Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 05, 2015
Steam refunds provide pre-order purchase consumer protection

This week Steam changed their refund policy and is now offering to refund you for any purchase for any reason as long as you didn't own the game for more than 14 days and didn't play it for more than 2 hours. So in the light of the recent discussion on pre-purchasing games, I checked the fine print of that refund policy: The 14 days period starts on the day the game is released, not on the day you purchase it. Which means that if you pre-ordered a game due to marketing hype and it turns out that the game is shit on release, you can get a refund. Now that should prevent some of the worst shenanigans of marketing departments.

I am honestly surprised by the amount of articles that I have read who find fault with the new Steam refund policy. Apparently many developers and so-called video game journalists believe that if customers are given even the most basic consumer rights, they will abuse those rights to the point of destroying the market. For me that is just yet another example of developers and journalist focusing too much on a small number of "hardcore" players, who admittedly are a bunch of evil miscreants willing to screw everybody by gaming the system. But the average customer of a video game today isn't a hardcore gamer any more. And regular honest customers deserve protection, because there are also enough developers who are basically just criminals out for a quick buck.

Really, if I am ever going to use the Steam refund policy it will be because I think I have been cheated by some developer whose game is far from working as promised. I would never try to get a refund for a game just because I managed to play through it in 1 hour 59 minutes. And if that refund policy leads to developers making DLCs which have actually more than 2 hours worth of content, that is to be applauded. I don't want to buy a salami thin slice by thin slice, ending up paying double or triple for what the whole salami is worth. The refund policy has an abuse clause, so for me that is sufficient protection for developers; somebody systematically using the system to get a refund for every game he buys is going to end up being banned from Steam, which is how it should be.

I fully applaud the new Steam refund policy. I should go a long way to improve their "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau. And consumer protection is certainly one of the steps needed to raise games from being "niche" and "special" to becoming grown up and a media product like all others.

The information about beta release is the most important part of this information and yet I have not read anything about it in the press.
This can be a game changer for me : I never buy not released game from fear of buying a never finished game - or that the finished game is not the game I bought and love in beta.
There will always be some who abuse the return policy, but that's the same in every industry.

It's a bit offensive to say it will be a widespread problem, every single customer on Steam already shows that s/he is willing to pay for games instead of downloading a cracked version. The few who abuse the system will get VACed and everyone else is able to return a game like a pair of shoes that don't really fit.

The next step should be the possibility to sell games after I played them enough like I can with physical media. But I guess that's not coming because it doesn't only interfere with Valves revenue but could also be used to transfer funds between players for which Valve probably would have to get a banking license like paypal.
There is just a small catch: refund requests are checked and processed by someone at Steam. Knowing Steam's customer care times/quality, I don't feel exactly "safe" about that. I mean sure, you can ask for a refund... But it wont be an automatic process where the system checks total_played_time and time_from_purchase variables and you're done. It has to be done... manually.
It makes me worry a bit for artsy little games you can buy for $2 and complete in 20 minutes. I would rather the policy was no refunds after you run the program once.

Eww, this program is used.... T_T
I agree.

However, I am a tad more sympathetic to the "not trusting gamers" argument. I used to loathe DRM e.g. the draconian examples from the past. On the other hand, looking at game piracy, if I were masochistic enough to be a game developer, I think I would do some DRM (e.g. always on)
It does not give protection to developers and the main concern is user score bombing.
Buy the game
Leave a bad review

User score down. Sales down
for smaller devs 100 bad reviews can kill their game when it just launched.

In real life if you returned the item you can't leave some shit near entry
On steam you can write bad review for 0 now.

Before you had to own the game making your opinion valid
Right now ubisoft can just shot down any smaller competitor by 300 bots

Right now ubisoft can just shot down any smaller competitor by 300 bots

Yeah, because that would never be found out and be a complete PR disaster.

Have you thought about the possibility of somebody returning the game and writing a bad review because the game is actually shit? Steam is full of shovelware right now because it didn't have a refund policy before.
1) Have you heard how the Steam Refund policy affects the latest trend of Early Access. SOE/DBG had already sold over $20M of H1Z1 in early access. If I buy and play 200 hours of H1 over the next few months, and it Releases on Dec 15th, then does my 2 week window start now or Dec 15? Imagine all the returns of $149 Archeage Early Access at launch.

2) If someone ignores your advice and pre-orders Fallout 4, then they may not have much recourse from the manufacturer. But they have 2W/2H protection from Steam. So aren't customers better off preodering from Steam than the manufacturer? I.e. the manufacturer is pushing people to where the publisher receives 70% of their direct sale price. So will manufacturers need to match Steam's refund policy?

Refunds on Pre-Purchased Titles
When you pre-purchase a title on Steam (and have paid for the title in advance), you can request a refund at any time prior to release of that title. The standard 14-day/two-hour refund period also applies, starting on the game’s release date.
I don't think you can get a refund on Early Access title if you had that "early access" for more than 2 weeks and used it for more than 2 hours. I've read that Turbine sold alpha/beta access to Infinite Crisis, and that they aren't refunding people after announcing that the game will never launch.
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