Conventional wisdom on Steam user reviews says "One's a crapshoot, but a thousand is pretty indicative of a trend." It's pure statistics. And yes, what we're measuring is the innately temperamental whims of the Internet, but that lifeline to the community can be useful. Sometimes.
But like any game reviews, the system's biggest weakness has been the tyranny of time: Games get updated, they get better (or worse) and the review score no longer reflects that.
Recognizing this, Valve introduced a pretty sizable overhaul of the Steam user reviews section on Tuesday. Borrowing heavily from Amazon's design, user reviews are now split into two columns—the left still for "Most Helpful," the right for "Recently Posted." Via Valve:
"While there are plenty of new reviews posted every day, we saw that it was often difficult for newer reviews to be seen and voted on enough to become listed as most helpful. As a result, the most helpful reviews presented on a store page would often describe an outdated view of a game that might have changed dramatically over the course of Early Access or post-release development."
Along with that change, Steam now shows two aggregate scores: Overall and Recent, with the latter a reflection of user opinion in the last thirty days.
Here's how it looks on Fallout 4, a game that had huge success out the gate but which has garnered less praise over time:
Finally, The Division:
It's not exactly the sexiest change, but for people who use Steam user reviews as one more data point when deciding on game purchases this new system should be pretty helpful—especially given the trend towards Early Access and perpetually-updating "Games as a Service."