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Mile-wide Microsoft loophole allegedly lets voters scam XBLA game ratings, makes Cthulhu sad

Big dramas in the world of downloadable Xbox 360 development today, with the news that MS is launching an official investigation into a vote-rigging corruption that has seen one dev boost its game's popularity on XBLA past that of its rivals in a supiciously short period of time. The thing is, by the sounds of it, Microsoft really needs to prioritise investigating it's own system, which sounds pretty broken given the details of the story.

The issue centres around College Lacross 2011, a downloadable indie game from Triple B Games. Following a Facebook post on March the 24th, which provided players with a link to Xbox.com where they could upvote the game in XBLA's rankings, the game's rating shot up.

Nothing particularly wrong there, but then a little while later Robert Boyd of Zeboyd Games - maker of XBLA indie hits Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII - noticed that his games' ratings were dropping drastically. Cthulhu dropped from the number six ranking spot to number eleven in under a week, over roughly the same period that College Lacross shot from the mid top-twenty to the top five. Another six days later, Cthulhu Saves the World was down to number twenty.

A 14-place drop in not very long at all. Tomfoolery, he suspected, was afoot. And that tomfoolery, Boyd feels, is happening by way of Triple B's fans actually downvoting successful rival titles. It's all remarkably coincidental timing if not, and it's perhaps telling that Triple B's Facebook page now contains a note asking people not to downvote. You know. Just in case they were thinking of doing.

Microsoft is now investigating the issue, but the real problem as I see it seems to be with the way Microsoft runs this stuff. The rapid increase in voting was possible because Triple B linked its audience to College Lacross' page on Xbox.com, which allows anyone to set up a free account and vote on games. You don't need to have bought the game or played the demo to vote on it. You don't even need to own an Xbox 360. The system, clearly, is a bit broken and wide open to scamming.

Who's to blame here, if Boyd's allegations are accurate? Not Triple B, I'd say. All they did was try to rally their community to support their own game. The downvoters? Yeah, I'd say those guys deserve a fairly hard slap. After all, the idea of giving a humble indie title some benevolent nurturing support by smashing down another humble indie title is just idiotic, and really rather disgusting. But more than anyone else, I'd say Microsoft really needs to sort its shit out. The internet is full of people, and people are idiots. You can't trust them not to be idiots, so the very least you have to do is create mechanisms that limit their options. So do it.

Cheers, Gamasutra!

March 30th, 2011

Topics

Microsoft

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12 comments

  • EsotericFerret - March 30, 2011 11:13 a.m.

    Microsoft really needs to step back and reevaluate how they support the indie games on XBL, and fixing this issue with the voting should be right up there at the top.
  • Yaro - March 30, 2011 11:16 a.m.

    OMG! Dave H broke the hive-mind writing style!! =\ But yes, I agree completely with the last paragraph.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - March 30, 2011 11:23 a.m.

    That sucks for games that got downvoted.
  • EnragedTortoise1 - March 30, 2011 11:35 a.m.

    It's like promoting the world's cutest pets by having them fight each other. ...oh, wait..
  • db1331 - March 30, 2011 12:06 p.m.

    I really hate vote whoring. Put your product out there, then just sit back and see how the players respond to it. I can't stand all this HIT THE LIKE BUTTON/SUBSCRIBE/FAVORITE FOR A CHANCE TO WIN crap. It comes off as extremely desperate.
  • NotBraze - March 30, 2011 12:30 p.m.

    On the iTunes music store/App Store you can't rate anything that you haven't purchased for this very reason. That's what Microsoft needs to do here, restrict rating privileges to people who have actually purchased and played the game.
  • DizzyDial - March 30, 2011 12:34 p.m.

    Having been acquitted by a jury of their peers, the Duke Lacross program has moved on to smaller yet more devastating crimes. But really, the only people I know who have played the lacross indie games are total bros. Would it surprise you to see a totally awesome retro-RPG go unappreciated by them? Would it surprise you to see them bash it for being 'gay' and downvoting?
  • PimplesInYourAsstista - March 30, 2011 1:11 p.m.

    Those that downvoted Cthulhu Saves the World ought to have a shoggoth mailed to 'em.
  • ayoyo227 - March 30, 2011 1:51 p.m.

    I just wanted to say that you misspelled lacrossE but apart from that I didn't think that companies could tell people to downvote other companies games. I thought there was some sort of honor code that you couldn't break.
  • Kyo - March 30, 2011 2:15 p.m.

    wow and Cthulhu saves the world is a good game too -.- I think even though sony kinda took the "give stars to the games/demos you like" thing from ms.. they do it a little better by not letting anybody that hasn't paid for it/downloaded it rate it.
  • BurntToShreds - March 30, 2011 2:36 p.m.

    I'm gonna have need to get Cthulhu Save the World now. It looks awesome.
  • Spybreak8 - March 31, 2011 4:52 a.m.

    I always love it when games get rated before they're even out. AH yes the hype train is working. I agree with you sir, good read here.

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