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Friend or foe: A walk through Steam's new refund process

By Jos · 22 replies
Jun 11, 2015
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  1. steam refund friend foe valve steam refund guest steam refunds

    On Tuesday Steam added a refund procedure that allows you to get a full refund on any Steam game you’ve purchased in the last 14 days, for any reason, as long as you’ve played the game for less than 2 hours. On the surface this change brings Steam up to code in many European countries that require this by law. And it will certainly do right by players in every other country.

    But the sudden manner in which the refund program was announced and implemented has many developers asking: “Is this good for me?”

    It would be prudent to know what Steam added. Last night I “accidentally” purchased Assassin’s Creed III. It was the first best-seller game I found that was inexpensive, old, and from a major publisher. I didn’t want to cause grief for a smaller developer or new title. Let’s go through the new refund flow together.

    Read the complete article.

  2. On one side yes, this screws up developers
    on the other side, serves them right for killing the good old tradition of having demos for games
    Julio Franco and Liana like this.
  3. Seriously needs to change. I could understand broken, misleading or incomplete games. But to just say naa I dont like it; kinda sucks for developers who put a large amount of hours into their game, especially short games that play under 2 hours and are like £5. I'ts essentially a game rental except the developer makes no money
    Phr3d and Julio Franco like this.
  4. Surely it makes more sense to just ban users who are doing that. Much easier to detect abuse of the system when its a game but the the amount of holes in this policy is insane
  5. Darren Walsh

    Darren Walsh TS Rookie

    I think devs should put in an achievement for completing 25% of the game lets say and If you are over this threshold you shouldn't be allowed a refund. Of course steam would have to support this change.. But at the moment I could buy a small indie game and complete it within two hours then return it for a full refund madness.
    Julio Franco likes this.
  6. I think this is a good way to protect consumers from the indie game developer bloat and early-access plague that has swept across steam. There are SO many indie games on the platform that seem to be made in a few weeks by some wanna-be game dev trying to cash in on the indie game craze. People can tell the difference between titles like Hotline Miami and Minecraft in the first few minutes compared to the dime a dozen retro sidescoller that somehow makes it onto steam. This is ONLY good for the market overall. Force devs to make quality games. They don't have to trick us into playing for two hours, just ENGAGE me for two hours. Thats all I want.

    Also, how will this new refund work for the greenlight and early access? Early access is supposed to be bad, and if you spend money on pie in the sky false promises about features and gameplay, you deserve to lose your money to the aforementioned devs with three weeks of development experience who can't write a single line of code.

    P.S. the author of this article comes off very biased in favor of developers. Enough so that it feels more like a propaganda piece than a journalistic work. Does Techspot need an opinions column like the major news sites?
  7. yukka

    yukka TechSpot Paladin Posts: 854   +64

    I feel sorry for the developers who have short games that are completable in less then 2 hours.

    However, getting refunds for Steam games has been something that should have happened years ago. The idea that you have no consumer rights if you buy digitally was/is ridiculous. And some games just won't work on certain configurations of PC. I play many games without issue and I always had a problem with the newest Aliens vs Predator. It always crashes just when I am settling in to a session. I would have refunded that happily and as a result I have never played more than the first couple of levels before I uninstall it again. Freezes the whole PC.
    Julio Franco likes this.
  8. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,279   +105

    The PC indie market currently lives on collectors. That to me is a bad thing. Steam refunds will mean that more people will actually play indie games, and I think that's a good thing.
    gingerbill likes this.
  9. Kevin82485

    Kevin82485 TS Booster Posts: 160   +41

    I'm on the consumer rights side of this. Previously consumers had zero rights if they bought something they didn't like or if it didn't work on their system. I mean I can get a refund for all other products/items I buy. If I buy microwave, and it doesn't work or doesn't cook food well, I can take it back to the store and get a refund. How is returning a game for similar reasons any different? The developer would have made their money and wouldn't have any repercussions for making a sub-par product.

    Look at Assassin's Creed Unity. Ubisoft has the reputation for making great games and the AC series is known for being great. A lot of people bought AC Unity, and were upset by the quality of the game. All those people had the expectation that the game would be as great as previous entries because of Ubisoft's reputation, but they got the rug pulled from under them, and depending on how you want to look at it, were duped into buying Unity. What course of action did consumers have? The couldn't get a refund. They could only complain and hope Ubisoft fixed the game. Basically there was no way to hold developers accountable.

    I think this refund policy helps ensure to some degree that developers stop releasing unfinished games too early. That kind of stuff has been going on too long. This will encourage to developers to finish their games before release.

    This might also encourage some developers to do away with DLC or make some/all of it available for free. Release a game that is packed full of content and maybe people will be more intrigued and engaged in the game and want to keep it.
    Julio Franco, BlueDrake and yRaz like this.
  10. yRaz

    yRaz TS Evangelist Posts: 2,145   +1,221

    If someone makes a crappy product that doesn't perform as advertised, then the person who made it isn't deserving of getting money from other people. The only developers this hurts are the ones that make crappy games.

    Although, I don't think 2 hours is nearly enough to judge whether a game is good or not. 5 hours would be more reasonable. Sometimes the hype of having a new game makes it more enjoyable than it actually is, and it takes a few hours for that to wear off.

    When I buy a game, I want to get at least 100 hours out of it, many games I get 3-400 hours out of. You can hardly judge a game by the first two hours. 14 days is reasonable, but that 2 hour thing is garbage. The limitations set in place are for people who buy a game and don't play it, not people who play the game and don't like it, so the devs are still coming out on top. This is mostly symbolic because it wont apply to 90% of cases with that 2 hours of game play limit
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2015
    Julio Franco and BlueDrake like this.
  11. BlueDrake

    BlueDrake TS Evangelist Posts: 360   +105

    To note on crappy games, we've got a ton of them flooding Greenlight / Early Access. Soon as they get into Steam and are asking for money, we should have some right to expect a refund. Which wasn't possible before and people could easily throw them at $2-10, get enough people to buy it and move onto something else.

    2 hours is a fair starting point, then saying "You have 3 days to play before refunding" or anything. It's a starting point and niche games that are 2 hours or less, why should people buy you for say $10+? Is there something about you, that is worth keeping you in a library? If it's a linear game that likely will be played once, can you make that time worthwhile they might want to return to it?

    Why should people put down $10 or more, on a game that has almost no reason to charge that much? I'm not saying developers shouldn't ask for money, on something unique they made. Just you have to put a price to enjoyment ratio, that someone will happily spend on your product. Not just rip them off, as they will likely want their money back instead.

    Big budget games are almost always $60 with then likely stripped out content, that was made into DLC for more money. To make their profits back on said game, but I find that price is a bit too high for my standards. Especially now with Steam doing local currency conversions, even if it's just one static price to make those games less appealing. It's instead usually $70+ for a single big budget game, obviously what it would be with conversions. Just that price suddenly tells me "Don't buy me, I'm too expensive" and I wait for sales.

    Also to note in the article, they should list out abuse. Then people can game the system, it's a fledgling system put in place right now. We seen how the paid mods went over, and the outrage which lead to it being pulled. That was obviously a major issue from all sides (Valve, mod authors and consumers), but we need to work out things on everything.

    Developers need to not stir the pot, driving everyone into a frenzy because their games are being refunded. Thus losing money on their game sales because it's going to, sooner or later cause this system to be scrapped or reworked to be worse than before. Taking a tiny snapshot (3 days as example from Qweebo), and using that to scare everyone, because that is such a minimal amount of time and people are testing the system.

    I'd like to see actual games refunded, based on last played times as well. Games you might have gotten years ago, tried once and then didn't bother since it doesn't work. Why should those games sit in your library, collecting dust is another thing. Of course this is the trial run, expect to see some changes later on.
    Julio Franco likes this.
  12. Look, if I wanted a game for free I'm damn sure I don't need to go through some convoluted buying/refund bollocks, to get it for free. So implying that drm is needed to get your money is only going to make it MORE likely I will ask for a refund.
    I'm fed up to the back teeth of the forcing of drm on me when I can get that **** for **** all if I wanted to!
  13. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,313   +537

    Looked like there was a pull-down menu when requesting a refund - were there other options other than the Steam wallet? Heard from a friend that he had the option to have his money credited back to his Paypal account...

    If THAT is true, than Steam also loses on a refund - which might give EVERYONE the incentive to get quality games on there...
  14. Refunds are the best thing to happen to PC in a long time, **** off with your anti consumer bullshit. Make good games that people don't want to refund also trying to create controversy around this is getting ridiculous seriously sick of this go shitpost on twitter.
  15. LNCPapa

    LNCPapa TS Special Forces Posts: 4,247   +448

    I kind of wish there was no refund policy other than the difficult one it's always had. There are a lot of dumb and/or ignorant people out there who will game the system and I think we're running the risk of making Steam a less pleasant service than it is now. I love Steam as it has been... I just hope this doesn't start a downhill movement. Honest mistakes where people accidentally buy multiple copies of a game should be no brainers for a refund, but I think there should be a good bit of scrutiny and not allow people to be as impulsive as we already know they are. There should be some thought to any purchase made and a lesson learned for bad purchases. To me, this is getting close (but not exactly) to not having to deal with consequences for your actions.
  16. This will force developers to make quality products.
  17. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,161   +3,259

    Steam is not the only platform to buy crap games. Somehow I doubt this will change anything.
  18. BSim500

    BSim500 TS Guru Posts: 292   +448

    - "Or, the player might request a refund, think about how they weren’t that into your game anyway, and then decide to not even re-buy it at the sale price."

    So no different from playable demo's then? (And why did they kill off playable demo's? Because it hurt bad / badly ported / over consolized / buggy games disproportionately more than good games...) Good games will still sell. It's the dross that "needs" to hide pre-purchase gameplay as an over-hype sales crutch.

    - "The entire business of F2P is structured around converting installs into customers. When Steam users learn to behave like installs, which they will because everyone wants free stuff and no one likes buyer’s remorse and Steam is telling them to, Steam developers will have to start thinking with funnels."

    I'd sooner smash up my computer with a hammer than "play" F2P mobile games on it. That stuff has already turned the mobile market stores into a toxic wasteland filled with 100,000 "Match 3" ripoff clones of 2001-era Popcap flash games like Bejeweled, Zuma, etc, which you could buy outright for $5-10 about 14 years ago, but now apparently need to "rented" or "monetized" with micro-transactions to the tune of average $22 per gamer (with adverts stuffed in on top). No thanks.

    - "Paid games have a pesky problem where they cap spend on happy customers."

    A "pesky problem" which is normal for 99% of all products & services sold including the rest of the entertainment industry's market. I buy DVD's, Blu-Ray's, CD's, books, magazines & games. I do not "rent" them page by page, track by track, or chapter by chapter, in little bits ending up twice the price. This is a "problem" only for over-entitled games developers churning out sh*tty pay to win rubbish for excessive accumulative amounts, and then defending it under the "but it's Indie!" umbrella...

    Steam's refunds are absolutely needed (as is a huge overhaul in Steam's customer service quality in general). GOG has a decent refund policy, and Origin's isn't too shabby. Neither seem to be abused by any significant measure. If people are requesting too many refunds, then "red flags" will show up. The real losers from this will be badly broken on launch games like Ubisoft's endless "tower climbing simulator" variants regularly booted out the door in mid-beta stage, and if this policy has the effect of making them put the effort into ensuring their games actually work on launch day (as older pre-broadband computer games had to when 20GB patches over a 56k dial-up modem were not an option), then it can only be a good thing all round...
    gingerbill likes this.
  19. LeeC2202

    LeeC2202 TS Rookie

    Xbox Live has always forced Indie and Arcade developers to include a trial version of the game that can be unlocked. If people like the trial, they unlock the full version, if they don't, they delete it. No refunds required and the buyer feels safe in the knowledge that they're not going to get shafted by a quick-buck developer trying to palm rubbish off onto unsuspecting gamers. Of course, the problem with PC gaming, is that people would get the trial version, and then download a crack to unlock it... such is the nature of PC gaming unfortunately.

    The problem is, the games industry has had it easy for far too long with their ability to sell without any accountability, due to the non-returnable nature of games. It was only a matter of time that some form of protection would appear for gamers, and this is the end result.

    What I don't think Steam fully understand yet though, is the scope the digital protection laws are going to extend to, to protect the buyer. I think they're going to get a bit of a wake up call when they are fully implemented. Because not only do they protect the buyer at the time of the purchase, they also protect the buyer at any time the digital product is updated with a patch. So if you buy Game X and it works fine, and then a patch is released that breaks the game, or turns it into something that is of less value and quality than the original game, then you will have the same rights as if you had just purchased the game in that condition. Interesting to note, is that this will also apply to firmware updates in other devices, like phones or tablets. I suspect that this means that rollback will become a mandatory option.

    They will also have to be very careful about how they handle potential system abuse. Implementing any kind of conditions on refunds could be seen as unfair contractual terms, which will also be prohibited under the new laws. October in the UK is going to bring some major changes to digital consumer law, something that is long overdue... it will be interesting to see how that affects software developers across a much wider scope than just Steam games.

    If it clears out the quick-buck developers from the marketplace, then it can only be a good thing. It will certainly put an end to this pre-release review embargo to boost sales, because every game will be returnable. It's going to get interesting...
  20. Emexrulsier

    Emexrulsier TS Evangelist Posts: 560   +59

    Maybe enough refunds towards a certain piece of software whilst teach devs that ppl are sick and tired of being offered utter tosh that should never have been released let alone charged for. If you spend the time and build a game etc that is decent then you have nothing to fear. Like already mentioned people are getting annoyed by lacks of demos and being charged to beta test with the new trend of paying for "early access", it doesn't do anything for the community they release a shed loads of sub par games into the market place dinting their company image.
  21. boagz

    boagz TS Enthusiast Posts: 103

    But what if a game only has an 8 hour campaign? Giving someone 5 or more hours to play it would give them a chance to beat 75 or more % of it. Some people just like to play games for their campaigns. You might say that an 8 hour campaign isnt enough, but the amount of work for these games can still be astronomical. Not too mention indie games where they only want to create a 5 to 8 hour experience.
  22. yRaz

    yRaz TS Evangelist Posts: 2,145   +1,221

    because it's easier to pirate a game than to buy it on steam and get a refund.
  23. Randomthom

    Randomthom TS Enthusiast Posts: 50   +17

    Side-note, imo Early access games should be refundable up to 14 days after their FULL release date and hours spent playing prior to full release do not count against the 2 hours.

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