The PC game distribution service Steam announced today they are finally offering a refund policy, something many gamers have been asking for for years from this leader in digital distribution. No longer will users be stuck with a game they don’t like in their library!
The original post on the Steam website can be found here: http://store.steampowered.com/steam_refunds
All in all, I think this is pretty good. As it stands I can’t find anything I really disagree with. At its core, you can get a refund on any game you buy directly through steam as long as you have played it under 2 hours and have owned it for less than 14 days. I would imagine for most gamers that is long enough to determine if you want to keep up with a game or not, and for game developers, this also means they had better make their games interesting early on, unless they want people to request a refund before getting to the “good” parts.
If you purchase in game items from valve, such as, let’s say, bonus items in Team Fortress 2, you can get a refund on those items so long as they haven’t been used. Also nice.
For bundled game packages, the total play time of all of the games in the bundle must still be under 2 hours, but this seems fair enough – you often pay less than the cost of one game for these 4 or 5 game bundles, which means even if one game was “good enough” to keep then you get your moneys worth. I’m sure some will wish for longer periods on bundles, but we will see how it works out in the long run.
Naturally, Valve cannot refund you for purchases made outside of steam, since they don’t directly see the money. That makes sense, but I can imagine people who don’t understand business complaining. Gifts, once redeemed by the recipient can’t be refunded, which also makes sense since the item no longer technically belongs to the gift giver.
If a user has been banned from a given game via the Valve Anti-Cheat System (VAC) the user will not be allowed to get a refund for that game. This also makes sense to me, as it would almost be a reward for someone abusing a game.
Lastly, of course, is their abuse policy – if people seem to be buying and refunding games in mass, as a way to almost free play games for a short period, then they reserve the right to ban you from refunding. This too makes perfect sense to me – buy and refund a game over an over, making more progress each 2 hour period. Do this enough and you can eventually play the whole game! Obviously this isn’t fair to those who buy the games outright, so, if it seems you are doing this, be prepared to have your refund privileges revoked!
A great note on the policy is that if a game goes on sale right after you purchase it (which happens all the time to Steam users, it seems) you can request a refund and re-buy at the sale price. Awesome!
As I said, I’m quite pleased with this policy. I think it completely fair, and while I see some people objecting to some aspects of it, I think the majority will be very please. I do think a few small tweaks will happen in the future, but all in all I think this will work well for most everyone.
Happy gaming Everyone!