After noticing the ratings of their games drop significantly in the past week, Xbox Live Indie Developers are crying afoul.
The Xbox Live Indie Games marketplace is full of games developed by small teams and whether a game lives or dies can often depend on it rising to the top of the list through user ratings. If a lot of people like a game, others are more likely to drop a buck or two on it. But a week ago, Robert Boyd - maker of Cthulhu Saves the World - saw that his game was suddenly getting a lot of 1 star ratings. He traced the problem back to a call to arms from the makers of College Lacrosse: The Video Game on its Facebook page for fans to rate the game highly. And even though the page now says, "Please remember to not rate other games low to help CL11," it seems that many of the 177k fans did just that. The result? Games that have enjoyed high ratings for excellent work were suddenly losing ranks on the list while the two Lacrosse from Crosse Studio. Microsoft has said that it is aware of the problem, but no changes to the rating system has been made.
"There's nothing wrong with asking your fans to rate your game positively," Boyd wrote on Microsoft's App Hub forums, "but it looks like some of their fans were overzealous and started 1-starring other high rated games in attempt to make it easier for the Lacrosse games to rise through the ranks."
Understandably, indie developers are quite miffed that the system can be so easily screwed with. "I have no idea how this sort of thing could be prevented, but I'm really upset," Boyd said. "We were really hoping that our upcoming patch would give our game the little push it needed to finally stabilize in the top 5 rated. Now, it looks like we'll be lucky just to get our old rank back."
Microsoft's XNA Creators Club knows that something might be wonky. "We are investigating a possible misuse of ratings on #XBLIG titles. We'll announce more information here as it develops," read a statement on Twitter yesterday.
Many of the developers in the App Hub forum have been talking about ways to improve the system, but the biggest problem seems to be that users don't have to play the game they are rating, or even own an Xbox. Changing that policy might go a long way to reducing this kind of manipulation.