If you are a modern PC gamer more than likely you have bought a game on Steam. And if you have a large Steam library I imagine you've purchased games you wish you could return. In the era where more and more of our entertainment is purchased digitally I was very happy to see Valve drop a new Steam Refund policy. It's pretty simple and I encourage you to read it. The main points are pretty simple.

"The Steam refund offer, within two weeks of purchase and with less than two hours of playtime, applies to games and software applications on the Steam store. Here is an overview of how refunds work with other types of purchases."


It seems pretty simple and straight forward and like anything new it is coming under some pretty heavy criticism. I linked a recent Game/Show video above where Jamin isn't too happy with the 2 hour return clause and cites other developers as well as some Indie games that can be completed in less than 2 hours.

As someone that created a video game website and is now getting into the business of game publishing with Starship Rubicon(buy it now kids, it's great) I can honestly say I applaud Valve for this new policy. Is it perfect? No it isn't but when you try something new it often doesn't cover every use case right away.

Should Valve offer refunds to players that pre-ordered a huge triple A blockbuster that can't be played on day one, is a buggy mess or didn't deliver what it promised? Yeah, totally. Should Valve offer refunds to players for Indie titles that can't be played on day one, is a buggy mess or didn't deliver what it promised? Yeah, totally.

That said, some Indie titles are an incredible experience and also very short. I think Valve has the ability to solve that and I imagine at some point they will. They have also said they will police abuse and I also image they will do that as well. Remember Valve doesn't make money if everyone returns everything so they have just an incentive to get sales to stick as a developer.

This new refund policy might not be perfection but it's a really nice step in a world where digital goods are a big part of our lives.

JaBo wrote on 06/08/2015 at 09:38pm

Oh, I'm totally on board for this! I don't see it losing companies too much money, if anything, it will help ensure good games make money and bad games make less money. Now people can essentially play a demo of any game and if they like it, they can keep it (as paid for) and if it's bad, refund time. So, this may encourage people to take more leaps on games they may be on the fence about if there's less risk involved in getting landed with a a game they'll never play again.

I know for me, I've bought games and later either never played it or tried it once and realized it's buggy or just awful or doesn't run that great on my PC.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 06/09/2015 at 08:37pm

PT was not a for-sale game. It was a freely downloadable demo (PT actually stands for Playable Teaser) for the now cancelled Silent Hills project (just sayin', Jamin!).

I think there may be a little too much concern over the 2 hour stipulation, and how that pertains to shorter games. Gone Home, Lifeless Planet, Journey (not on Steam, but for the sake of argument...)... These are games that can be clocked in at under 2 hours, and yet they charge a $20 entry fee. The question is: Is that a fair cost? The New York Times called Gone Home "...the greatest video game love story ever told.” I've played a lot of games, so whether literal or metaphorical, that's a huge statement, and one that might cause some people to think about purchasing a game they might otherwise pass by. Some have made that purchase, finished the game (because it is so short), and felt cheated, not only by the game play, but by the story (arguably the prime focus of the game). I'd say that warrants a refund. On the other hand, people that rave about their experience in Gone Home are not likely to return the game, and this appears to be the majority experience. Taking an alarmist stance that this could jeopardize the sales of shorter indie games or discourage developers from making smaller projects, might be a bit premature. I would hope that, if anything, it will encourage developers to determine a better price point for such experiences, and maybe work that much harder to make their games worth buying, much less worth playing. I think that, as gamers, we all know how easy it is for developers to make a crap game look really good.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 06/09/2015 at 08:38pm

It all ties together with what we perceive as a game, and what value we are looking for in our games. I personally think that games journalists are too lenient on art games in the consumer space. Half of these games are tantamount to emotive tech demoes, and pricing is all over the place. Should a project like that constitute a $20 price tag? It all depends on the demand of the consumer, I guess. I would never trade in my copy of Journey, but if I had paid retail money for Lifeless Planet, I probably would have taken advantage of the refund. Portal was in that 2-3hr play time, and it's only $10. The tech in Portal is much more innovative and complex than what we get in Gone Home, yet the latter is twice the price. As a parallel, on the iTunes store, movies range in length from 1hr to 4hrs, with prices from $10 to $20. How much do short films cost? $3! That's reasonable, and there is an expectation that goes along with that, because we are given appropriate information to make that distinction.

Maybe, the whole "games as art" conversation has blinded us to the fact that we are ultimately dealing with an economy that regards products of entertainment, and not some objectivity in fine art. You can say that Proteus is the epitome of what it means to feel in a virtual environment, but at the end of the day, it's a product that costs $10 to the consumer. After the game has been played and experienced, the emotional value to the consumer may change, but initially It's either worth that $10 investment, or it isn't, and (I guess this is my way of saying) I appreciate the scope with which Valve is taking to apply refunds if it isn't. Reviews can often be biased, but the consumer speaks with their wallet. Beyond that, I think that if people feel like they are getting a fair deal, even if they aren't completely satisfied with the purchase, they'll keep the game. Valve makes it clear that they are aware of the opportunity for abuse. Let's see how they handle that.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 06/10/2015 at 02:36am

"Maybe, the whole "games as art" conversation has blinded us to the fact that we are ultimately dealing with an economy that regards products of entertainment, and not some objectivity in fine art."

Maybe we are blinded, but I wasn't considering art when I wrote what I did. People making games, I think most of them, understand the money part or at least the ones I talk to making games seem to talk about it often enough. As far being objective or your thought that the press is too lenient on art games I think that may be true. I haven't played any of the games you cite, Hearthstone just seems more fun to play right now. But they seem to have garnered pretty solid reviews on Steam, which I think means most people liked them.

I totally agree that the majority that enjoyed the game won't return them and even if there are some that do it's better to have someone get a refund then them be upset at you for whatever reason. In some cases, i've wanted to refund a copy of Starship Rubicon through Desura but I didn't see a way to do that. I think the persons PC was messed up and I don't think the game caused a problem but i'd rather people be happy than make an extra sale considering we already don't make very much as is.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 06/10/2015 at 02:37am

"In some cases" should read "in one instance" I haven't heard other people that bought the game run into anything they wanted a refund for and if I did i'd prob just give them one if I could. Again, customer first, whatever else after that.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 06/10/2015 at 02:40am

I also think there is some form of perspective bias happening here too. Is it WILDY great for people buying games(the majority) to return something they consider bad? Totally is. So it's strange (to me) some devs are wildly flagging this is bad as it's just so obviously good for people/consumers/gamers. We can return physical goods after a time, why not digital?

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 06/10/2015 at 11:38pm

Maybe we are blinded, but I wasn't considering art when I wrote what I did.

I wasn't directing anything at you, specifically, but speaking toward the universal "we" in game culture. In fact, I agree with what you are saying. I guess I was responding more to Jamin's comments on the matter (as if he's reading!). Your point in your last comment, Jon, I think nails it more directly, regarding developer concerns. However, I find it interesting that instead of doing a normal show on this topic, Jamin decides to do an opinion piece. He appears to be part of the problem here. He misleads by stating the terms of the refunds are "unconditional," an untruth, since there are clear conditions printed on the refunds page, especially regarding DLC and in-game purchases (e.g. "...so long as the DLC has not been consumed, modified or transferred."). On top of that, there doesn't really seem to be a significant concern from the broad landscape of developers, rather only from a very select few (3, as far as I can tell. Qwiboo, PuppyGames, and Nina Freeman). Jamin mentions Nina Freeman directly, relaying her concerns (her words here: https://goo.gl/SAfQKD, which include Brianna Wu's inflammatory statement that Steam refunds are "brutally unfair for indie developers."). Nina Freeman, to this point, has only ever released free-to-play games. Why is her opinion on refunds even relevant?

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 06/11/2015 at 01:42pm

Sorry. Maybe that shouldn't have bothered me as much as it did :).

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 06/11/2015 at 05:09pm

I agree this may be overblown for sure. Media has a way of blowing out issues to get clicks. I think that's a fair critique. That said after driving up to a Indie Game event last night in Eugene and talking to my game dev friends, people are wondering how it will work out in the end. No one I know has outright said it's a bad idea, but I think they note that it's challenging "making it" as a game developer and this could hurt some people. There isn't a huge amount of good news for aspiring developers, to some thing might seem like more of the bad. I don't agree, but I think I see where they are coming from.

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