Microsoft Follows Valve Down The Road Of Refunds On Digital Game Purchases
from the follow-the-leader dept
With Steam’s policy for providing refunds on digital game purchases being roughly two years old, many people forget the context of the time when Valve began offering those refunds. It’s worth being reminded that at that time nobody in the neighborhood of the Steam client’s popularity was offering any real avenue for getting refunds on digital game purchases. Those that did mostly did so under the most restrictive conditions, with insane single-digit day windows in which a refund could be had, and only for certain reasons, of which the game being shitty was not included. Steam’s criteria was that you could request a refund during a two-week period for any reason, be it the game not living up to expectations, the gamer’s machine not being able to run it properly, or anything else. The other contextual aspect to keep in mind was that Steam had endured several weeks of absolutely brutal PR, with awful customer service ratings and the whole fiasco over its attempt at creating a paid-mod system.
Still, Valve broke the mold in some respects with the new policy, forcing the competition to keep up. It took two years, but Microsoft recently announced that both its Xbox and Windows 10 marketplaces will likewise offer refunds on digital purchases, with the same fourteen-day window and the same requirement that the game not have been played for more than two hours.
Microsoft’s self-service refunds work much like returns do on PC game-download service Steam. Shoppers have up to 14 days after purchasing a game or app to request a refund, and that will only work if the software in question has not been used for more than two hours while owned. Similar to Steam, Xbox and Windows 10 users will have to navigate to an “order history” section of their account to request such a refund, rather than any obvious tabs or buttons within a given game or app’s landing page. However, this can only be done through a Web browser pointed to account.microsoft.com, as opposed to the Xbox One or Windows Store dashboards.
It’s Microsoft, so of course it would have to be more complicated than it should be, but this is still a good and important step. For far too long, digital purchases for all kinds of goods — video games included — were viewed as somehow different from a consumer rights standpoint than a physical product. This sense of difference propagates itself in many directions, but the ability to get refunds on products was certainly one of them. It’s far past time that the fake wall that’s been erected between digital goods in terms of consumer rights had some bricks pulled from it, and these refund policies are a good start.
They also serve to show how the competition will respond when one company begins treating its customers well, which is essentially to play follow the leader. You can bet that all eyes are now on the PlayStation Network to see exactly how long it will take for Sony to keep up with the competition.