At least 20 curator pages with tens of thousands of followers vanished overnight.
(Image credit: Cowcat Games)
Earlier this week, indie developer Cowcat accused several Steam curators of trying to scam it out of free codes (opens in new tab) for its game, Brok the InvestiGator, and then publishing negative reviews after realizing the codes were actually for a free demo.
This ‘review revenge’ tactic appears to have backfired. Three days after a Twitter thread and Reddit post calling attention to the seemingly bogus reviews gained traction, all of the curators in question have been banned by Valve.
Reddit user darklinkpower, the author of the illuminating post (opens in new tab) which tied the reviews of nine suspicious curator pages to one admin account, published a follow-up (opens in new tab) noting that all of the curator pages they investigated are now offline. Clicking a direct link to any of the curator pages now redirects to the same message: “This group has been removed for violating the Steam Community Rules and Guidelines.”
In addition to the nine pages that posted negative Brok reviews, darklinkpower also noticed 11 more curators caught in this ban wave. Most of these pages banned had pretty generic names like One To Ten Reviews, Just Review It, Quality Detector, and my personal favorite, Brevity Is The Soul Of Wit. It’s possible that more fraudulent curators were banned last night, but it’s hard to tell unless you already know which pages to check up on. When Valve bans a curator, they’re no longer searchable on Steam.
The scale of this apparent curator scamming problem is unclear. If it’s apparently this easy to artificially inflate your follower count (possibly with bots), use your following as leverage to score free game codes and then sell them online, just how many pages are posting reviews for games they haven’t even played?
I trust that the most popular curator pages on Steam are legit (PC Gamer’s curator page (opens in new tab) is among them), and you know what you’re getting from funny gimmick curators like Commander Shepherd calling everything his “favorite game on Steam,” (opens in new tab) but Valve’s silent action here has me curious how often it hands out similar bans and how many more scammers are out there.
Valve has made no official comment about the curator bans. I’ve reached out for more information and will update if we hear anything back.