Back in my day, getting a refund was as easy as strolling down to the local barbershop and pointing out that your trusty neighborhood mane groomer lopped off your ear instead of your hair. He/she would hand you your money, you’d hop in an ambulance, and everything would be squaresies. But times have changed. The Internet has made many of the goods and services we sacrifice our hard-earned paychecks to much less, er, tangible, and some of them can’t even properly be returned. Refunds, then, are tricky business. Steam, for instance, has pretty much just blanket-stated, “NO,” except in special, infrequent cases. GOG, however, is taking a firm stance in the opposite direction.
Here’s the full policy, straight from GOG. It comes in two flavors: 1) In the event that a game simply won’t function as advertised and 2) if you change your mind about a purchase.
“Game doesn’t work for you? Contact our support (http://www.gog.com/support) and tell us to fix it! But what if they cannot find a solution? If such a rare event should occur, we’ll give you your money back. Simple as that. If you buy a game on GOG.com and find that it doesn’t work properly on your system, and our support cannot fix the problem, you get a full refund. It’s a worldwide guarantee, and you have whole 30 days after the purchase date, to contact us about the refund.”
“There’s even more! If you bought a game by mistake, or simply changed your mind about a purchase, you can get a full refund within 14 days, as long as the game wasn’t downloaded.”
The 30-day guarantee applies to “technical problems or game-breaking bugs that prevent you from finishing your game,” so there are still some questions surrounding relative severity. What if, for instance, a glitch is game-breaking in my book, but not by GOG’s standards? Will I still get a refund? Or will GOG just tell me to glue my ear back on and deal with it?
Given, however, that GOG is DRM-free, many aspects of this program will run on the honor system. You could, for instance, simply claim your game continues to crash and burn even when it’s purring like a kitten strapped to a motorboat that happens to be directly in the crosshairs of a purrrfect sunbeam. You could claim exactly that – using those words – and no one would ever take you seriously again. But also, GOG would probably, in the end, give you your money back. However, it’s also well aware that abuse can and will happen, and it’s addressed that in an FAQ:
“If you’re being a bad person who’s abusing our trust of you and asking for a whole lot of your games to be refunded and we can’t resolve your problems, we’ll have to stop offering you refunds. So don’t be that guy. No one likes that guy.”
There’s no hard number on that darker side of the policy, but if it seems like you’re taking advantage of GOG’s kindness, the company will notify you directly.
All in all, it sounds like a step up from most digital storefronts’ return policies, especially given some older games’ propensities to stick their tongues out at newer hardware like children (or, I suppose more fittingly in this overwrought simile, extremely elderly individuals) who refuse to slurp down their mashed vegetables. It’ll be interesting to see how customers interact with the service and – in turn – how GOG chooses to shape it further down the line.
I hope other e-tailers – especially Steam – are watching. Earlier this year, Origin instated its own less restrictive (but also less helpful) 24-hour return policy, but otherwise this subject hasn’t been broached very much in the Big Leagues. That’s not to say Steam has never offered refunds (see: Dark Matter, Ashes Cricket 2013, The War Z, etc), but that’s the exception, not the rule. This needs to change now more than ever. Steam is exceedingly forward-thinking in many other areas, but its priorities are rather questionable sometimes (see also: fixing its long-troublesome offline mode).
For now, though, props to GOG for taking a big step in the right direction. Here’s hoping others follow suit sooner rather than later.