Over the last few weeks, we've reported on multiple misuses of the Xbox Live Indie star rating system that many developers rely on to draw attention to their games. Lacrosse fans were caught down-rating games to push their title up the rankings, and an online design agency was embarrassingly caught in the act of commissioning 5000 fake Xbox Live accounts to abuse the system. After investigating the situation, Microsoft have completely overhauled the mechanics - and we have the full details below.
On the MSDN blog, Microsoft states that only Xbox Live Gold members can give star ratings to games as of today.
We’ve heard your feedback and have made some changes to the ratings system on Xbox.com. Starting [yesterday], only users with Xbox LIVE Gold subscriptions will be allowed to rate content on the Xbox.com website.
Microsoft apparently looked into removing the suspect votes that caused many deserving games to slip into obscurity, but "determined it will not be possible to do this." To be honest, it'd be a massive undertaking that would require the manpower and resources of a full criminal investigation, and we can understand the reasoning behind it.
This move is certainly a step in the right direction, but speaking as an Indie journalist (and running the risk of sounding extremely ungrateful), I'm not convinced that it's necessarily the best way to go about making the rating systems fairer for everyone in the long run. Many free members download and play Indie games on a regular basis, and denying their votes doesn't seem particularly fair. Surely it can't be to difficult to check whether an account has downloaded the game using the purchase history, and weighting the votes accordingly?
Either way, this is what's happening. [MSDN Blog]