A lot of people are getting refunds on Steam

By Jos
Jun 11, 2015
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  1. steam guest refund policy steam refunds

    Steam refunds are a thing now, and they’ve proven pretty divisive. Some creators of smaller games are worried that the policy is too easy to exploit. But what do the numbers say?

    Steam refunds—previously offered rarely and on a case-by-case basis—can now be requested under almost any circumstance provided players have 1) spent two hours or less with the game and 2) owned the game for two weeks or less. The feature’s been in the wild for nearly a week, and developers have started reporting stats, with some claiming that their refund rate has skyrocketed to anywhere between 30 and 70 percent.

    The developers of Revenge of the Titans—a well-liked strategy tower defense game that’s been out since 2011—saw an unexpectedly large uptick in refunds. “55% refund rate on RoTT alone. Versus five refunds in 10 years direct,” they tweeted.

    Meanwhile, Qwiboo, developer of a procedurally generated space platformer called Beyond Gravity, chimed in with an even higher stat. “Out of 18 sales 13 refunded in just last 3 days. That’s 72% of purchases. Rate of refunds before was minimal,” they tweeted.

    Matt Gambell of RPG Tycoon paired his stat—”In these first 7 days of June out of the 60 average units sold, over 20 of those have claimed a refund”—with an observation about what he’d like to see out of Valve’s system: a better explanation as to why people asked for a refund of his game. That way, he could try to learn and improve—or at least patch any holes users find in his ship.

    Initially, this data doesn’t really show much except the fact that people ARE almost instantaneously using this refund feature. It’s also worth mentioning that 7 of those refunds show no purchase data (which would only mean that these are claims on the game purchased towards the end of May) and the other refunds were interesting. Looking at sales data it’s not unusual for some users to purchase multiple copies of the game (I imagine for gifting to other players) however one user purchased the game 7 times and then refunded 5 of them. (Did they buy 6 copies for friends, only to find that 5 of them already had it?)

    This is part of the problem. There’s no way of knowing WHY users have claimed a refund. There’s no communication with me as a developer. I have so many questions… Could it be that they were having technical issues? Is it something that could have been solved by talking to me? Did they ACTUALLY mistakenly buy 7 copies of the same game, is that even possible?

    He also worried that developers of DRM-free games—that is, games that don’t actually require Steam to run—might consider turning to DRM due to the ease with which someone can now make a copy of their game and then get a refund on Steam.

    Cliff “Cliffski” Harris of Democracy and Gratuitous Space Battles fame echoed that concern, albeit with a significantly lower refund percentage. He tweeted:

    Also read: Steam Refunds: Friend or Foe? An indie developer's perspective..

    “Bloody hell steam refund rate has gone from 0.09% to 17%. Methinks people are taking the piss. Here comes DRM again sadly.”

    Others like Phil Tibitoski, president of the company that created Octodad, offer a slightly less alarmed reaction. “Hoping it’s just an initial surge, but we got a 30% return rate since refunds were implemented. (For copies sold on sale a while ago.),” Tibitoski said on Twitter. “We’re not panicking, but are trying to understand and find a correlation to guess as to why they were returned.”

    He added that it seems like Valve is also approving refund requests for games purchased months ago and played for more than two hours. An odd wrinkle if accurate, and one I’ve mailed a question to Valve about. For now, though, it’s worth noting Valve’s announcement post on refunds does include this bit: “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.”

    Now, it’s important to note that these stats alone do not necessarily indicate that people are abusing the system. There was bound to be a sizable uptick in refunds after Valve lowered the barrier to entry. On top of that, many of the above games—while made by smaller developers—are not inherently short. Revenge of the Titans, RPG Tycoon, and Democracy are all about replayability. Things will get far more interesting (and telling) after a few weeks or months have passed and we’re able to measure how often people are saying, “shut up and un-take my money” and what sorts of games they’re most frequently doing it with.

    For the moment, all we can know for certain is that people are definitely making use of Steam’s new feature. That’s not a bad thing, nor is the idea of refunds on the whole. But it does signal both change and a possible need for further change, especially if it’s hurting makers of certain kinds of games or not serving its intended purpose of making people feel comfortable taking chances on new games. Whether that’ll come on the part of Steam, developers, or users, well, that remains to be seen.

    Read next: Steam Refunds: Friend or Foe? An indie developer's perspective.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Heaven forbid that developers need to make games that;
    A) Are playable on the PC platform
    B) Make people want to play for more than 2 hours

    I just wish this would have been around last november when I mistakenly bought AC Unity and Far Cry 4, neither of which run nicely on my machine to this day.

    As far as non-DRM games go, what keeps me from buying one copy and passing it around to 20 of my friends and neighbors? The same thing that will keep me from returning the game but keeping a copy. Integrity.

    With demos a thing of the past I think it is great that we FINALLY have a way to;
    A) Try out a new game I may have never heard of and see if I like it
    B) Return the games that do not function on PC, whether it be all PC's or just mine.

    B is going to effect AAA games almost always because most indie games on steam are made on PC for PC.
  3. RustyTech

    RustyTech TS Guru Posts: 820   +389

    Maybe now developers, who are actually trying to develop, will be visible among all the $h!t out there.
    With certain statistics available to the user, we could make better purchasing decisions - like what's the average return rate on a game and all games for that developer.
    Also, if we can search these stats with a filer...something like lowest return rate to highest.
    Jad Chaar and WangDangDoodle like this.
  4. FF222

    FF222 TS Booster Posts: 83   +29

    Why is it assumed when people request refunds in large numbers, that they (or most of them) are abusing the system? Maybe the games they just bought were really sht. Or maybe they are now buying also games which seem **** to see whether they're actually sht, just because now they can demand a refund if their assumptions prove to be true.
  5. Adhmuz

    Adhmuz TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,618   +494

    I wonder if I could return Dark Souls 2, that game was complete ****, played it for a couple hours, never again. If I could get back my $60 I'd be so happy, problem is I bought this crap over the 30 day policy. Well it's worth a try any way I look at it.

    On the bright side this should stem the development of horrible games being released on Steam, why release a game if people are just going to return it right after they realize how utterly bad it is. This is known as consumer protection laws in most of the world, it's about time Steam caught on with this.
    lipe123 likes this.
  6. Satish Mallya

    Satish Mallya TS Addict Posts: 124   +92

    What about the volume? Are you selling 30% more games, then seeing a 30% return rate?
    The refund policy reduces the barrier to entry; people will buy more freely, secure in the knowledge that if it turns out to be terrible, they can easily get a refund.

    It could also be that users are simply testing out the new feature with low value games (typically indie).
    SuperVeloce likes this.
  7. The devs that are balking at the surge of returns is hilarious. It went from .077% to 30%. Well duh, before people were very rarely allowed to return a game, and had to have a very good reason. Now if your game is ****, the people that realize it quickly can get rid of your garbage indie game. While the cases of one person buying 7 and returning 5 are perplexing, if you as a dev need to know why 30% of purchases are returned, maybe you should check your games discussion pages, forums, or e-mail, for the large number of people who will post there explaining exactly whats wrong with the game. Up until now, those cries have gone unanswered, but now the consumer has recourse for some of the junk that is thrown in our faces. We are one step closer to all devs being held somewhat accountable.

    Wish I could return the Witcher 1 & 2 that I bought for $5 a month or so back....
    BlueDrake likes this.
  8. Forebode

    Forebode TS Booster Posts: 73   +6

    As far as "early access" games,

    They may have to do something like pay reduced pricing and later offer an upgrade to make it a full game at a reduced cost. Or this could really hurt early access devs.
    As for the other stuff, 1-2hrs seems fine and fair. I hope other refunding methods are still allowed to avoid future possibilities of devs coding entertaining short games (3-4hr).
  9. WangDangDoodle

    WangDangDoodle TS Addict Posts: 199   +70

    Surge? What's happening here is that people are trying games! With a refund policy in place, we're no longer afraid of buying games, even at full price, because we can get our money back if we want to! Why bother reading and watching reviews when you can get some hands-on experience, right?

    When all is said and done, the developers will very likely make more money because people won't sit around waiting for a sale before buying their games. Half the games popping up on Steam these days are indie garbage, alpha/early access and/or just plain terrible. This new policy might just change things for the better.
    BlueDrake likes this.
  10. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,432   +473

    It would be awesome to be able to play a game for 2 days, as a demo, and after that you get the option to buy it if you would like to keep playing.

    I for example jumped the gun on the Spelunky hype a couple months ago, thought it would be awesome but it gets old too fast, for me at least, now I cant return it and probably won't play it either so...
  11. Kevin82485

    Kevin82485 TS Booster Posts: 159   +41

    I wish I could get a refund on Cities XXL, that game was ****.
  12. RustyTech

    RustyTech TS Guru Posts: 820   +389

    I was looking at that game, but then read good reviews about Cities: Skylines and decided to get it instead of Cities XXL. Skylines is really really really good ;)
    Kevin82485 likes this.
  13. BlueDrake

    BlueDrake TS Evangelist Posts: 346   +101

    The biggest issue is the amount of data, it's given in such a tiny window of course it looks so massive. In the span of say 5 days on the market you get sales, and then suddenly with refunds see people returning it. Throw those numbers out in front of people and say just literally, they are getting a huge refund rate on their game.

    Of course there's a massive "spike" in refunds, there was a refund system put in place. The likely chance of sales before, was as many have noted slim to none. This is an automated system for the most part, that will do the work that employees alone cannot do. There's a huge sale coming up also, so people were wanting anything sold they didn't want in the first place.

    If the game is being refunded, then there's likely a reason people don't want it.

    How about this instead:
    A) You consider reading reviews / forum posts to see why people dislike the game.
    B) Before throwing this data up in our face of a very tiny fraction of time, wait to see if there's any massive spikes in the weeks following.
    C) Don't scream and holler at Steam and users, just because they want their money back.
  14. Xclusiveitalian

    Xclusiveitalian TS Evangelist Posts: 699   +58

    Steam is littered with horrible buggy games that deserve no money, and are created as a clear cash grab. Look at that depression quest game with that nasty girl who slept with dozens of guys for good game reviews just to make money on her horrible game. Refunds protect us from being tricked especially since demo's (for some reason) don't exist anymore.

    In the good old days great game were abundant. They didn't have the tech of today, or the graphics, but they created great experiences. My only fear is this will bring the era of F2P, which sounds free but actually costs you way more than just buying the game.
  15. RustyTech

    RustyTech TS Guru Posts: 820   +389

    F2P is more like P2W
  16. Kevin82485

    Kevin82485 TS Booster Posts: 159   +41

    Yeah I got Cities Skylines the day it came out. It is an awesome game. Sets a new standard for city sims. Definitely a game I would have paid twice the amount for if they wanted it which is a stark contrast to the refund I want for Cities XXL.
  17. Skewed Input

    Skewed Input TS Rookie Posts: 31   +9

    Now people are pretty much renting the game for free. They would probably make more money by not putting product keys on them (Same as XBox & Playstation) then offer a "Rent to buy" option.

    They need to STOP making "Trailers" that literally have NOTHING to do with actual game play. These mobile-games are the worst, they show you an animated war scene, then you get to play a top-down horribly put together virtual board game...sounds like false advertising to me.
  18. Jad Chaar

    Jad Chaar TS Evangelist Posts: 6,477   +965

    This is good and bad. While I feel bad for developers, it is good for the consumer. Consumers can return games that do not live up to expectations or quality standards.
  19. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    I don't feel bad for the developer. If they can't make a game the consumers want to spend their money on, they don't deserve to have the consumers money.

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