Developer suspects negative Steam reviews were written by vengeful scammers

Indie beat ’em up Brok the InvestiGator, released this week on Steam, wasn’t on my radar until its official Twitter account pointed out something strange about the reviews coming in from Steam curators. In a thread (opens in new tab) posted on Sunday, developer Cowcat claimed that it was targeted by fraudulent curators who wrote bogus reviews after not even playing the game.

After looking it over, the studio’s reasoning is sound. Of the 150 user reviews of Brok the InvestiGator published as of this writing, 99% of them are positive. As of yesterday morning, the only negative reviews had come from Steam curators (opens in new tab). In the case of several of these curators, Brok is the only negative review the account has ever given out of hundreds of games. It sure looks like a handful of Steam curator reviews, possibly posted by the same person, were written in retaliation to the developer. A day after Cowcat’s thread was posted, Brok’s negative curator reviews had turned into positive ones. Here’s how it all went down:

Prior to Brok’s release, Cowcat said it received “tons and tons” of requests from Steam curators asking for a review code. This is a standard practice for legitimate curator pages, streamers, and gaming sites alike, but it also opens the door to scammers hoping to score a free Steam code they can resell on gray market sites like G2A.

Of 204 games reviewed by this curator at the time, Brok was the only negative score. (Image credit: Cowcat Games)

Cowcat hoped to weed out the scammers with a clever workaround. Instead of sending codes for the full game, it sent codes for Brok the InvestiGator’s free prequel chapter, the idea being that legit curators would redeem the code and follow-up to ask for the full game while scammers would unknowingly sell the useless code on the graymarket. Cowcat reckon this might have worked a little too well. According to the dev, “very few” reached out wondering why they’d been sent a code for a demo, suggesting that “most of those emails are from scammers who did not even activate those keys on their account before posting a review.”

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