Public Relations

Dealing With Review Bombing as a Developer

Wahid Lodin
April 24, 2024

As a video game developer, negative reviews are difficult to deal with. You put all of yourself into a project to the point where it feels less like your audience is criticizing the game and more like they’re pointing fingers at you. Unfortunately, these reviews come with the territory. They’re part of the experience of game development. 

Until, that is, they become a means of attack. A handful of negative reviews with valid concerns is commonplace. Even the most polished AAA titles have their detractors. When those reviews flood in by the hundreds and offer no real criticism, then you’re facing a review bombing. 

What is Review Bombing?

In short, review bombing is when consumers leave negative reviews en masse regardless of whether they have experience with a product or not. Typically, this happens when a game suggests a political stance, but as Capcom recently saw with Dragon’s Dogma 2, it may be in response to a feature. In the case of the long-awaited sequel, it was due to microtransactions for what many players believed to be essential in-game items. 

Ironically, it’s a practice Capcom has followed for many of its previous titles, such as Resident Evil 4, which allowed players to purchase a treasure map and weapon upgrade tickets. Regardless, and for as excited as players were to finally play Dragon’s Dogma 2, the game amassed over 21,000 negative reviews within a week of launch. Granted, some were valid criticisms of the game, but it’s impossible to ignore the number of Steam users that left a negative review (many citing microtransactions) with less than an hour of playtime.    

Dealing with Review Bombing

As an indie developer, you’re less likely to be review-bombed. However, anything can happen when you go public with your game. Especially if your title or your values make a statement about virtually anything. You can usually tell when you’re about to face a sea of negative reviews as the discourse starts on social media platforms or even Reddit. 

Follow threads directly related to your game to gauge public response and whether any of your messaging is being ill-received. If you start to see discussions shifting from positive chatter to ripplings of negativity, there’s no need to worry. Even if more and more people pile into the discourse, there are a few things you can try to avoid being on the receiving end of a review bombing when your game releases (or, sometimes, even before its launch):

Listen to What’s Being Said 

If your game drew negative attention due to a very unpopular mechanic, though, there may be a conversation worth having. As the developer, you like to think you know what’s best for your game. It can be difficult to admit that you may have made a misstep with a mechanic. 

Consider what happened to Star Wars: Battlefront II and how its progression system was completely anti-consumer. The time and monetary expense needed to unlock characters and perks drew a ton of negative attention and review bombing, resulting in a much-needed change to how the game handled microtransactions. 

If you agree with your audience, communicate the changes you plan on making and why you felt they were necessary. An open line of dialogue is a fantastic way to regain the trust of your players. 

Don’t Engage 

If consumers are calling you out for a stance or something tied to your beliefs, it’s best to disengage from the conversation. Just as your players can’t force you to follow their beliefs, you won’t be able to convince them to see your side of things. Sometimes, you may have to submit to losing a segment of your audience, especially if you’re dealing with a hot-button stance.

Instead, try to refocus your marketing to reach an audience more aligned with your messaging or values. You won’t be able to stop the shallow negative reviews from coming in, but you can try to balance them with real, honest critiques. 

Don’t Get Deflated

Most developers will agree that negative reviews are hard to ignore. Even when they have nothing to do with your game’s mechanics or story, like many review bombings don’t, they sting. All you can do is press on. Don’t let it keep you from pursuing your passion project or delivering experiences to your core audience. 

Maybe walk away with a lesson, like being careful about who your messaging reaches or being mindful of how you present certain ideas. Being review-bombed doesn’t have to be a loss. It can be a learning experience or, if you care to spin it more positively, a sign that you have what it takes to reach a significant audience. 

Mind Your Messaging

At Loopr, we fine-tune the consumer-facing message to ensure developers don’t receive negative backlash. Need help putting yours together? We’d like to work closer with you to keep you from suffering under the heavy hands of mob mentality.

Contact us today so we can help develop your press releases, web content, and more to ensure they reach the right audience and keep you an arm’s length away from getting review bombed.



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