Steam's two-hour refund policy forces an indie developer into hiatus

Daniel Sims

Posts: 114   +5
Why it matters: Steam's refund policy has been both lauded and controversial ever since it was first introduced, but an announcement from a solo indie developer yesterday represents a new extreme case of how it might punish developers. Being able to refund any game for any reason within a two-hour playtime limit, within two weeks of buying it, is definitely good for customers, but is a one-size-fits-all policy the right thing?

Yesterday Alexander Reshetnikov, who runs Emika Games, announced that he would be taking a break from game development, apparently because of how little money he made from his latest game -- Summer of '58. In the announcement, Reshetnikov noted that a large number of customers had bought the game, finished it in under two hours, and then refunded it.

"I do not earn anything to create a new game," he said. "Since I have no conditions to do something new, I have to do something else." Despite the high number of refunds Reshetnikov reported, Summer of '58's Steam page as of this writing shows it has a Very Positive rating from almost 300 reviews.

Emika Games specializes in short horror games, and the description for Summer of 58 mid-way down its Steam page notes it has an estimated completion time of 90 minutes. In a follow-up tweet earlier today to express thanks for the support from players since announcing his hiatus, Reshetnikov said he doesn't want to artificially inflate his games to meet Steam's two-hour refund time limit. "I think you've noticed that my games look like short movies," he wrote. Since then, reviews have already appeared on the game's Steam page in support of the developer.

The store page describes Summer of '58 as a walking simulator and psychological thriller about a video blogger who investigates the ruins of a Soviet childrens' camp 50 years after a series of murders happened there.

In April, the developer of the game Before Your Eyes, which currently has an Overwhelmingly Positive rating on Steam, called out a user who had left a positive review but refunded it due to its brevity. Lead designer and programmer Bela Messex said in a tweet, "Yep, we made a short game. I think there should be more short games. I think short games shouldn't get refunded for delivering an amazing experience." The person who left the review saw the tweet and shortly after rebought the game and apologized.

Permalink to story.



Posts: 931   +1,307
Just more proof there are more ways for a low-life to steal.
And they will jump on it since it falls within the Steam rules.
Being good and fair to the developer of a game you finished is beyond those types.

That is just disgusting behaviour man I recently had an argument with a guy who said that he just pirates games from GOG because why should he pay for them if they are so easy to pirate.... Like honestly man I have no words for people like that...


Posts: 563   +427
The guy is right - there is a big place for short games -No one wants stupid backtracking , grind and padding .
as an aside - if you have a business - sometimes put a nominal fee on things - there's a whole reddit to choosing beggars .
When I had an enquiry - and someone asked a million and one questions - I just wanted to tell them to F off - as they are a PITA and 90% of time cancel anyway . They use their credit card to book 5 places at same time - a step up from can you hold it for me for no fee - while I check out the comp. ( when they phone back 15 minutes later - I tell them it's sold - normally it was , as peak season and I told them it was only available due to a cancellation )
These cheap AH will always go on about their rights ( I never personally suffered this )
People going to shops opening everything , dumping what they do not want, eating 1 grape from a perfect bunch )
My only surprise is less people take advantage of supermarkets full return policy - I drank all this freshly juiced chilled OJ - it didn't taste good & makes me belch - give me my money back


Posts: 1,126   +2,142
Yeah I don't know why would you expect to make a lot of money if you can't even deliver 2 hours of gameplay. Not saying those types of projects don't have their place but knowing just how many asset flippers cobble together nonsense in Steam I really can only tell this dev this: Cry more.


Posts: 900   +1,305
My gut feeling is we're not hearing the whole story here. You can get a refund on a lot of things if you make a big enough fuss, the point is most people don't do that unless they're genuinely annoyed. And for video games specifically there's the piracy route for those who just don't see any value in supporting development. So where is this sudden crowd of people coming from looking for short games to refund-exploit as if its an amazing new opportunity?

I want to hear more - was the refund rate on this game that different from other games? How is the game marketed - is it clear up front that it is a short experience? or could it be that some people really did feel duped when it ended too fast?


Posts: 497   +827
Seriously? Refund bombing on a $7 game that's shorter than 2 friggin hours make the developer bankrupt? Legit.

If anything, this game was a rip-off for that price tag.


Posts: 35   +29
Is this some sort of advertisement? I just visited one of this developer's game page on Steam, and people write only about refund policy not about his game.


Posts: 2,547   +3,038
TechSpot Elite
Assuming the situation is accurate, it's unfortunate.

But he's dealing with "gamers" and the like. Not exactly know as the best of society and generous with money.
And considering it is outside of typical expectations (<2hrs), it just becomes a harder lesson to learn.


Posts: 190   +56
My gut feeling is we're not hearing the whole story here...How is the game marketed - is it clear up front that it is a short experience?
Did you even read the article past the first paragraph?

"its Steam page notes it has an estimated completion time of 90 minutes"
So it shouldn't come as a surprised that entitled dipshits will try to take advantage of Steam's refund window when the game is specifically noted as being able to be experienced in its entirety within that time period.


Posts: 883   +1,678
People these days are pathetic, have no morals or common sense.

No wonder a morally corrupt company like nvidia is running wild in this world.

I will check those games and send the dude a couple of bucks.
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Cycloid Torus

Posts: 4,823   +1,640
USD7 for 90 minutes. Typical AAA, USD60 for 50 hours => equivalent would be a USD233.33 game.

Maybe buyer's regret for something 'good while it lasted' which is way overpriced or insufficiently developed.


Posts: 35   +29
People these days ate pathetic, have no morals or common sense.

No wonder a morally corrupt company like nvidia is running wild in this world.

I will check those games and send the dude a couple of bucks.
It is immoral to support developers whose games you won't play. You create evil.


Posts: 158   +224
What do you expect, an economic actor is reasonable, if there is a way to pay less or not pay for an item why should he, it's reasonable thing to do. Companies do it all the time to avoid taxes among other things.
It's up to the developer to find a way to get paid, maybe change the platform.


Posts: 69   +73
I read the title and was suddenly sympathetic with the developer, but then I thought for a moment:

- a game which costs around $7 just deliveries a 90 minute gameplay?! If I finished the game so quickly I also would ask for a refund!!! (Not because then I would have played for free, but I would have paid 7 bucks for a extremely short (and bad?) Game)

- if most comments are around the 90 minutes issue then it is a lot worse than it seems...

- the rules where made a long time ago, if you read the contract, then you already know that you have to make a game which takes a little longer *or* talk with steam before and ask that it would be just 1 hour on this case. You can't accept the terms, make a game a lot smaller (90 minutes) and expect everything will be fine.


Posts: 145   +45
I can tell why someone would do this.
People like gifts, especially gifts that should have had a reasonable impact on people's expectations.
I assume there is a trend going on, and this developer acted on it.
Search for free games (gifts) and hop in, leave a nice review, refund and repeat?

What else to expect from people who do like anarchy? Especially going against a system, is their favorite thing.
Elegant/sophisticated chaos
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Posts: 858   +1,977
USD7 for 90 minutes. Typical AAA, USD60 for 50 hours => equivalent would be a USD233.33 game.
Now remove all the artificial grind, unlock for the sake of unlocking, crafting for the sake of crafting, "we placed all our checkpoints before lengthy unskippable cutscenes", "we have 500x sidequests and 498 are identi-kit fetch-quests", etc, mechanics from many "50-100" hour AAA's and re-measure them... ;)

Quantity doesn't equal quality and I've had more fun from short 5hr titles like Portal than certain "50hr" Tower Climbing Simulator (tm) ultra-repetitive snooze-fests...
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Posts: 52   +95
I keep forgetting about the refund policy and don't use it because I tend to feel guilty about returning a game even if I don't like it. But I bet I'd end up keeping a lot of the games and finding more games I like by treating purchases like a demo, which I think is part of the intent on the first place. Hmm