Developers from Harmonix, the studio responsible for Rock Band 4, were caught Wednesday by fans posting positive five-star reviews for the game on Amazon. Less than 24 hours later, the rhythm game developer was issuing an apology for its employees bumping up the review of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One rhythm music game.
The fact that Harmonix employees were posting positive reviews on Amazon for Rock Band 4 was first discovered by Reddit user Camera9 and posted in the game’s Reddit forum. Even though some reviews were made anonymously, he simply clicked on the “Amazon Customer” name and through to the individual’s publish wish list to find the real name of the reviewer.
That led to seven five-star reviews posted by Harmonix employees, with one of them claiming to be a first-time Rock Band player. Once news of the chicanery got out, the studio was forced to issue an apology.
“Harmonix has clarified its internal policy about posting reviews of our own products on retail sites, and we’ve asked that existing reviews be edited to identify Harmonix employees or be removed entirely,” it told Destructoid.
“While we believe the reviews posted by a few employees were sincere and without ill intentions, as a studio we don’t believe these are appropriate actions. We appreciate the feedback from the community, and take our relationship with our fans seriously.”
Some of the more descriptive reviews were eventually removed, such as the one claiming to be new to the Rock Band series. Meanwhile, Matthew Nordhaus amended his short five-star review which read, “You can still rock in America. Aw yeeah. Aw right.”
“I added this review half in jest (as you might be able to tell from the tone of the original)…” Nordhaus added in the edit to his review. “In hindsight, it’s probably important that I note that I worked on the game and work for Harmonix. That being said, I’m confident that if I didn’t I would still give the game five stars. It’s a beautiful, peaceful, cooperative game, rare enough already in today’s landscape, that I can play with my wife and kids. Music discovery, playing with your family and friends, and cooperation make Rock Band my favorite.”
The current user reviews for Rock Band 4 on Amazon has the game sitting at 3.7 out of five stars. However, that may be going down. A couple of reviewers have already started protest reviews by giving the game only one star and noting in their comments that it is due to Harmonix employees posting five star reviews of their own game. Since news of this is still fairly new, this could potentially go viral and kill the overall rating of the game.
Still, the 3.7 star Amazon customer review score is in line with reviews from gaming outlets. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions currently sit at a 79 out of 100 on review aggregator Metacritic. The negatives against the game include a lack of modes and options that were available in previous games in the series.
It’s worth noting that it is generally considered unethical to post positive reviews of one’s own product. The reasons should be obvious. There is, of course, another reason why this is problematic for Harmonix and its partner Mad Catz, the maker of the plastic instruments. The two companies bet the farm with Rock Band 4. Mad Catz issued a debt warning earlier this year and had to extend itself with an additional $30 million in loans to publish and ship the game, as Game Informer reported in July.
What do you think of Harmonix employees posting positive reviews for Rock Band 4 on Amazon? Sound off in the comments below.
[Image via Harmonix]