Valve: ‘We Have To Do Better’ With Customer Service

I can’t even remember when I last bought a game in a box from a shop, but I do miss sometimes the customer service offered by real people with real faces. I do wish Valve, the digital daddy, had customer support half as useful as underpaid teenagers in Electronics Boutique.

The Better Business Bureau, a US-focused nonprofit (not a government body) which rates businesses, has drawn a long list of complaints against Valve and Steam from broken games to refused refunds, and currently awards them the rubbish grade of ‘F’. All of which prompted Valve last week to say that improving customer service support will be “a big focus” for them this year.

“The more important thing is that we don’t feel like our customer service support is where it needs to be right now,” Valve business chap Erik Johnson told Kotaku. He dismissed the BBB as “a far less useful proxy for customer issues” than, say, Reddit or Twitter, but admits Steam has problems.

“We think customers are right. When they say our support’s bad, our initial reaction isn’t to say, ‘No, it’s actually good. Look at all of this.’ It’s to say that, no, they’re probably right, because they usually are when it comes to this kind of thing. We hear those complaints, and that’s gonna be a big focus for us throughout the year. We have a lot of work to do there. We have to do better.”

Which they do.

“We need to do a variety of things,” Johnson continued. “We need to build customer support directly into Steam. We need to understand what’s the most efficient way to solve customer problems. Right now we’re in a state where we’re doing a bunch of technical work on thinking through how does a support issue get raised, who has to see it, how do refunds get issued within Steam – we’ve done a poor job on all of that up to this date. We think it’s something we really need to focus on.”

The most effective way to solve big problems with Steam accounts often seems to be catching the eye of Valve high-ups with a popular Reddit post or backchannel e-mail, rather than going through customer service. Their refunds policy of only allowing one refund per account – ever – is a load of rot too. I fondly recall game shops giving me refunds on games that turned out to be pants or simply broken. Valve do have the data to be relatively sure, if they want, that someone’s not simply returning a game after finishing it. Given that they sell a number of games known to have major problems, it’s not good enough.

It’s always seemed to me that Steam grew faster than Valve’s customer support could cope with, and they never made it enough of a priority. A bit like the process of adding new games to Steam, really, and oh no what if they roll out the support equivalent of Greenlight oh no Alice don’t let your jet lagged little head think of terrors like that.

145 Comments

  1. Cinek says:

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

    • Vin_Howard says:

      I’ll believe that Valve has customer support in the first place when I see it.

      • welverin says:

        Yeah, my first thought when seeing the this article was: Don’t you have to have customer service, before you can have bad customer service?

        • Baines says:

          I figured that was Valve’s approach, that they could respond to complaints of bad customer service by saying “What customer service?” That is, of course, if you could ever get them to respond to a complaint in the first place.

        • jrodman says:

          You know what they’re going to do, don’t you? They’re going to pull a Google and try to solve customer service with software and algorithms. In other words they will build a graveyard of people complaining about unsolved problems.

      • Flopper says:

        What few problems I’ve ever had with a steam game have been resolved within 24 hours. I think I’ve maybe requested 2 refunds ever and both were granted within a day.

        Sounds like you nerds are doing it wrong or are asking for refunds on games you’ve been playing well past the point of no return.

        • MadTinkerer says:

          Yeah, granted I’ve only ever tried to contact Valve… twice (I think?) on a customer service issue, but I’ve also never had a bad customer service experience.

          It’s not that I disbelieve all the “dumb nerds” that claim they have lots of problems with Valve, but it’s pretty obvious that even if you prefer GoG and/or Humble Bundle, Steam is still much better than the “services” that actually try to compete with it such as UPlay and Origin and GFWL (Ding dong the witch is dead!).

          Part of the problem is that if you work for Valve you get to choose what you do. So would you rather work on VR or an undisclosed Source 2 game or a new feature for Steam or clean the bathrooms or anything other than customer service, or would you rather do customer service? Exactly.

          • Premium User Badge

            Harlander says:

            “Better than Uplay, Origin and GFWL”.

            Could this be the purest example of damning with faint praise?

        • Press X to Gary Busey says:

          Better call the BBB and tell them they’re wrong and should upgrade the F to an A.

          • airmikee says:

            lol Have you ever actually read some of the complaints?

            The one from 2/18/2015, dumbass loses his account to a hacker, blames Valve.
            The one from 1/9/2015, dumbass buys a version of a game banned in Germany while in Germany and blames Valve when it won’t work.
            The one from 1/6/2015 is a rambling nonsensical complaints so vague he writer obviously works for a tabloid magazine.
            The one from 1/5/2015 is another vague complaint to short and quick to ever get to a real point.
            The one from 1/4/2015 can’t get a game working, a problem the developer is responsible for fixing, and blames Valve for not providing a refund as stated in the ToS and EULA they accepted without reading.
            The one from 12/24/2014 more than likely bought some kind of pack for a f2p game, blames Valve because they couldn’t be bothered to fully read the description.
            The one from 7/29/2014 probably hacked his achievements, bought a used copy of a game to save a few bucks, and then whines about controller support. Yeah, the company definitely deserves a poor rating because of his experiences.
            The one from 7/15/2014 is again vague, naming only one game in the whining.
            The one from 7/6/2014 is likely another hacked account (those complaints usually take the longest to resolve because of the complicated messes hackers create. And we all know, Steam is to blame for hackers, malware, keyloggers, and the general nastiness of the web, none of which existed before 2003.
            The one from 6/20/2014 is a wall of text of stupidity, with a youtube link to 45 minutes of stupidity, complaining that Steam is a scam for banning him for making a “joke” to a group of strangers because he “talks to people like his friends” about deleting critical Windows files.

            Those are the only negative reviews I can view on the Oregon-Washington-Alaska BBB website. If those are the kinds of reviews that have led to Valve’s F rating, I applaud and commend Valve even more than I did before viewing that crap, especially the 5 minutes of the 45 minute youtube video I watched trying to figure out what the hell that “joker” was crying about.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          Ditto, I have been using Steam since 2003, 2005, something like that? I have bought about 200 games, and the only times I ever had problems the response was immediate. Cannot speak for other people, though I will note that half the time I read some “Steam horror story” the person posting it is an idiot who deserves no support because they are badly wrong and/or clearly lying to cover up some failed scam valve sniffed out.

      • SuicideKing says:

        Exactly. I was trying to raise a support ticket but the bloody security image thingy would even let me get started.

    • prian says:

      I’m with you on this one.

      Steam has never ever had good customer service.

      To pretend that they even have “customer service” at this time is stretching the term.

      Valve is extremely anti-customer. There are so many examples out there of rude responses, incredibly slow response times (like weeks – not days… weeks), and then just closing tickets because the Valve person doesn’t want to bother with it any more.

      Valve is probably has the worst customer service I have ever seen in any industry (including all subcategories of technology companies.)

      Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m not going to hold my breath on that one. There would need to be a culture change at Valve which I don’t see happening.

      • drewski says:

        Which sort of puts paid to the whole “customer is always right” theory of service delivery, I guess.

        Would be interesting to read an economic analysis of the price people put on good customer service. I suspect it’s very, very small given the amount of people that will happily moan and moan about a poor customer service experience, and then either keep using that company, or only consider a similarly cheaply priced alternative (with the implicit equally poor customer service that likely will produce).

        • Joshua Northey says:

          Exactly look at air travel. Once prices were deregulated the airlines very quickly figured out that 60% of people (which is more than enough) will just pay the lowest price period no matter how much they hate the service. And that is why airlines almost only compete on price. Competing on service or delays et cetera is pointless because most of the customer just don’t factor it into their decision making. People love to whine though.

  2. Voqar says:

    Back in the day very few, if any, stores that sold games had anybody with a clue selling them, nor did they allow refunds on any kind of software. The few businesses that did either sold used stuff and it was a side thing for them or they went out of business.

    So I can understand Valve not wanting to give refunds.

    However. Valve does zero quality control and sells some pretty crappy products at times and there needs to be something – either selling less shoddy software, be it mobile ports being passed off as PC games, ancient software being marketed as new, or crappy devs going for bucks with early access games doomed to never get done, or allowing for refunds of some kind within a reasonable amount of time.

    I kind of agree with Cinek though.

    Valve makes ungodly amounts of money doing next to nothing passing along games and has got away with their model for years now while being incredibly successful, so I see little reason for them to seriously consider changing. Instead they’ll keep circle jerking with all their money doing goofy things like creating consoles nobody needs or wants (extra goofy when Steam is a PC platform Steam is a big part of PC gaming).

    • TaylanK says:

      The reason would be that any industry with a monopoly over a huge market of unhappy customers is an irresistible invitation for competitors.

      • Agnol117 says:

        The problem is that competition doesn’t really exist in the same way in this market. There’s a reason a lot of other storefronts exist that just sell Steam keys.

        • James says:

          Despite this, Valve’s bad press regarding quality control has accelerated the growth of other digital distributers, especially Good Old Games and Humble, which I understand have been doing fairly well recently. I strongly expect Valve’s marketshare to drop by a few percent next time we get our hands on such figures.

          • Agnol117 says:

            They’re doing well, sure, but they’re not yet in a position to break Steam’s hold on the market (especially since the Humble Store deals largely in Steam Keys). I’d love to see changes to the market (viable alternatives to Steam that aren’t single publisher, for example), but I doubt that’ll be happening any time soon.

        • suibhne says:

          Rubbish. It’s fine to say that viable competitors don’t exist in this market, but competition certainly exists as an abstract potential. There’s no natural monopoly in online service provision like there is in, say, utilities delivery – and, in fact, competing with Steam now would be much cheaper than, say, five years ago. The problem here is that customers like Steam. If Steam didn’t offer overwhelming customer value relative to most alternatives, there’s really no built-in reason why it wouldn’t have greatly diminished in importance by now.

          Look, Steam is basically providing a commodity service. It really only does a few things well: it’s the home for Valve’s own games; it already has most PC gamers’ info; it provides low-cost infrastructure for developers (server hosting, version control, DRM, etc.); it serves up files on a super-fat, super-fast pipe; it launches and organizes games; and it has good sale prices. On the other hand, the interface sucks, stability is merely okay, customer service is abysmal, and so on…and most of the things it does well are easily imitable. Pretty much Steam’s sole inimitable advantages are the first two I cited, and the first one isn’t that meaningful when Valve doesn’t release many games.

          Basically, digital storefronts and launch platforms are commodities that aren’t that meaningful to most people, and Steam just got there first. Valve smartly leveraged its own games to force early adoption, and then they sat back and remained “just good enough” that people didn’t flee to other, later platforms.

          One counterpoint is that Valve is starting to do really cool stuff to extend PC gaming beyond the PC, what with Big Picture, sharing, VR, and so on. I suspect Valve didn’t simply think “Whoa, that stuff is really cool and we have loads of cash to invest,” but also reflected on the fact that they really needed to find meaningful ways to ecosystem-ize Steam. That’s where the future lies.

      • Cinek says:

        Happily half a year without buying any game on Steam.

        If I would have a choice – I would buy all my games on GOG – I fully support their principles and customers support never failed me. But sadly very few games are available on GOG. I wish more devs would go there – especially some bigger indie games.

    • Maxheadroom says:

      Only time I’ve ever had the misfortune to deal with Steam customer service was when I asked for a refund for Dust (Remember the whole kerfuffle with the always on DRM that they swore would never happen?).

      Despite me citing the exact clause in the Consumer Rights that clearly supported my right to a refund, every mail was met with a “We are sorry we are unable to help you in this matter” reply and the call closed.

  3. agitated_android says:

    Just an idea I had while reading this, what if they posted the refund rate for a game the same way they do the sales rate? I’m sure publishers would hate to see that but it would certainly catch my attention if 25% of sales for a particular game requested refunds.

    • amateurviking says:

      The problem I think arises that you might end up with metacritic style review bombings (refund bombings if you will). Getting a refund on a Steam purchase should be routine and easy, but advertising the rate of refund makes it more of a statement and therefore vulnerable to internet outrage amplification.

      Bottom line is that if Origin can have a decent refund policy. Steam can.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Bottom line is that if Origin can have a decent refund policy. Steam can.

        Yes, this. This is the #1 argument to beat them with—a competitor is doing better, and that competitor is EA of all people, the Great Satan of Gaming.

        • Cinek says:

          Steam got way too big circlejerks to be threatened in any way by an arguments like that. Look: /r/pcmasterrace/ for one example.

      • Baines says:

        The problem with this is that publishers would object, and Valve pretty much always favors publishers over consumers in such matters.

      • lyralamperouge says:

        Well, if people are willing to refund the game – and therefore give up access to it – their voices are probably worth hearing. “Internet outrage amplification” when random people with no stake bitch about a game on review sites is one thing. People who owned the game returning it is another entirely.

        To prevent abuse – people buying the game purely to refund it – it’d be a simple matter to limit refunds per account in some form. And in the end, protecting devs from manipulative “anti-marketing” takes a far back seat to protecting consumers from shitty products, so protecting good devs from “internet outrage amplification” isn’t really a good enough reason to prevent consumers being able to hold shitty devs to account.

      • malkav11 says:

        That would require Origin to have a decent refund policy. I mean, it’s better than Steam’s, but it’s limited to EA’s own games (not that I imagine many people buy third-party games on Origin), and it expires after seven days from date of purchase or (if you preordered) launch, or 24 hours from when you first run it, whichever comes first. Which is pretty bloody limited. It’s just slightly more expansive than “one, ever, if we feel like it”.

        • April March says:

          It’s still bad but it’s a lot better. It means there is a period in which you are certain you are able to request a refund, so if a game doesn’t run on your computer, for instance, you can be sure you will get your money back. There’s no period of guarantee for Steam.

          • malkav11 says:

            It’s an improvement, but it’s only a lot better in the sense that 0.0000005 is a lot more than 0.

          • malkav11 says:

            Infinitely more, that is.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        Origin can have whatever refund policy EA desires. I’m still not signing up for something called “HEY REMEMBER THOSE GUYS WHO SAID WE WERE LITERALLY THE DEVIL? REMEMBER THOSE GUYS? THE GUYS WHO WE FIRED AND THEN TOOK ALL THEIR IP AND CRAPPED ON IT? I CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT THEIR COMPANY WAS CALLED! DO YOU REMEMBER? I THINK IT WAS CALLED WESTWOOD OR POPCAP OR BULLFROG OR SOMETHING. CAN’T QUITE RECALL.”.

  4. Andrew says:

    Strictly speaking, Valve’s stance on this is in breach of UK law. I expect this to catch up to them some day. The EU would normally be pretty good (!) at tackling these sorts of issues, but I’m not clear if EU law matches UK law in this instance, or if it’s just a national thing.

    “Online, mail and telephone order customers have the right to cancel for a limited time even if the goods aren’t faulty. Sales of this kind are known as ‘distance selling’.

    You must offer a refund to customers if they return goods within 14 days of receiving them.

    You must then refund the customer within 14 days of receiving the goods back. They don’t have to provide a reason.”
    link to gov.uk

    Technically, this wouldn’t be hard to implement. The goods are easy to return, and there’s never any damage done to them.

    • melnificent says:

      The thing is how do you prove that it’s unwanted vs broken on customers system? Unwanted is a reason to refuse a refund, whereas not working on a customer system is cause for a refund or replacement.

      The number of hours for a game is an indicator, but we upgrade our PCs suddenly a game might not like the new system/component it’s on (dead island) after multiple hours of play on the older one. Technically it’s now broken, but it’s already been used for a significant amount of time.

      What about the steam cards generated by games? The revocation of them could get complicated. You get card A sell it on the marketplace and then ask for a refund on the game. Refund revokes the card and the person you sold the card to loses out.

      How many hours is classed as “trying to get working” vs playing. Some games take a couple of hours to complete, others take days, weeks or never end. If we go with a percentage of expected play time then do we discard the people that haven’t even booted the game once? What about people that go 5% over the “refund time limit” trying to get a game working?

      This is just a small portion of questions that would need to be answered.

      They do need to tighten the rules and also open up for refunds more. But it’s one of those things that sounds simple, but in practice there is always lots more to consider. The problem is if it’s too easy to get a refund then chancers will game the system. If it’s too hard (as it is now) then it’s breaking current UK and EU rules.

      • robby5566 says:

        I’m not 100% on this, but I also think Steam games don’t count as “goods” in the legal sense. You’re being given license to play them by Steam, which is why they can shut down your account and block you off from every game you paid for. If GAME bans you from their stores, they can’t come to your house and take away all your discs.

        It’s like, if you buy a hot tub, you own the hot tub.
        If you pay to use a hot tub at the gym, you don’t own the hot tub, you’re paying for permission to use it.

        • melnificent says:

          EULA doesn’t override local laws. Whether written as a licence or not UsedSoft v Oracle established that it counts as a real sale.

          Digital vs physical is something that has yet to be tested on this front, and this is the real difficulty. Who would want to have their steam account locked out (90% of PC games) while it went through court?

      • lyralamperouge says:

        No, this is actually false. The EU law does allow people to reject goods merely for being unwanted, within 14 days. Unwanted, not broken. The laws allowing for the return of broken/unsatisfactory/not fit for purpose goods is another one entirely, and Valve also ignore that at their leisure.

        I once successfully argued Valve into agreeing to a refund – UK consumer law is kind of my thing, as an online shopping addict – but before they issued it, they warned me that I could have the refund but they’d lock my account down so I could never activate any more products on it. Sheer spite and pettiness. Valve are the biggest scum I’ve ever dealt with online, basically.

        • joa says:

          That’s the thing — when it’s a small company and it’s in person, you can have trust. But when you have an automated service used by millions, you have to come down hard on that sort of thing, even when it’s honest people who aren’t trying to game the system. If Valve openly allowed the 14-day refund on unwanted goods, then a whole bunch of chancers would just buy stuff, complete it in a week or two, and then refund it.

          • lyralamperouge says:

            That’s the thing — when it’s a small company and it’s in person, you can have trust. But when you have an automated service used by millions, you have to come down hard on that sort of thing, even when it’s honest people who aren’t trying to game the system. If Valve openly allowed the 14-day refund on unwanted goods, then a whole bunch of chancers would just buy stuff, complete it in a week or two, and then refund it.

            Valve are in the best of all possible positions with their customers when it comes to separating the “chancers” from people with genuine complaints. Their platform tracks things like whether or not you’ve installed a game and for how long you’ve played it, what achievements you’ve gotten if any and how many times you’ve ever had a refund if any.

            They’re in a very good position to protect themselves and their suppliers, as opposed to more traditional stores who very often have far better policies because the goodwill and trust that fosters is more important than losing out to the occasional “chancer”.

            For example, most of the bigger supermarkets in Britain have a no-quibble “if you don’t like this you can have a refund” policy on their own label ranges and nothing tracks how often you’ve done that, so you could conceivably get away with half-eating or drinking some very expensive things and getting a refund every night of the week for a very long time before you run into someone who even recognizes you, let alone remembers that you return stuff a lot. Yet they get by, and they certainly don’t have a stranglehold on the market, unlike Steam which is first and foremost a DRM system.

    • Xzi says:

      If that is the exact wording, Steam is exempt. It’s a service that sells you licenses, not actual goods.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Indeed. DSR do not apply to software licenses.

        Unless the parties have agreed otherwise, the consumer will not have the right to cancel…for the supply of audio or video recordings or computer software which were unsealed by the consumer.

        First Google hit

        When Origin allow this, they’re effectively doing it as a competative perk.

      • Andrew says:

        That is true. I should have done more research before posting. However, the Consumer RIghts Bill 2013-14 to 2014-15 (it’s currently being debated between the Commons and the Lords, but seems likely to get passed eventually – probably next Parliament) covers digital content separately and largely extends the same rights we think about with goods to digital content. So while Steam isn’t in breach of the law now, they probably will be fairly soon.
        Reference here: link to publications.parliament.uk

        So all of this talk about whether Valve has the capacity to do this is a little beside the point – once this bill is passed and becomes law, they’ll need to figure out a way to fulfil that law. If that means they charge back makers of a game that’s broken, so be it. If they need to be more stringent about selling games or products, so be it. If they need to assess computers to see if they’ll run content before installation, whatever. These are not insurmountable technical issues, particularly for a company like Steam (or Origin, or whoever).

    • James says:

      It is this legal requirement that got EA to give out free games after SimCity launched – the EU courts wagged thier finger and EA changed course. It is rare for the EU court (and even rarer for anyone else) to get involved in the legal side of the games industry because it just sort of ticks along without much need for regulation. The industry is heavily reliant on consumers (consumers being the main, and in a lot of cases only, source of income) so companies usually have to listen to consumers. Valve’s near monopoly has meant they have not had to listen as the rest do hence the decline in quality and the increasing popularity of distributers that do listen. Now that this is finally getting some media attention (many years too late I should add) they may finally go ‘oh… we need to get our shit together or this won’t go great for us’.

      However I think it is about as likely as Half Life 3.

    • vlonk says:

      This is a mandatory EU regulation for all member states. Goes by the name of “consumer rights directive 2011/83/EU”. I love EU legislation names, they could come directly out of the Borg collective.

      It is possible to change this consumerright in a way (regarding to digital distributed software) that you lose your right to give the software back when the contract partner fulfills his side of the contract (normally the software delivery). There has to be a warning text that you agree that your right to give the software back ends with the download and thats about it =/

      Not sure where to find this in the UK law. Germany has this regulated in §356 Abs.5 BGB

      I can’t check it right now, but I think I remember that Valve has a similar clause/warning text in their endless wall of legal text you have to sign when you buy an game.

    • Merus says:

      Valve’s store-front, as it stands, breaks Australian consumer law as well, which is quite a bit stricter and is not fooled by Valve selling ‘subscriptions’ for actual Australian dollars.

      Valve is in the process of being sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, so I’m guessing their renewed focus on customer service isn’t entirely on their initiative.

  5. Vesuvius says:

    While I like the Steam client, I’ve had nothing but horrible customer service experiences with them- long waits for answers that usually are “we won’t do anything to help you”.

  6. Artist says:

    Respecting local customer protection laws would be a good start! How about bringing refunds for crapware on top with the laws and reduce the amount of scams, like Double Fines Starbase, Stomping Land and so much other. To me it seems Steam accepted that, because it gives income!

    • James says:

      Using the word ‘scam’ implies intent, which none of the cases you have cited had – most were just very poorly managed. What you are looking for is the propoer enforcment of Kickstarter terms and conditions as a legal requirement – unfortunatly that is stuck in a legal grey area that business lobbies in the US are very happy to keep there.

      • Baines says:

        The end of Starbase, at the very least, was intent. Putting the game on sale as a still-being-worked-on project, then turning around and saying that the game was complete except for some final touch-ups. (And this after reassuring people on DoubleFine’s own forums that the game wasn’t dead.)

        One could argue that some of the earlier stuff with Spacebase warrants a harsh term like “scam,” but there are much easier targets to be found on Steam. Godus, for a big name example. (Molyneux may be an easy target, but he also all but openly admitted the Kickstarter he ran was a scam, promising whatever he thought might get him the money he wanted without any regard to what it would actually take to deliver the product he promised in order to raise that money.) Early Access and Greenlight are littered with scams, though. Like the multiple projects knocked out in barely functional form with default assets in Unity, games that have about a 0% chance of ever being more than their initial release.

  7. wyrm4701 says:

    I like how they give the appearance that they’re new to the idea of customer service, ten years into runaway profits and market domination. A majority of PC gamers are locked into their platform, cowed into an idea that exercising any consumer rights will be met with a loss of access to games both owned and unreleased. Why would they possibly make a significant change to that?

  8. robby5566 says:

    A lot of talk, and not one like about what I think is the biggest issue: What they really need is a place to file complaints about Steam Support.

    I had an issue lately with someone who was completely unhelpful. I’m talking straight up ignoring my follow up questions and clarifications. When I tried to refocus on what my problem actually was, I get “You will receive no further correspondence regarding this matter”.

    I asked for the contact details for someone further up the ladder because I was unsatisfied with my support, but of course, he didn’t give me anything. Ticket isn’t even closed, it’s just been a month that he’s ignoring my request.

    Support not being “integrated into Steam” isn’t the problem. The problem is that people run into Support staff who aren’t good at their job, they have no oversight, and there’s no official channel to complain to.

  9. Axyl says:

    The only thing I want from Steam Customer Service is a refund for abandoned Early Access games, specifically SpaceBase DF9 and The Stomping Land.

    I am sick to death of hearing “we don’t refund early access games” as if that’s meant to make me feel okay with having a dev take my money and run.

    If I ever met the Stomping Land dev in person, I would genuinely punch him for scamming me out of my money. This anger is not helped by Steam basically enabling this revolting behaviour by refusing to hold the dev to account, giving refunds and/or flat out taking legal action against them.

    I would LOVE to see DoubleFine taken to task in a BIG way over SB DF9. Ditto Jig, the TSL Dev.

    At present it’s basically “well fuck me for wanting to support a cool game concept and helping to fund development” whenever a devs just up’s and fuck’s off.

    If Valve are going to profit from Early Access, and we know that they do, then they can assume some of the goddamn responsibilty for it as well.

    Grr.

    • Xzi says:

      I hear this complaint a lot, but there are just as many shitty games out there that never go through early access. Like anything else, it’s buyer beware. The best way to handle early access is to ask yourself a few simple questions. How close is the game to release now? How regularly are updates released, and when was the last update? What is the reputation of the developer, and have they had any early access successes/failures in the past?

      • Axyl says:

        I don’t accept that. Buyer Beware shouldn’t be an excuse for a dev to be able to take the money and ditch the project.
        Frankly, I can’t help but wonder why anyone (not just you) would defend this.
        The game was bought in good faith and then abandoned. How is ANY part of that meant to be the customers fault or responsibility?

        Stop defending this obviously broken system that’s being abused by obviously unscrupulous devs. Especially when it’s innocent game nerds like myself that end up out of pocket with nothing to show for it apart from a rage-induced headache.

        • Axyl says:

          Also.. I did all of that with DoubleFine’s SpaceBase DF9 and still got screwed, so your argument is invalid. :)

          • Xzi says:

            Double Fine never had a reputation with early access before, so they were hard to judge at that point. Still, the point stands. There are just as many early access games and developers out there that have been successful and provided quality games that lived up to their promises. Buyer beware isn’t an excuse, it’s just the way of the world. There are millions of cheaply-made products out there that aren’t worth buying, but people buy them anyway, and then they break right after the window for returning them has expired. Nobody’s going to hold your hand in regard to this, and you’ll still end up buying some shitty games/products. You just have to use your best judgment.

            For early access specifically, remember that there’s no rush. Nobody is forcing you to buy a game at version 0.0001. If it’s something that interests you, wait until it’s closer to release before even considering buying it.

        • Agnol117 says:

          The problem is that good games have also come out of Early Access, and some of those wouldn’t exist if not for it. Early Access has always been a gamble, and you’re literally warned about this on every Early Access game page. And unfortunately, sometimes when you gamble, you get burned.

          Don’t get me wrong — there are issues with the system (namely the complete lack of oversight). But making Valve responsible for refunds isn’t the way to fix that.

        • Aetylus says:

          I don’t think people are defending Valves’s approach… but…

          … with Early Access and Pre-Orders people are buying a product that is untried and based on track record fairly likely to be crap. Its common knowledge that a very high percentage of early access are not finished and left as buggy messes. Similarly a quick look back over the last couple of years show that any game release has a decent chance of being pretty rubbish.

          The first intervention required is for people just to not buy crap in advance. Any intervention from Valve is only happening after individuals have failed to make a similar appropriate decision with their own money… why should Valve have to step in an save them from themselves. We are talking about people buying games online… all of those people have direct access to the largest information source in human history yet neglected to use it.

        • lyralamperouge says:

          Caveat emptor should certainly be an option available to stores and their suppliers. If you don’t like the store policy, don’t shop there. Early access should certainly be allowed and I’m satisfied that Steam now gives plenty of warning to consumers before they buy into it.

          There’s “buyer beware” as a “should’ve read the small print” attitude that only comes up when consumers come asking for refunds, and then there’s Steams new approach that warns you in no uncertain terms, up front, that shit could go horribly wrong and they’re not going to help you. The latter attitude is a perfectly fair model and if you don’t like it don’t shop on Steam, don’t continue to give them money yet expect them to obey you anyway.

    • wyrm4701 says:

      Yes, this. I’d be a lot less skeptical of Valve if they’d done … well, anything with DF over the Spacebase fraud. As it is, their idea of a solution was complete theatre, changing the wording of Early Access submissions to please ask developers not to abuse their system. That there’s no censure or consequence for doing so is an ugly joke, though it’s a very profitable one for Valve. They’ve got a legion of fans that pop out to yell “buyer beware”, as though Early Access was the equivalent of buying stuff out the back of a van in an abandoned mall parking lot.

      • Cronstintein says:

        If anything, it’s worse than your van analogue! At least with van goods you can look at what you’re buying. An EA purchase is truly an act of faith.
        The solution is either to create gatekeepers or to do your research. I prefer the latter. Yes, a lot of crap shows up on the storefront but it is SO EASY to check videos and see what state the game is currently in. If it’s not *currently* in a state that you’re happy to pay the EA price for… DON’T BUY IT! Using this philosophy I have never been hurt by early access.
        Darkest Dungeon, Off-world Trading Company, Besiege, etc are all games that were in a good state when I purchased them and have no regrets about buying them. If you buy something crappy, it’s your own fault. EA or no, there’s a lot of crap out there. If money is tight, be more careful with how you spend it.

  10. Agnol117 says:

    I find myself pretty firmly in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” camp. Valve has gotten by for years doing basically nothing, and I don’t see them changing much. Especially now, given their current attitudes and apparent move towards being just a storefront (and thus could just pass all issues on to the publishers). Steam exists in a place where it basically is PC gaming. Other digital storefronts exist around them. There’s no real incentive to change.

    That being said, the Better Business Bureau is shady as hell. There have been allegations of them giving higher ratings to paying members for years. I mean, Ubisoft has an A+ rating with them, which really tells you most of what you need to know about the BBB.

  11. Catweasel says:

    It takes me WEEKS to just get a robot copy and paste response, which addresses nothing and isn’t relevant to my support ticket.

  12. Moraven says:

    12 years and now they are worried about it?

    They got the easy monopoly and have not used a bit of their revenue to improve customer service. How was this not an issue to address 10 years ago? On a yearly basis?

    In the 10 years of WoW, Blizzard’s support has been rather exceptional and continues to improve yearly. Amazon has pretty good customer support and does what they can to make you happy.

    Steam takes a week to back to you, tells you no and does not want you to be happy.

    • Aetylus says:

      Hmmm… WoW is a nice comparison… I always found their support quite responsive… certainly more so that say British High st banks… so I guess it can be done in Gaming.

    • drewski says:

      People might cancel their WoW subscription if Blizzard don’t support them properly, though. Steam have people refusing to buy games if it’s not released in their walled garden, so it’s an entirely opposite relationship…

  13. Emeraude says:

    “We need to build customer support directly into Steam.”

    Would be interesting to hear the rationale for this. Making their captive customer base all the more dependent on the client for the services is obviously good for Valve, but I want to believe he thinks it’s good to customers too, so why ?

    Data sharing between support and customer ?

    • James says:

      The reason behind it is probably ease of use. If I downloaded something in steam and it didn’t work, having a handy ‘complain here’ button would be very helpful. It would also allow Valve to realise the full extent of the problem as most of us probably can’t be asked to go after Valve for cheap games or client bugs because that takes too much effort to be worth doing. A handy button would resolve that.

  14. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    They’re not a case of “need to do better”, they’re a case of “couldn’t care less about customer service”. It’s pretty ridiculous for a storefront of that size to be so lackadaisical about customer complaints.

    Will be interested to see if things actually change, or if this is just a damage control release in response to some bad press from that BBB thing. Any chance RPS can pull out the The Silence tag if nothing happens for a few months?

    • Xzi says:

      Things will likely change, but on Valve time. Thus a few months is probably too optimistic.

      • mashkeyboardgetusername says:

        I’m not sure that’s good enough. The whole problem is that Valve seem to be taking their approach of doing things their own way, and in their own time, to customer service when you really, really can’t leave people hanging. The comment below this one is about someone losing access to their account through no fault of their own and getting silence in return, if Valve think “Oh, we’ve always taken a long time to do things” is acceptable then they’re badly wrong.

        • drewski says:

          But they clearly *can* leave people hanging. They’ve done it for ten years and been rewarded with a near monopoly on PC digital game retail.

    • Kerbal_Rocketry says:

      I can’t see how they could improve steam customer service, as i was rather under the impression something has to exist for it to be improved on.

    • KevinLew says:

      Valve’s “F” rating on the BBB has been there for at least a year. My point being that this announcement isn’t some knee-jerk reaction to a recent negative report.

  15. Zugbop says:

    Someone who wasn’t me tried to access my account and it was automatically locked, with more or less all functions being blocked. I created a ticket on Steam Support to get it unlocked – that was a month ago today, and I’ve still heard nothing back (aside from the unhelpful automated response, of course). There are so many people with very similar problems, and yet there’s nothing else that any of them can do because there is absolutely no other channel to go through, and no way of complaining about Steam Support itself.

    • paul2978 says:

      Im having the exact same problem with steam at the moment almost a month and no response, just to unlock the account. Very frustrating!

  16. Beelzebud says:

    It’s almost like Valve needs to start hiring non rockstar status developers and engineers, and pay some people to do the “boring” work of running a global marketplace. When you hear how new hires there are just given free reign to work on what appeals to them, it’s not too shocking that no one picked “customer service” as their niche.

    • Agnol117 says:

      Rational thought? What madness is this?

    • joa says:

      Engineers and other developers aren’t the ones doing customer service as that would be a major waste of resources. I wonder if they farm out the customer service stuff to some kind of agency and just give them a fixed set of rules for dealing with complaints?

  17. Carlos Danger says:

    Steam veils its complete lack of caring about customer service by being competent in their core service. It is a slightly disturbing business practice but one would be hard pressed arguing against it’s effectiveness.

    I have full confidence in Steam providing the game I purchased and literally nothing else past that.

    • drewski says:

      Yep. The fact that generally Steam does provide an awful lot on top of that is a very welcome bonus, of course, but basically I expect Steam to take money provide digital game files. Everything else is my problem.

      • LionsPhil says:

        The problem is you can’t even trust them to do that. Look at Zugbop in these comments who got his account locked for someone else trying to break into it. And now can’t get support to unlock it.

        That, to me, is infinitely worse than the refund situation, which is at least the miserable expected status quo for software.

  18. Kamos says:

    You cannot improve what does not exist. Seriously, when a game is broken in Steam, you either find an answer in a forum somewhere or you might as well not waste your time trying to look for help.

    Customer support is just one thing where they are underdeveloped. I wish someone (RPS?) would ask them what they do with the gigantic pile of money they get, since not even download speeds are something to phone home about.

  19. scottossington says:

    I want my money back for Dark Spore I could never launch it. This is why I have no qualms about pirating some games published by EA.

  20. Vagrant says:

    Ccrowdsource your support. Your welcome! Technically, they already do this by hoping you read the forums.

    But, imagine if, when you have a problem, there’s a ‘get help’ button you can press that lets community members help fix your problem for some kind of kudos. Give them a hat or something. It’s sure to raise them from an ‘F’ to a ‘D’ in support, all while requiring zero staff increase & very little cost to implement (assuming they use an existing reward system).

    • Vagrant says:

      Actually, since they make money on all Steam Market transactions, they could stand to make even more money by giving people hats / trading cards / etc for people to resell online! So there, Valve; solve your support problem & make even more money while doing it all in one go!

      You can send me a royalty check in the mail.

  21. Sam says:

    Prediction: They’ll offer “gems”, trading cards and the like to users who provide technical support. Why hire people to do labour when you can get an army of brand-loyal slaves master racers? We already see online “content creators” being edged out by the crowd sourced worlds of Reddit, Imgur and the like. The company profits from that unpaid labour bringing in ad views, and the creators are overjoyed that they got on the front page and earnt lots of internet points.

    Steam will also throw together some Python scripts to answer emails for refund requests in a way that will be close enough to legal that no one bothers taking them to court. Very unlikely to have a “refund” button built in to the client (at least without needing to fill out an intimidating form) as that’ll reduce friction and cause too many people to actually claim a refund.

    • Sam says:

      Vagrant beat me to the idea. You don’t even need to hire consultants any more, just read some internet comments.

      Now let’s have a maker-hacker-coding-jam to make an email answering script for them. The winner gets a tour of the Valve offices! (You pay for flights and hotel, there is an additional charge to see someone wheel their desk around.)

  22. Darth Gangrel says:

    I can remember when I last bought a game in a store, it was The Witcher 1 (before The Enhanced Edition was announced). Then, never again! I did buy a physical game off Ebay, Anachronox, because it was nowhere else to be found, but no more physical games for me since then. Of course, GoG added it a short while after, just my luck.

  23. blastaz says:

    I’ve got to say that I have only ever had a good experience with Steam customer support, and have received multiple refunds without much issue.

    Maybe it’s because of my super polite approach, maybe it’s because I live in a parallel dimension or maybe I spend so much money there I have some sort of “whale: keep this guy sweet” box ticked on my profile.

    • James says:

      You should play the lottery.

    • AngoraFish says:

      I have over 1300 games in my Steam account and spend quite a bit of money on their service. Luckily I’ve only had one experience with customer service (although, truth be told, plenty of cause for more had I had the stomach for it), but that one experience was long, drawn out by weeks and patronising in the extreme. My claim was ultimately only grudgingly accepted after I was fawning and obsequious about their noble generosity in considering my “trivial” little issue. So yes, I do think that you live in a parallel universe.

  24. Moraven says:

    Their non-existent support has given room for GoG.com, Origin, Humble to stand out with better customer support. People still want their Steam keys tho.

  25. dukesilver says:

    I think it’s funny how careful every article about this is to point out that the Better Business Bureau is not a government body. I’ve noticed it in articles whether the gaming site is based in the U.S. or not. They may not be a government body, but the specter of a bad rating from the BBB is usually a good way to get a company to straighten up. I’ve had a company give me the runaround for more than a month on a return, but things got settled once I filed a complaint with the BBB. That endorsement seems to be important to businesses here.

  26. Kefren says:

    It annoys me that currently you have to create a separate account to raise issues – as I had to do this week, then discovered that my Steam login and password don’t work for contacting Steam. That’s is a barrier right at the start.

    I reported the game that wouldn’t install/run, sent screen shots, and still haven’t heard back a week later.

    • Baines says:

      I went through the trouble of making a Steam support account a few years ago to report something. I can’t even remember what it was. I don’t believe that I ever received even an automated response.

  27. Premium User Badge

    samsharp99 says:

    Heaven forbid should you pay for something with PayPal and then use PayPal’s buyer protection process to claim a refund instead. Got my Steam account banned over a £2.74 game after CS refused to assist. I *eventually* got my account back but it was permanently blocked from using PayPal – something I was told was “irreversible”.

    I love Steam – it keeps me in touch with all my gaming buddies and lets me buy/download/play games in one place but their CS is atrocious and afaik I thought their policies were against UK/EU law/regulation.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Yikes, that sounds more like a fascist dictatorship of “take it or leave it, you’re at our mercy here” rather than a customer orienter support service.

      • drewski says:

        No, it sounds like a monopoly. A fascist dictatorship would be “take it or die in a gulag”.

  28. byjimini says:

    Well, I may be alone in this but I don’t buy Steam games until they’re 80% off.

    I don’t like jumping in on games with no real guarantee that they’ll work. I don’t really know what the numbers mean on graphics card or processors so am never sure if I’m actually going to get good performance.

    Cities Skylines, for example, is a fantastic game, but there’s a few graphical glitches that annoy me on the Mac, and it’s not really formatted well to the Apple wireless keyboard or mighty mouse. If Steam introduced a similar system to that of Google Play (refund within an hour) then I’d be more inclined to buy more games at full price.

    Obviously there’s download times to think about, so why not give a 24-hour period to give a refund? I don’t think Steam will change, but if it doesn’t then I’m afraid I won’t change my habits either.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      You’re not alone in waiting for GOTYs and 66% minimums (hat-tip to patientgamers as well).

      I still think that even if someone only paid 1 cent for a game, they should get it back if its the kind of “port once, support never, runs horrendously” thing that crops up every now and then (Saints Row 2, Prototype 2, many, many, many more) or similiar issues.

      What should NOT happen is that anyone that isn’t happy with something after only playing for an hour because they either didn’t read the manual, readme, patch notes or otherwise is impatient, 12 years old or otherwise just a “I live in the forums to complain” person can make a business model a painful and unpredictable fluctuation for game devs(indie devs in particular).

      There’s a lot of “hair trigger” issues with these things these days, which sadly distracts from the truly digusting stuff(such as adding Uplay on top of steam as DRM or the already mentioned lack of any support whatsoever after a broken release).

    • welverin says:

      You mean like Origin’s Great Game Guarantee?

  29. Wytefang says:

    Here’s the most OBVIOUS idea that no one seems to mention – HAVE A DAMN PHONE # SO PEOPLE CAN GET IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE, Valve.

    #duh #oneobviousimprovementtotry

    • LionsPhil says:

      *engaged tone*

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Maybe you should not use # as a hashtag right after using it as “number” if you want to be seen as a crusader for something directly accessible?
      Just seemed like a weird thing to do. But maybe that means you can relate why they don’t think of phones themselves as something obvious, given that when you use #, you think twitter instead of phone yourself.

  30. zarthrag says:

    While you’re at it, improve the license structure for libraries. If I own a game, it’s my game. If I own a license, I own a license. If I want to play Dark Souls from my library, my daughter should be able to borrow Scribblenauts. There is no earthly reason that isn’t okay. Both PCs are mine, authorized, and in my house.

    • drewski says:

      That sounds disturbingly like something that might be beneficial and fair to consumers. Unthinkable.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      This is my main gripe with Steam and an astoundingly stupid design flaw. I paid for different games – so let my son and I play our different games at the same time. Obviously we’re not pirating them – we paid for them both!

      • LionsPhil says:

        Doesn’t the Family Sharing thing allow this? I’ve never had cause to poke it.

        They’d need their own accounts, I think. Not sure what the Ts&Cs are for minors signing up.

        • Llewyn says:

          I also haven’t specifically tried it, but my interpretation when I read through the terms was that games from the ‘master’ library can only be used when the master account is not signed in. This makes it relatively pointless for most situations.

          That said, I may have misinterpreted, and the terms may have changed. I’d be interested to know if anyone has this working in a way that’s actually useful.

          • airmikee says:

            It’s not account specific, it’s game specific. You can share your entire library with family member computers, but the same game can not be accessed by any two computers.

          • airmikee says:

            Ah rats.. re-reading I see that it is account specific. That does ruin the feature.

          • Llewyn says:

            Thanks, I shall experiment with that. I’m as certain as I can be that the terms I read were account specific at the time, but whether they’ve since improved it or the original description was wrong, what you describe sounds genuinely useful.

          • Premium User Badge

            teije says:

            Yeah, the Family sharing thing is entirely useless since it’s by account. If they changed it to game specific, then it would be an actual useful feature.

      • jrodman says:

        It’s even dumber than that. When I’m myself, in my room, logged in on my mac, I can’t run a game, if DOTA is downloading a replay on the PC. You know, not even in a game.

  31. KillahMate says:

    I would appreciate it if, during their next interview with a Valve higher-up, someone from RPS asked them what the hell they do with all that money. Apparently all their games are profitable and therefore additional income sources instead of something they need to spend money on, no new games are being worked on (that we know of), the Source engine is only minutely improved in its 2.0 iteration, the Steam consoles and controller are taking an ice age to develop…
    They are skimming 30% off the top of basically the entire PC games market. Where on Earth is the money going?

    • airmikee says:

      Hardware R&D?

    • DrManhatten says:

      In the pocket of the CEO (aka Gabe Newell) and the shareholders where else? This isn’t charity kido!

    • drewski says:

      Same place money goes in any private company. Wages, salaries, expenses, investments, dividends.

  32. airmikee says:

    Yeah, I remember back in the good old days, walking into Software, Etc and being able to get a refund for a game that didn’t work. Oh wait, that never happened.

    Before Origin, no video game retailer in the history of video games offered refunds except in extremely limited, rare circumstances (usually to get a loud, obnoxious customer out of the store, or the rare broken games Steam has sold (ie, Legends of Pegasus and a few others.))

    Civ5 didn’t work for me until a patch six months after release fixed the game breaking bug that I encountered, the camera zooming in and out so quickly it felt like an old anime flashing scene until the game crashed. Thousands of other people were playing the game just fine, but it felt broken to me. Sure glad I couldn’t get a refund because now 1500 hours in game later it’s become one of my favorite games of all time. On the other end of the spectrum, Cities XXL has one of the lowest review ratings on Steam, tons of complaints about the game not being able to handle the advertised 1million city population. Steam even gave out a few refunds initially based on screenshots posted in the Steam forums by those receiving their money back, but my XXL city of 11million population runs better than any megacity in any other city builder game.

    It would be nice if Steam offered the same 24 hour guarantee that Origin offers, I may buy more games by trying out things others say are bad, or give more indie devs a chance if I knew I could get a refund if the game were utterly broken. But as Civ5 taught me, an “utterly broken” game doesn’t always remain so if the makers of the game fix it, and as XXL taught me, some people have ridiculous expectations of a genre that has never produced anything capable of doing what is expected. No city builder runs cities with populations in the tens of millions, simulating thousands of buildings and hundreds of thousands of cars at 60fps, at 20fps, of even 10fps. It’s just never happened before in the history of city building games.

    Even with their guarantee, I’ve still never spent a penny on Origin, and most “broken” games on Steam get fixed by the developers, or Steam refunds everyone because the game truly is broken. The real problem is who gets to determine when a game can be considered broken. With the exception of a few cases, that is almost always going to be a subjective answer that will almost never have a universally agreed upon answer.

    • Hammerzeit says:

      “Yeah, I remember back in the good old days, walking into Software, Etc and being able to get a refund for a game that didn’t work. Oh wait, that never happened.”

      It absolutely did. 25 years ago. For about 2 to 3 years 1989-1991. At least in Riverside County, CA and Orange County, CA. at Electronics Boutique and Software, Etc. stores I bought plenty of games for the Amiga 500 and for a 386. And I returned a fair amount, sometimes with nothing more than “this game sucks” because a lot of games sucked. Never had a problem.

      Of course they changed their policies to 14 day returns and then later to eliminating returns on open software, but for awhile they did it. So this common notion that it’s never been done before is wrong.

      • airmikee says:

        Putting aside that almost half of self described gamers weren’t even born during the time frame you mention, it sounds like you lucked out living near stores run by managers that didn’t understand the basics of game piracy at the time, because every video game retailer in my area has had a policy of denying refunds for opened software.

        I loved the move E.T. when I was young, and I remember how upset I was when my dad wouldn’t take back the god awful Atari 2600 game “based on the movie” because the store didn’t accept returned software. I encountered the same problem trying to return Centurion:Defender of Rome that I could never get to work on my computer after playing it at a friends house.

        Your memories of two stores granting refunds does not mean that the rest of us remembering being denied many refund requests are wrong, it means your experience was unique relative to the experience the rest of us had trying to get refunds way back in the infancy of PC gaming. It’s fairly easy to make an analogy with what you’ve described and reality right now, in that only Origin offers a refund policy and the rest of the video game retailing industry does not. And speaking of Origin’s Great Game Guarantee, a quick internet search for “origin refund policy fail” brings back 50 million results, making the analogy even more apt in that not everyone who asks for a refund from Origin gets one.

        • Press X to Gary Busey says:

          Fun fact: “origin refund policy fail” only has one hit on the entire internet – Your comment. According to my local google flavour. DuckDuckGo has 0 hits.

        • Hammerzeit says:

          No, it wasn’t two stores. It was every store I shopped in those two counties of those two specific retailers which was probably about six to ten stores. I’m pretty sure it was just the policy of those chains, but it didn’t last long. My only point in commenting was to show that this was a pretty normal practice for a couple of years. I’m sure we both agree why the practice didn’t last.

        • Baines says:

          Physical stores in the US did have fairly liberal return policies.

          This changed around the PS1 era, due to the number of people who were abusing the policies, sometimes to extreme degrees. You could check stories online, talk to store employees, and even talk to some of your shadier friends and find similar stories. Too many people were treating game shops as rental stores. There were people who bragged about only ever buying one game for a system, which they’d return for the next game that they wanted to play, which they’d return for the next game that they wanted to play, which they’d return for the…

          Others would buy a game, copy it that night, and return it the next day, as that made it look like they were only unhappy with a title, at least until clerks started noticing their return history. some weren’t quite as bad, actually buying to own certain titles, but still abusing the return policy to “rent” less desirable or more questionable titles. Heavy abusers even defended their actions online.

          So stores started restricting return policies. The abusers switched to other stores with less restrictive policies, and those stores in turn increased their own restrictions. (For example, I cannot remember whether it was Babbages or Electronics Boutique that first restricted its return policies. But one would soon follow the other.) Eventually, returns policies were almost eliminated, beyond returning a game for another copy of the same title.

    • bill says:

      Where you live maybe. Almost every video game retailer in the UK used to give refunds. Sometimes you had to argue, or sometimes you had to exchange, but they’d often do it no questions asked.

      I bought and returned Daggerfall 3 times, because I kept wanting to play it and then getting infuriated by the bugs.

      Back then, returning a game was no different from returning a CD or DVD.

      • airmikee says:

        Returning music CDs and DVD movies? Hahahaha, not in the states.

        Those things, at least, retailers would take back and exchange for a copy of the same thing in case of defective discs, but since games included unique CD-keys, there was nothing they would do. Contact the publisher/developer, or upgrade your computer (especially if it was a store that also sold hardware), or wait for a patch, among other excuses were the only alternatives at the time.

        • bill says:

          Wow. USA has pretty crappy consumer protection laws huh?

          that said, I gotta say that it did become much harder to return software after Steam came out. HL2 was the first game that was difficult to return. Then once every game started with always online DRM it became much harder for stores to accept refunds because they didn’t know if they’d work,

          So I guess my comments for video games mainly apply to the period before online activations and that kind of DRM (which did exist, you know).
          I don’t actually know the situation in recent years because I started buying everything online and haven’t actually bought a game from a physical store in more than 10 years.

  33. Mr Coot says:

    God, yes. “The more important thing is that we don’t feel like our customer service support is where it needs to be right now”. It’s only taken 10 years for that glimpse of insight into the customer support experience.

    ‘Where it is right now’ is something resembling a war of attrition where a Steam customer requiring support must create a new profile specifically to deal with CS – that’s in addition to their Steam account. And their forum account. ffs, how hard is it on a digital platform to integrate all these activities? Not very, but clearly the idea is to impede the customer maximally, so that they either die of old age or are so worn down that they accept with resignation the completely irrelevant computer generated response they eventually receive at the end of it all.

    I steal from Dilbert’s Elbonians: ‘Steam Customer service, how may we thwart you?’

  34. DrManhatten says:

    I believe it when I see it. As Alice rightly points out their refund policy s shambles put their DRM on top of it is just the creaming on the top. Luckily there are now good alternatives that I seldom need to revert to buying from Steam anymore (at least not directly). If GOG would get a gear on their galaxy client then even the days of their shitty client might be over soon too. Valve is like the Microsoft in the gaming world now. bully, bully, zero customer service and doesn’t care what customers want.

    • airmikee says:

      “(at least not directly).”

      Valve see little difference when you buy from a third party reseller. You can pretend like you’re not supporting Steam when you buy from a third party, but it’s all just a self delusional illusion. Those resellers turn around and give your money right back to Steam, you’re just paying a middle-man to pay Steam in order to continue imagining you’re not paying Steam.

      You act as if Steam invented DRM, ignoring the fact that DRM methods before Steam were even more invasive and problematic than Steam could ever hope to become. And you act as if GOG were a viable alternative for buying modern, AAA games even though the only AAA games on GOG are the ones that GOG’s owners make. Don’t get me wrong, I love GOG, but only when I’m in the mood to pick up an old game from my childhood. Just be honest, the DRM-free revolution is over (even GOG has started encrypting certain files to reduce the possibility of piracy.)

      I agree that Valve is being treated like the Microsoft of gaming, but not for the reasons you list, because I’ve never had any issues with Valve’s customer service that were actually issues that Valve could resolve, and since I only care about Steam being a place to buy games they’re providing me with exactly what I want. Microsoft was targeted and hated simply because they were #1 in their field, Apple currently does everything Microsoft was guilty of doing in their antitrust trial, but because Apple is so small nobody really minds or cares. Valve gets flak just because they are at the top right now.

      And I say all this as someone that used to hate Steam. I found the entire concept abhorrent and stupid, clinging to physical discs like they wouldn’t eventually get lost, damaged or stolen. Out of the 100+ or so games I bought on disc over the decades I have maybe a dozen left, and not all of them will run on modern hardware. Out of the 200+ games I bought on Steam over the past 4.5 years, all of them still work and none of them have had any issues that Steam is responsible for fixing (even when I have been so upset about a game not working that I have accused Steam of being responsible.)

      You’re free to not like Steam and Valve, but from the sound of your comment your revolution against amounts to giving them a few cents less each time you buy from a third party. ;)

      • DrManhatten says:

        And every dime less in Gabe’s pocket is a good thing!

  35. pepperfez says:

    “Valve: We have to…”
    No, they don’t at all, and that’s just the problem.

  36. MrFlakeOne says:

    I like the platform, but support is terrible, even worse than Origin’s support. Unanswered tickets is standard there.

  37. SuicideKing says:

    So I wanted to try the XCOM Enemy Unknown demo before buying it, but I couldn’t, because Steam wouldn’t let me. It said I already owned the game, but I didn’t, a friend with a shared account did. And I wasn’t going to download 20GB for a demo. There wasn’t any way to tell Valve about this issue.

    I bought it retail (Complete Edition, cheap) and played in the end. Luckily I loved it.

  38. Bfox says:

    ..just stop early access?..

  39. soopytwist says:

    Simple answer:
    Buy your triple-A Steam titles from Amazon when cheap (and patched), if they still don’t work send them back = refund.

    Takes a little longer to convince Valve to remove the refunded game from your library though.

    If it’s an indie title, you probably didn’t spend much on it anyway so who gives a f’k.

  40. jrodman says:

    Amusingly I’m now at one month waiting for Valve to acknowledge consistent crash-bug in Steam Helper.app on OSX.