'Review-bombing' seems to be becoming more and more popular these days, with Kunai becoming the latest game to receive such treatment from a disgruntled stranger. If you're unaware, the term refers to the act of giving games a very low and unjustified user score on websites such as Metacritic, lowering its overall user review score average and therefore indicating that it's a 'bad' game.
We've almost come to expect it with certain major releases - both major Pokémon releases have been targetted on Switch, with fans being quick to accuse developer Game Freak of every trick under the sun, and games like Astral Chain have also come under fire simply for being exclusive to the console - but the trend appears to be moving towards indie games, too.
Game programmer Benjamin de Jager managed to find out that, in Kunai's case, there was only one person to blame which is extra-unusual. In a blog post on Gamasutra, he presented evidence of a Reddit user almost boasting about their revew-bombing antics, explaining that they manipulated Metacritic's score system. The bomber said, "I made like 200 different accounts just to ruin the game's score".
Some of the negative impacts of an act like this are obvious - would you spend money on a game if you saw that lots of (seemingly real) users appeared to overwhelmingly dislike it? - but it goes much deeper than that. The folks over at GamesIndustry.biz have shared an interview with producer Bram Stege and Dotemu head of marketing Arnaud De Sousa, who explain the "very stressful" impacts review-bombing can have. We've shared some select quotes below.
De Sousa: "Review bombings are something we see from time to time. But usually not on indie games, and usually they have a message behind it. Because developers change something, because the online is really bad -- usually there's an agenda behind it. But here it's just a random dude picking a random game to review bomb because they can."
Stege: "It causes stress. You hope that the audience of Metacritic is smart enough to see, 'Oh, they got an 8.3 from the critics and a 1.6 from players, so there must be something up.' You hope it doesn't affect sales. I don't know if it affected sales. But it does generate a lot of stress. You've been working for two years on this game. You put all the blood, sweat, and tears into it. And then one guy on a Sunday afternoon with basically no effort can bomb your score from a big, positive score to a 1.7. It's very stressful."
It also has an effect on a studio going forward, especially when it comes to learning about what players like and dislike about certain game features.
De Sousa: "We're always looking at reviews. It's interesting just to have the feedback... When you're working on the game for two years, you get tunnel vision and you don't always see other points of view. Sometimes, we see reviews and it's just someone who played the game 20 minutes and gave it a 0, so it does depend on the quality of the reviews. But someone who played the game for 30 hours and gave good feedback, whether it's positive or negative, it's really interesting to read."
The full interview is an interesting read, so we'd encourage you to check it out here if you're interested.