosse 2011 to be down rated but either way it wasn’t right to accuse my game on baseless speculation. He could have easily raised the issue of rating manipulation without accusing my newly released game,” [sic] he said.
While the two sides argue over whose fans are downvoting which games, the flaw in the ratings system remains unaddressed. The official XNA Community Twitter feed mentioned that they are “investigating a potential misuse of ratings on XBLIG titles,” but hasn’t been updated since Tuesday. A Microsoft PR representative echoed that sentiment on Thursday to Armless Octopus and said they had nothing further to report.
Developers have repeatedly expressed their frustration with the fact that anyone can rate games without playing them via Microsoft’s website, yet there is no convenient way to rate games through the Xbox Dashboard. The November Dashboard Update removed the feature for games to be rated from the Games Library, which means that one now has to trek back to the Marketplace to rate a game.
“How can you fairly rate a game if you’ve never even played it? Either having played the trial or the full version should be required to rate games. Having to play the game would also eliminate the ability to automate the process and likely be a turnoff for those manually doing it,” said developer Kris Steele of Fun Infused Games.
Eyehook Games‘ Mike Muir agreed. “I tend to agree with the idea of only including ratings from players that have actually downloaded the game. This would make it much more difficult for a few people to exploit the system, but still keeps in line with the general idea of openness in the ratings system.”
It doesn’t sound as if this issue is going to be resolved anytime soon, so you might just want to bookmark Armless Octopus and we’ll keep you updated.
About Mike Wall
Mike grew up and lives near Philadelphia and has been intrigued with games ever since his parents preached that they rotted his brain. He studied journalism at Penn State and got his master's degree in secondary education before realizing that not even summers off would make that job palatable. He now works in marketing and is trying to find time to continue writing a book about zombies, aliens, vampires, the end of the world, and a talking cat.