We may never learn the full extent of the alleged ratings manipulation, but Microsoft has taken a major step to ensure that it won’t happen again. According to a post on the official XNA Game Studio Team Blog, Microsoft will now require an Xbox Live Gold Account to rate games on Xbox.com. A Microsoft representative confirmed that Silver Accounts will still be able to rate games on the Game Marketplace.
The adjustment went into effect today and was made in reaction to the recent allegations that the prior ratings system was being manipulated, culminating in the threat of legal action between developers. The crux of the problem was the fact that Silver Accounts can be created for free and could rate games without ever playing them. Combine that with the relative ease of acquiring 5,000 Silver accounts, and you have the perfect environment for corruption.
According to the post, “By implementing this change, we believe our customers will experience more consistent ratings and a significantly reduced potential for abuse across the entire Xbox catalog.”
Microsoft investigated the possibility of “rolling back” questionable votes, but determined that wouldn’t be feasible. They are also investigating users who may have violated their user agreement during the ratings fiasco, and perpetrators could be banned from Xbox Live, have their games removed from the Marketplace and be forbidden from posting games in the future.
Developers seem appreciative of the change, but are upset that Microsoft won’t be rolling back the votes.
Robert Boyd, the developer who originally brought the ratings issue to light with an article on Gamasutra tweeted “MS apparently can’t rollback the 1-star ratings, but at least they’re making it harder for similar attacks to occur in the future.”
Matt Doucette, whose games Decimation x3 and Score Rush also plummeted on the Top Rated list tweeted “Another for the record, I had two ~top 30 games on #XBLIG out of ~2,000 games and now they are ~160 and ~170. Rating manipulation was real.”
Nate Fouts, developer of Shoot 1UP and Explosionade told Armless Octopus “I think Microsoft’s response is pretty a reasonable method of handling the ratings. It’s also very good that they did listen, deem this important, and respond in a pretty short timeframe. Limiting the people that can rate games means we’re not getting a perfect representation of our audience, but by limiting ratings to Gold members we may get a more accurate sampling. In a way, limiting ratings only to people paying for the LIVE service you hopefully get more ‘committed’ gamers rating games in the long run.”
What do you think think about Microsoft’s fix? Did they find an adequate solution or merely place a Band-Aid over a gaping wound?
Source: XNA Game Community Blog
Update: Added comments by Fouts
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.