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.


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2017 @ 4:24pm

    Not trying to diss Valve or MS, but I thought this was from lawsuits

    As far as I remember, so don't flame war, but I thought Valve ran into trouble with EU laws, and needed to give 2 weeks for refunds, which they did. MS probably hit the same road block, and followed suit. Nothing new, nothing different, and it doesn't make sense publishing different laws to different countries, as we've seen from regional restrictions/VPNs, they are just some red tape for customers and companies alike.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2017 @ 4:54pm

    Hey, I might buy some more games now and in a Digital format now that I can get a refund.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2017 @ 5:42pm

    Re: Not trying to diss Valve or MS, but I thought this was from lawsuits

    According to this, refunds for digital goods are optional once the content is delivered:

    https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=8620-QYAL-4516

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    DCL, 18 Apr 2017 @ 8:04pm

    Not a word about EA

    Nobody seems to remember/mention that EA led the way by being the first major publisher to grant refunds for digital goods with their "Grest Games Guarantee" long before Steam even suggested they were planning it.

    But I am sure some folks will find a way to bash EA for being leading the way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2017 @ 8:53pm

    Re: Not a word about EA

    They may have been early, but the Origin return policy is only for 1st-party EA games and a small handful (about 10) of 3rd-party games.

    It's not really a meaningful comparison to full-fledged storefronts offering entire catalog (mostly) refunds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Johan, 19 Apr 2017 @ 12:48am

    Good

    This is very good now we can buy some more games because we know that can get a refund.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 3:09am

    Re: Not a word about EA

    As stated on the Origin help page for the GGG, it only applies to EA games and a small handful of third party games. It isn't store-wide.
    Both Steam's and Microsoft's refund policies apply to nearly every game purchased on their storefronts (I recall there being certain exceptions, probably to do with MMOs and third-party billing systems...).

    Further, in many ways it's a more restrictive "guarantee" than Steam's refund policy in every respect other than giving the user 24 hours after first launching the game to log a refund which, under specific circumstances, could give users a longer window than the 2 hours' playtime of the Steam automated refund process.

    So, yeah, it's not a terrible policy, but it's worse than Steam's.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Steve R. (profile), 19 Apr 2017 @ 4:01am

    When TOS Declined, No Refund Option

    I bought "CIV V" many years ago, I did not accept the the TOS but there where no instructions for getting a refund. Even after contacting Take-Two Interactive they refused to refund the money. One would think, on a DRM protected game, that when the TOS are not accepted you could return the game.

    Anyway, the credit card company was reasonable and gave me a courtesy refund.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 5:20am

    Re: Not a word about EA

    You mean the guys who caused the SimCity 4 debacle?

    Nah, you don't suddenly get to be praised for being a pile of shit for years, then started smelling a little less horrible for a day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    sammy solstice, 19 Apr 2017 @ 5:49am

    This better be true!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Apr 2017 @ 6:47am

    emulate it or buy it

    Microsoft wants the Windows Store to be the next Steam.

    In other news: If you buy a digital game, but you don't have a physical copy of said game (and the games DownLoadableContent), do you own said game? Years after purchasing the game, after it's servers have been shut down due to the developer being bought out by another company, will you still be able to play the game (including it's DLC) if you don't have a physical copy?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Jinxed (profile), 19 Apr 2017 @ 7:55am

    "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."

    We could have had this three years ago, when Microsoft announced it at their E3 event.

    Granted, the event wasn't going to win Best In Show, but Microsoft stated:

    • We'd be able to get refunds on games
    • We'd be able to share a full game with any friend who has been on our friend list of 30+ days
    • We'd be able to sell our digital games back

    All ruined because gamers screamed "DRM" and ran to Sony due to the misconception of "always online".

    This news is about as "good and important" as is "better late than never".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    PaulT (profile), 20 Apr 2017 @ 1:14am

    Re:

    "All ruined because gamers screamed "DRM" and ran to Sony due to the misconception of "always online"."

    I'll bite. What was the misconception, and how was that pile of crap not DRM?

    "This news is about as "good and important" as is "better late than never"."

    No, it's about "ooh look, MS could deliver on most of their promises without the crap they insisted was necessary (or on stuff they initially insisted was impossible such as backward compatibility)".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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