Microsoft have taken steps to combat the “potential for abuse” in the ratings system on Xbox Live Marketplace, with particular relevance to the Indie Games section, by limiting the ability to rate games to Xbox Live Gold subscribers. It’s also been announced that those who may have previously abused the system will be investigated – with penalties including bans for those found guilty and the removal of offending titles from the Marketplace catalogue.
The move stems from accusations that certain developers have been manipulating the user rating system for Marketplace content to bring attention to their own titles. Prior to the overnight announcement, anyone with an XBL account, including the free Silver version, could rate content, including games in the Indie section. Higher ratings would push a game to a more prominent position on the Marketplace.
On their XNA blog, Microsoft explained that the move to only allowing Gold subscribers will hopefully lead to “more consistent ratings and a significantly reduced potential for abuse across the entire Xbox catalog”. While it is not possible to “roll back” suspicious votes, Microsoft “are investigating users who may have violated their user agreement during this series of events. Violating user agreements may result in actions up to and including banning from Xbox LIVE, removal of currently posted games, and loss of ability to post games in the future”, which could be immensely punitive to any Indie developer found to have engaged in this practise.