Steam Will Now Refund Games if You Don’t Like Them
Valve will now offer refunds for just about anything, Maybe your PC doesn’t meet the hardware requirements; maybe you bought a game by mistake; maybe you played the title for an hour and just didn’t like it.” This includes extra content (so long as it hasn’t been “consumed, modified or transferred”) and in-game purchases, though the window shrinks to 48 hours for the latter.
Read that again: “Maybe you…just didn’t like it.” I immediately went hunting for something hinky. But it turns out this isn’t Valve torturing semantics (or the fine print). You can buy anything and return anything “for any reason,” writes the company.
The only catches are that you have a 14-day window to ask for your money back, you can’t play the game in question for more than two hours, and you can’t have been banned from the game by Valve’s anti-cheat system. Valve also reserves the right to remove your right to a refund if you “abuse” the system, which is just a common sense business way of saying don’t be a looky-loo.
If you fall outside those parameters, Valve says you can still submit a refund request, and it’ll “take a look.”
This, in my view, is about much more than Valve playing catch-up with other digital game services. When you’re the 800-pound gorilla, you don’t have to make potentially costly compromises. Nothing’s threatening Steam’s ubiquity. No one’s swinging for the fences with a dark horse challenger. And so I’d say this is probably as benevolent as it looks—face-value friendliness, and given how hostile digital transactions can be when contrasted with their brick-and-mortar analogues, a watershed moment in PC gaming.
You can request a refund for nearly any purchase on Steam—for any reason.
It’s also an increasingly visible issue. Take a recent scenario spotlit by the BBC, in which a Sony customer allegedly saw his PlayStation Network account illicitly accessed by someone else, then used to purchase software.
Sony initially refused to refund the complainant his money, but folded after the television segment, apologizing and writing that it was kicking off a review of its process for “unauthorized transaction” complaints. By contrast, had someone stolen the customer’s physical wallet and used one of his bank or credit card to commit fraud, odds are said customer would have had a much more sympathetic conversation with his credit card company.
Yes, Valve’s refund policy could spell trouble for makers of content that takes less than two hours to complete. The policy may need some fine-tuning to ensure that developers of smaller games don’t get (ahem) steamrolled.
Maybe the fix is to allow certain games to apply for special status, with a shorter refund window, based on content consumption estimates. That’s tricky, I know, because one player’s three-hour speed-run is another person’s 30-hour walking tour. But the “Valve polices abuse” corollary seems too vague and potentially capricious, as it stands, for champions of games as shorter-form experiences.
But on balance, Valve’s decision to restore rights we took for granted prior to the rise of the digiverse is the right move at the right time.
Self-righteous pirate who uses lack of return policies to justify torrenting new games? This puts another nail in that quickly-closing coffin. Missed a sale that kicked in just after you bought a game? You’re now protected for two weeks.
Plus, letting customers return digital content could get publishers and developers to be more cautious about the state in which they release their games. Yes, it could also lead to more betas and “Early Access” games, or even crazier delays for monsters like Grand Theft Auto V.
Better late than broken, say I, and we shouldn’t forget that “abuse” in any creator-consumer dynamic is a two-way street.
AUTHOR: MATT PECKHAM
Go See for your self!