The Future Is Now: Steam Finally To Allow Refunds On Digital Purchases

from the return-these-bits-and-bytes dept

It's no secret that Valve's Steam platform has had a rough go of it lately. Between a general rating of its customer service coming in right around "war-crime terrible" and the whole fiasco over creating a paid-mods system, Steam needed some good news and good PR. One of the longest standing complaints about Steam has been how one-sided its setup is, favoring game-makers over customers. Between the discovery of DRM and the failure to deliver on promised features, buyers rarely find any recourse with games purchased digitally on Steam, and end up having to eat that money poorly spent. But the times they are a-changing.

That's because this week Steam announced that it has joined the rest of us living in a normal world and will begin allowing refunds on games. There have been some complaints about when refunds will be allowed (more on that in a moment), but the policy is actually quite lenient.

You can request a refund for nearly any purchase on Steam—for any reason. Maybe your PC doesn't meet the hardware requirements; maybe you bought a game by mistake; maybe you played the title for an hour and just didn't like it. It doesn't matter. Valve will, upon request via help.steampowered.com, issue a refund for any reason, if the request is made within fourteen days of purchase, and the title has been played for less than two hours. There are more details below, but even if you fall outside of the refund rules we’ve described, you can ask for a refund anyway and we’ll take a look.

You will be issued a full refund of your purchase within a week of approval. You will receive the refund in Steam Wallet funds or through the same payment method you used to make the purchase. If, for any reason, Steam is unable to issue a refund via your initial payment method, your Steam Wallet will be credited the full amount.
That's very customer friendly, I have to say. Fourteen days and two hours is likely enough for most players to determine they'd want to return a game in most cases. It seems clear that this move is designed to engender some good-will and positive PR back on Steam's horrific customer service record. Whatever the motivation, gamers that use the platform should be quite pleased.

But, as I mentioned, there are those that aren't happy with the return policy parameters. Those people aren't gamers, however. They're game-makers, specifically non-AAA title game-makers.


Hmm, yeah, that's actually quite true. Kunzelman and others are pointing out that some of their games are quick-plays, specifically of the adventure styled variety, meaning that they're relatively inexpensive but don't have a ton of replay value (they'd probably argue that last point). This refund policy seems particularly geared towards the major publishers and AAA, 60-hour games, where two hours is enough to know if you like the general premise, play, and how the game runs on your machine, after which you can decide on the refund. Shorter games could be played and then refunded.

For what it's worth, Steam is claiming it will review such cases.

Refunds are designed to remove the risk from purchasing titles on Steam—not as a way to get free games. If it appears to us that you are abusing refunds, we may stop offering them to you. We do not consider it abuse to request a refund on a title that was purchased just before a sale and then immediately rebuying that title for the sale price.
It might be an even better solution to simply allow game-makers to have options on the game-time of their refund policy. Say, two hours, five hours, or thirty minutes. Then consumers could decide for themselves if less game-time was worth the risk of purchase. I imagine that would create more administrative work on Steam's end, but it ought to keep the indies happy.

In the end, I expect the details of the refund policy to get ironed out. For now, I'll just celebrate Steam finally offering refunds at all.

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Filed Under: refunds, steam, video games
Companies: valve


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  1. icon
    Violynne (profile), 4 Jun 2015 @ 8:55am

    Re: Re:

    Back from lunch, belly is full.

    I'm going to get this off my chest now, just so there's no confusion: I don't dislike you. What I dislike is this misconception of what Microsoft was intending to do as though it were a fact. Because as I read your opinions, I only see you failed to take the time to listen.

    Microsoft never had the chance to confirm or deny what the automatic check in would do. The entire issue was blown out of proportion when rumors first hit that the new console would require an internet connection all day.

    This was squashed when it was reported the internet was needed for a once-a-day check-in, but rather than wait and see, the gaming audience instantly went into the assumption mode of "games can't be played if check-in failed."

    Here's what Microsoft did say:
    -Gamers could install a game and play it without the need of the disk in the tray. DRM prevents this

    -Gamers could buy a game and give it to another user. DRM prevents this

    -Gamers could share their game with anyone on their friends list, even if the friend doesn't have the game. DRM prevents this

    -Gamers will have the opportunity to sell back their games. DRM prevents this

    Everything spouted by angry gamers made the internet connection the focal point without actually listening to a goddamn word said.

    The kicker: To this day, the XBox One requires an internet connection before the console can be used.

    It's unfortunate we will never know how Microsoft intended to distribute the new digital system, all because "required" was translated to "can't do shit" without justification.

    To be fair, there are some valid complaints about a console which doesn't have full-time (everyday, not 24 hours) access to the internet, but Microsoft was never given a chance to address those points.

    That's the issue I have with your position, Tim. Now you "sarcastically" (hard to tell with you) state Steam is finally giving refunds, but this is still shit compared to what Microsoft had in store.

    Come back to us when Steam announces the ability to sell back those old games people don't play anymore.

    All in all, this backlash ultimately ended with one result: MICROSOFT RESTORED THE DRM IT EFFECTIVELY TRIED TO REMOVE.

    All it asked for in return was a daily check in.

    Good luck trying to get a refund from Steam without an internet connection, DRM or not. If Steam can't wipe that game from your PC, you're shit out of luck on a refund.

    PS: In regard to the "high" remark (was that sarcastic too?), I don't think anyone expected full price for the game. Hell, when was this ever possible? Even if the most it gave back was $10, that's still better than nothing.

    Because once you take the game out of the equation, all you have is a service that credits and sells and Microsoft (et al) would still come ahead.

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