New Steam Refunds Policy Makes Getting Your Money Back Far Simpler, But Some Devs Are Concerned

A new update to Steam’s refund policy looks like it’s what gamers have been crying for – a way to far more easily get their money back when buying Steam games which don’t work on their machines. Within 14 days of purchase, and so long as you’ve played for under two hours, they’ll give you a refund. Hurrah! However, we’ve spoken to developers who are concerned the new system makes it extremely simple for Steam users to keep non-DRM games and then get their money back. Let alone the issues it raises for games that last under two hours.

Previously, Steam’s refund policy was near non-existent. Essentially, if you bought it, you bought it. As of tonight, the policy has been changed to become enormously more liberal for Steam customers. It now reads,

“You can request a refund for nearly any purchase on Steam — for any reason. 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. It doesn’t matter.”

It goes on to say,

“Valve will, upon request via help.steampowered.com, issue a refund for any reason, if the request is made within fourteen days of purchase, and the title has been played for less than two hours.”

For too long it’s been far too difficult for Steam customers to get their money back. Valve’s move is, at first glance, a superb change from the frustrating and arcane process that preceded this change. This is especially the case with Steam’s extraordinary churn of… let’s say less high quality games of late.

But after speaking with developers, we’ve learned that there is concern about the immediately obvious exploits the system offers.

Games that have opted not to use Steam’s DRM, which of course is usually perceived as a customer-friendly decision, can now be purchased, copied over into a different directory, and then a refund requested. With the new no-quibble policy, they’ll get their money back, and have a working copy of the game remaining on their hard drive. It is, essentially, the same shady antics that were possible when brick-n-shelving game stores would provide refunds on DRM-free boxed PC games. It was, in fact, a huge reason why boxed PC games had DRM.

It’s also worth noting that any trading cards dropped in the opening two hours of a game (which of course is prime dropping time) can, as well, be sold before the refund is issued. This means these new changes go so far as to provide customers with a way to profit from buying and refunding games.

Then there are the enormous problems this raises for developers whose games last under two hours. Dear Esther, Gone Home, heck, even the original Portal, are designed to have short running times. Once completed, there’s nothing (other than honour, I suppose) to stop a customer requesting a refund for a game they’ve completed.

Other more tricksy issues spring to mind. Organised mob use of Steam reviews are already commonplace, but require the users to have purchased and played the game. With the new system now in place, it will be simple for such organised groups to buy a game, review bomb it, then get refunds. And goodness knows how this will work with games set to offline mode.

It’s obviously good news that Valve are making moves to make it easier for customers to receive legitimate refunds. But it’s also raising a whole heap of issues for developers whose DRM-free (as is increasingly commonplace on Steam) games can now be half-inched with minimal fuss, via legitimate channels. Might this feel a more legitimate method of getting a free game than turning to the naughty world of torrents? Or will it mean that yes, some will be rubbish, but ultimately it’s good news for the majority who’ll use the system fairly?

We’ve contacted Valve about these issues, to ask if they are considering ways to address them.

(PS. No one’s allowed to do this now we’ve pointed it out.)

259 Comments

  1. padger says:

    Is this Steam’s way of saying “okay, yes, we publish broken shovelware and unfinished, broken games now”?

    • Akbar says:

      No, it’s their way of saying “sometimes people buy games and then find out they can’t run it (or games they didn’t intend to buy)”. Which, as someone who desperately squeezes what they can out of an AMD A6-3650 with integrated graphics, is perfectly reasonable and fairly nice of them.

      It’s easy to think “why would you ever want a refund on a game in perfect condition you willingly purchased days ago?” but in the absence of demos, people with less powerful rigs are forced to buy a ticket for the “will it run” roulette.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        Well, I’d like to know how The Witcher 3 runs on my 4-year-old laptop, so this is a perfectly viable way to do that. Then again, I can figure that out for myself without buying it and wouldn’t want to play the game on such outdated hardware anyway, even if I was able to run it.

        This refund policy seems like open to abuse, but less thoughtless than the Skyrim paid mods debacle. Even so, it’d probably need a few alterations.

        • Kitsunin says:

          Okay, sure, people can be stupid, but often they aren’t.
          What if I have a desktop which has been waning with the times? It’s got, say, a 560, it’s fine and even good with most modern games, but I know Witcher games tend to deal poorly with even mid-tier systems? It’s gonna be pretty hard to judge whether it’ll actually work and if it’ll look good enough to be worth playing.

          Of course this is where I would typically turn to piracy, so I worry about their system legitimizing negative consumer actions, when that option does exist for those in need.

          • Evil Pancakes says:

            You could already do this if you bought it on GOG.
            If you have trouble running the game, GOG support should help you try to fix it. If they can’t, because your hardware is too outdated, you should be able to get a refund no problem.
            And GOG has the exact same potential issues with this policy that Steam does. All their games are DRM free, and yet they still provide a functional return policy. Difference being I suppose that GOG is more hands on than Valve is with Steam. Which incidentally is also the reason Steam is in so much need of a decent return policy, considering all the faff people try to sell as games on early access.

        • JIiweroerwoew says:

          Then again, I can figure that out for myself without buying it and wouldn’t want to play the game on such outdated hardware anyway, even if I was able to run it. But i need an brand ps4 bag for my Playstation 4. link to tr.im

        • darktatka says:

          Or, like me, you buy original FEAR modestly hoping it will run on my ARMA 3 machine, just to find out it will crash to desktop with my Logitech Wireless mouse. Guess I was foolish for not googling for that?

          It’s anecdotal, but boy, I wasn’t laughing when I found out.

      • that_guy_strife says:

        Akbar, for real ? You don’t know what your card can or can’t do ?

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          TBH minimum specs are, in my opinion nothing more than a vague guideline. I’ve played games on minimum specs that ran medium settings ok. I’ve attempted to play games on minimum specs that would run at about 20fps on lowest settings.
          Then there is the NVidia/AMD issue with some games performing better on a particular brand of card. You don’t know any of this for certain before you actually try it.

        • wu wei says:

          The problem is that performance has as much to do with the software as the hardware. There are plenty of instances of games that seem graphically less intensive than the obviously more hefty releases but that perform substantially worse. This is due to a wide range of issues, from poorly optimised code through to AAA titles getting GPU driver tweaks that smaller titles cannot.

          In the absence of demos for everything, I’d really like to see Steam integrate a benchmarking tool into their client, which could then be used to give customers some kind of base understanding of how a game will perform on their hardware.

        • SavageTech says:

          that_guy_strife for real? You’ve never noticed that required/recommended specs are a crapshoot at best?

          Seriously though, they are a horrid way of determining whether a game will run and be worth running on your hardware. Some games can look and run damn good at minimum specs, while others are total garbage if you’re not above recommended. Some games have a bevvy of granular graphics options that you can tweak to balance performance with your visual preferences, and others have a single toggle switch that says “shitty graphics / good graphics.” Furthermore, graphics cards can excel (and suck) at certain things which individual games may or may not rely heavily upon. My GTX265 (ancient, yeah) is DX11 compatible, and I’ve confirmed that it runs DX11 versions of games where multiple versions were available. Knowing this, I figured I could get away with running DS2: Scholar of the First Sin even though my card was slightly below spec (since, as stated, recommended specs have never seemed accurate to me). Turns out that it can’t even start because it uses some special techniques that my DX11 card isn’t capable of. If this is what “required” always meant then it’d be a useful distinction, but it usually means “might run okay if you drop the graphics down and don’t have to have 60fps”

          Basically, the specs are nonsense. We really need demos or at least game-specific benchmarks to really get a decent idea of whether or not a game is going to be playable. I would prefer that to a wantonly exploitable return system, but I guess that’s still better than forcing customers to just suck it up when they get 5FPS with the required settings or have other unforeseeable major issues.

    • Xzi says:

      Steam doesn’t publish anything. It’s a storefront. Any storefront has both shitty and good products. Buyer beware never stopped being a thing, FYI.

      • Det. Bullock says:

        Yep, that’s pretty much it, it’s not like Mediaworld can check if all the Blu Rays they have are either good movies or good transfers, the 4k mastered edition of Ghostbusters often shares the shelves with the Ultimate Hunter Edition of Predator (which has a notoriously bad transfer) or any Asylum direct-to-video and nobody bats an eye but with steam people seem surprised that the good stuff swims on an ocean of shovelware and bad games.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        See I disagree with this idea. Yes Steam is a storefront. Show me any legit brick and mortar store that won’t let you return a 3rd party product that doesn’t work properly? Any retailer worth their salt will offer refunds. Most retailers, unlike Steam, also don’t make a habit of allowing broken products, half finished products and just plain bad products onto their storefront and make sure anything getting enough complaints will get removed from sale and returned to the manufacturer.

        At least in Europe, stores are required, by law, to offer full refunds under most circumstances within a reasonable amount of time. This still applies to Steam, however they made it so ridiculously long winded and difficult to get refunds for broken shovelware crap that people would probably just not bother. However, they’ve been getting constant bad press over this for a while now and they couldn’t keep doing it forever without losing customers sooner or later.

        • MrPants says:

          Likewise in Australia, there are very strong consumer protections that extend to reasonable consumer expectations of quality and also claimed or implied features. The law is also very clear that the retailer (shopfront) is responsible for refunds and repairs, regardless of whatever warranty terms or behaviour the manufacturer tries to impose (ie they can’t sullenly mumble about the manufacturer’s warranty and wave you out the door).

          Of course, much of the time it’s only when you show up with a big stick and a fearsome visage that you can convince retailers to act accordingly.

          In Steam’s case, they have historically possessed+eaten their cake by pretending they exist outside Australian law while cheerfully selling millions of products buffed with punitive regional price gouging.

          • Cinek says:

            Steam cheated it’s way through both EU and AU laws by changing into a game rental service – unlike in other stores you don’t own any of your games on steam. The fact that they offer conditional, 2 play hour refund policy doesn’t mean that they comply with either EU or AU laws applicable to stores – they still don’t.

          • Press X to Gary Busey says:

            I applaud this step even if it opens up for some abuse (some of the points for concern are already present in other digital store fronts which has been doing refunds for years though, even Origin for that matter). There has been an exponential increase in shovelled junk and exploitation on Steam lately (check out Jim Sterlings daily demonstrations on youtube for some of the slime that keep on slipping through Greenlight).

            It’s really fuzzy when it comes to digital “services” (more so with concepts like early access) and it’s hard to make sensible comparisons to real world scenarios.
            And on top of everything is the fact that there’s no second hand option like the consoles for digital releases or PC games (except a small vintage market).

        • bpbill says:

          You do not have the right to return opened pc games to brick and mortar stores in the UK

          • Sakkura says:

            If they don’t work, you absolutely do have the right to a refund.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            “work” is a pretty broad term in this context, but if it runs like shit on your system it’s just bad luck. Maybe your system is bad or the developers are bad at optimizing their stuff, but point remains that their product “works”.

            It’s just a shitty product.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            Read further down I made the exact same comment. However that exists due to the ease in the past of simply copying the disk. It forced retailers to disallow PC game refunds.
            My comment was based more on a wider view of retail in general. In nearly all cases the retailer is responsible for refunds and making sure they don’t stock bad products. They are bound by law in the EU to comply with these consumer rights regulations.

          • fauxC says:

            It does suprise me how few people know the actual laws about this, and the number of people who insist that they do indeed have the *right* to return items to bricks-and-mortar stores.

            Yes, most stores, out of courtesy, and good customr service, wil have a robust and generous returns policy, but they ar ein no way forced to take back anything, as long as it’s fit for purpose.

            The better comparison for Steam is perhaps with distance selling regulations, which do give you a right, in law, to change your mind.

      • Borsook says:

        Yes and no. Actually Steam does a lot of things that in the old times a publisher would do. That’s why a indie dev can go on Steam without having a publisher and expect it to work fine. So, times change and the roles change. Steam is a store but it changed the model of publishing, things like steam sales, storefront banners, steam curators tags etc do the work of traditional publisher.

    • Chris D says:

      I think it might be Valve’s way of saying “Hmm, maybe distance selling regulations do apply to us after all. We should probably make it look like our idea.”

      • LionsPhil says:

        DSR’s right to cancel does not apply to software. (See also: the lovely standard EULA spiel about no warranty, no guarantee of fitness for purpose, etc.)

        (…I assume launching the software is at least “unsealing” it, if not associating it with your account. There may be updated wording somewhere that caught up with the fact you can buy downloads.)

        • PerpetualPanik says:

          DSRs don’t apply as of 13th June 2014 (and they didn’t apply to digital content anyway). They were replaced with The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation, and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. Digital content that allows the consumer to agree to immediate access waives the cancellation period (as long as the trader has given the correct cancellation information in a durable form).

          Source: I am a legal adviser for Trading Standards.

    • Sheepdog says:

      They had to come up with a policy to comply with Australian Consumer law (they were sued by the ACCC for not being compliant late last year), and I guess they decided to make the refund policy global once they had it worked out.

      It seems like a pretty sensible solution, some people will abuse it, but I imagine that will be the vast minority, and any losses they’re making that way they might make up for in good will.
      Keeping their good customers happy is what’s most important to them because losing them to someone like GoG would seriously impact their profit margins.

      • Buzko says:

        The ACCC v Valve case is still before the courts.

      • James says:

        It porobably had more to do with EU law, which as of June 13th 2014 meant that companies were obligated to offer refunds for online products. Given Valve’s lack of customer support, vetting process, or general acceptance of market responsibility, I suspect they don’t want to draw the ire of the EU at the moment, especially if that Australia case turns against them.

  2. TouchMyBox says:

    Okay, but making your game DRM-free has always been a good-will gesture that hopefully people won’t be dicks and pirate it. It’s not like people abusing a system to pirate a DRM-Free game and people just going to torrents to pirate a DRM-Free game makes much of a difference, except one is a bit of a hassle and charges your credit card and potentially opens you up to steam blacklisting your account for refunds for abuse.

    • Tukuturi says:

      It’s also worth noting that DRM only impacts week-one piracy in any significant way. I haven’t been involved in the scene since that involved making nocd cracks in hiew, but DRM has always been little more than an extra, fun little minigame for crackers.

      • Borsook says:

        Exactly, actually in some cases DRM games are available on torrents before DRM-free games, with the latter there is simply less motivation for people to make a “release”, whereas cracking something first give splendor. :)

    • Faxmachinen says:

      Not to mention that it makes very little sense to be on Steam and not use some form of DRM. It won’t be DRM free either way.

    • April March says:

      Yeah. An important thing: if you offered a DRM-free game on Humble that came with a Steam key, there has never been anything stopping you from playing the DRM-free version and selling the Steam key. Or registering the Steam key and placing the DRM-free version on bit torrent. Or saving the DRM-free version to disk and burning them to CDs to sell them to Paraguayans.

  3. Tukuturi says:

    There already are easier ways to pirate these games, and they’ve been around longer. I can’t imagine anyone would go to the trouble to pirate a game this way when they could just torrent it.

    Also, isn’t the original Portal free on Steam? It was for a while anyway.

    • padger says:

      “I can’t imagine anyone would go to the trouble to pirate a game this way when they could just torrent it.”

      Except you could get the game that just came out on Steam like this? And wouldn’t have to risk shitty malware-infested torrent sites? And Steam downloads are pretty fast and reliable compared to torrents? And you could buy again to make sure you had an up to date version straight from the devs?

      And… the list probably goes on as to why this is the BEST PIRACY SYSTEM EVER.

      Thanks for pointing that out, btw.

      • Tukuturi says:

        There are plenty of safe torrent trackers where trusted scene groups post their work. I guess you did answer the question in a way though, in that people who don’t understand how internet sharing works might see Steam as a potential platform for this. That said, I still think it’s easier to just learn how other avenues of sharing work. Also, whatever happened to just putting copies of games on a disc, thumb drive, shared folder at a LAN, etc? I don’t understand how Steam is enabling what you call piracy here.

        • padger says:

          Look at it like this: the devs have made these games DRM free precisely so that I can put it on a thumbstick and go install it on my girl’s laptop or whatever. Now you can do that and still refund it, having the game for free. Sure, it’s probably easier to learn how to torrent it safely (really? I already know how to use Steam and hit ctrl-C?) but i *can still get games for free*.

          • Tukuturi says:

            You copying that game onto a thumb drive and putting it on someone’s laptop is the same as torrenting it, practically and legally speaking.

          • padger says:

            Uh, no it isn’t. Come back when you paid fifteen bucks to torrent it.

          • Tukuturi says:

            In this hypothetical situation, you paid fifteen dollars to have access to one copy of the information. By copying it onto multiple machines, you have violated the copyright, assuming that it’s a conventional copyright and not creative commons or something. This is the same, legally and practically speaking, as if you torrented it on the second machine.

          • Bereil says:

            There’s always the Steam Family Sharing system that basically allows you to do that anyway without doing legally questionable actions.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            @Tukuturi
            Well not exactly, it’s more of a grey area than that, Steam will let you run the same account on multiple PCs and let you download and install the game on each one. Hence why it has the feature that only allows your account to be logged in on one machine at one time.

            Copying it from the Steam directory in order to transfer it to a computer which is NOT used by the account holder would be the illegal action. However Steam realises it’s futile and ridiculous to try and punish people for allowing their family members in the same household to play the games they own, hence why they put in the Steam family thing.

            Because of this I’m pretty sure the guy is doing nothing wrong legally by transferring the game he owns the license for via thumbstick rather than a Steam client download. The only real illegality comes if both he and his girl both play that game at the same time as the Steam family sharing system only allows one copy to be run at any one time. If two people want to play the game together, they need two copies. As long as he isn’t doing this, it makes no difference how he chooses to transfer the game data around his house.

          • Tukuturi says:

            At which point he could just as well torrent the same data onto the other computer.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            Again, grey area, legally there is nothing wrong with obtaining the files for a game you have the license for, even if it is via torrent. The argument is that you are promoting and facilitating others to obtain the game illegally by helping the health of the torrent and unless you completely turn off all uploading (which as I’m sure you are aware can a lot of the time dump you into a low priority group so people don’t do it), the second your torrent starts sharing those files with others, you are most definitely breaking the law.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            Other issues with the torrent are,
            “Would it be the same version you have the license for?”
            Even if the torrent is the right version but comes with a crack it can be deemed as different to the version that you purchased, hence, again it would be illegal. DRM free Steam directory version onto a pen drive and moved to another PC within the address of the account holder? Much less murky territory from a legal standpoint.

          • P.Funk says:

            Murky world of torrents. My oh my are people in awe of the apparent legitimacy of ripping off a reputable vendor.

            Legally I’m sure in either case you’d be fucked if anybody were to bother paying a lawyer to go the distance.

        • green frog says:

          I think you meant, “There are plenty of safe torrent trackers where trusted scene groups post other people’s work.” Unless, in your view, the act of cracking something and putting it on BitTorrent is more significant than the act of making the thing in the first place.

          • Tukuturi says:

            There’s no argument here of whose work is more significant. The act of cracking, however, is their work.

      • Borsook says:

        Malware infested torrent sites are mostly a urban myth, this applies only to some obscure ones. Whereas the hassle of contacting steam support is real. Apps like qbittorrent have built in search, you can have you free pirated game within minutes instead of buying it (so paying for it!) moving the folder manually waiting for steam support to respond and getting your money back weeks later. Traditional piracy trumps abusing this system.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          I torrented a lot of stuff ( porn included ) and MalwareBytes gave me 0 results. At times i got 1 or something.

          My GF does nothing of that, but she streams a lot of TV series without a decent adblock: the same MalwareBytes gave her 800+ results ( might be inflated due to how some malware works ).

          She has an adblock now.

    • horrorgasm says:

      Not typical piracy so much probably, no, but I bet a lot of people will use it as a makeshift rental service like they do with console games these days. Buy it, beat it in 2 days, make up some BS story and return it. Technically not piracy, but not much better really.

      • Tukuturi says:

        I think you can only play it for less than two hours. I hope people aren’t renting games to only play them for an hour or so.

      • Archonsod says:

        Except they don’t because you can already rent console games as a rental service, so you only need an excuse for keeping it longer than you paid for.. Rumour has it those consoles even include fabulously advanced technology permitting their users to actually sell copies of games they no longer want to fellow gamers.

      • Cinek says:

        They can do the same on GOG or any other PC gaming store that offers refunds. You are trying to find a negative in a positive news, there’s something really wrong with you.

        • Cinek says:

          Hehe, that came out way too dramatic. Oh well… no edit option >_>

    • malkav11 says:

      Yeah, I’m not going to claim no one would ever do such a thing – people do dumb things all the time – but if you’re going to make a habit of piracy there are much easier ways to do it that don’t involve talking to customer support or leaving a pretty obvious data trail. I mean, at least with returning stuff to a physical store you could spread things out over a bunch of different stores and make it less obvious that you’re abusing the system, but strictly on Steam? I can’t think you’d manage it very long without getting identified and shut down. At least not without going to a lot more work than the usual piracy routes.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        But then all the people doing this kind of crap would add an incredible amount of logistical stress.

  4. draglikepull says:

    Amazon has allowed users to return any e-book for a full refund (even if they’ve read 100% of it) for years, and as far as I’m aware they haven’t faced any widespread abuse of the system. Individual users occasionally abuse the system, yes, and those users should have their refunding privileges removes, but I think it’s unlikely that we’re going to see any developers seriously harmed by these new measures.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      I don’t know about e-books, but they certainly have a limit on Audible returns – after a while it will require you to call a number, rather than fill in a web form.

      • Pixieking says:

        The paragraph about abuse is essentially like Audible’s restrictions. They’re saying that if you go through the refund process too many times, someone will have a look at your account, and may refuse you. Which is also like any bricks-and-mortar store – try your luck with a refund too many times, you’ll get blacklisted.

      • Matt_W says:

        I can see something like that working for Steam as well. I’ve been an Audible subscriber for 2 1/2 years now. In that time, I’ve returned two books, both simply because I didn’t like them after a couple hours of listening. No issues, no hassle, no questions. I can see putting simple barriers up against abusers being a pretty effective way to curtail it.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          Yeah exactly. I really don’t see masses of people trying to abuse this on Steam. At the end of the day, if they are determined to get away with scamming games, why wouldn’t they already be torrenting anyway?

          Some people will ofc try their luck but the fact that people know they can get refunds can actually encourage purchasing, at the moment people know they can’t get a refund so might shy away until the game is super cheap because they don’t want to be stuck with a dud. Nothing worse than getting stuck with a £30 pile of horse dung after all.

          If I know a crappy or broken game can simply be returned before I’ve played a couple of hours, I might be more inclined to pay more for games. If it’s bad, I get a refund, if it’s good, I don’t mind paying the money. At the moment that comes down to a gamble that people don’t want to take, hence they wait until the game is less than a tenner. This refunds system can actually be good not just for customers, but developers too (those that aren’t churning out dross at least). This is the other side of the coin that the article didn’t really touch on.

      • MattM says:

        I used up all my audible refunds and had to make that call. They granted me additional returns without much hassle.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        I’m pretty sure they are going to put a similar limit on it with Steam (I didn’t see specifics yet, dunno if they’ve released that info), combined with 2 hours of playtime maximum, it would be hard to get very much out of attempted scamming in my opinion.

    • noclip says:

      Something gives me a hunch that the ebook-reading public would be less likely to abuse such an arrangement than the gaming public.

      • draglikepull says:

        Based on what? I used to work in a department store, and while the outside perception was that most shoplifting is done by teenagers (especially electronics) the things that were most frequently shoplifted were housewares, linens, etc. I don’t see any reason to believe that the average game buyer is any more prone to abusing refund policies than the average buyer of other products. There are cheats everywhere.

        • Distec says:

          For me it was grown-ass adults stealing office supplies. Ink and toner was also very popular, and every week we dealt with customers that were abusing the cartridge recycling program for store credit.

          If you’re going to assume the worst about the gaming public, might as well do the same for everybody. Don’t even get me started on those damn people who listen to music! When’s the last time they actually bought an album?

      • Baines says:

        Pirated ebooks are readily available for torrent or file download, in a much more convenient than PC games. You can download people’s entire collections of hundreds or thousands of books with less effort that it takes to download and install a pirated PC game.

    • shutter says:

      Origin has had a no-questions refund system for about a year now, and given they’re still advertizing it, I’m guessing it’s not being abused to a level that causes problems.

      • malkav11 says:

        It’s a much more limited policy, but still possibly an applicable example.

      • eggy toast says:

        Origin doesn’t have games that run without Origin uninstalled, as I understand it.

      • Cantisque says:

        All their games are DRM’d, if they return a game then EA knows for sure they can’t still be playing it (Origin would just prompt them to buy the game when they tried to run it again). Games on Steam don’t always have DRM, depending on the publisher, so you could return a game like that and keep playing it.

  5. Gordon Shock says:

    That will shut up Steam bashers for a while!

    In the grand scheme of things only a tiny percentage of people have either the time or the motivation to go on about scheming the way the John describes it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Steam just shrugged at those (albeit valid) points.

    • Punk0 says:

      The amount of negativity on the internet astounds me. This is good news, period. Anyone who hasn’t decided to put DRM in their game has already made piece with the fact it may be pirated. I don’t see it being any bigger an issue than it was before. If this truly concerns them, they can always elect to have DRM. I think this invented concern is more a misdirection over the concern game developers have that a person might try their game, immediately see that it’s not for them, and get a refund. This is a pro consumer policy that should have been in place from day one. Gamers have had to do their homework to an extent that almost no other consumer has. Drop $60 on a game that you immediately don’t like? Too bad, because… piracy. You understand, right? When I first started buying games, I felt they were taking advantage of me for being a child. The problem is that I’ve been an adult for quite some time and I’m still buying games from an industry that treats me like a child. I’m glad to see a policy that treats the consumer like an intelligent adult and doesn’t blame them if they can’t get a game to run. This is a step in the right direction for Steam, after their only real misstep (the paid mod debacle) imo.

    • Punk0 says:

      Btw, Gordon. I wasn’t accusing you of being negative. I haven’t used the comment section on this site too often, and I didn’t know if it would show up as a response to your post. Your comment about silencing the Steam haters was what motivated me to post because I don’t see them silenced, not even here.

  6. KDR_11k says:

    But to be fair if you’re going to pirate you’d probably just grab it off a torrent otherwise.

    Also I suspect if you keep purchasing games and immediately refunding them you’ll raise some red flags.

  7. Premium User Badge

    John Walker says:

    I think those pointing out piracy already exists are missing an important difference – this is exploiting a legitimate system, rather than just outright employing an illegitimate one. You can do this without stepping outside the safe walls of Steam, and knowing you’re definitely not about to torrent some malware that will eat your eyes.

    • Tukuturi says:

      Except that, as I’ve stated in another comment here, there are plenty of safe channels for the free exchange of information like this. Torrenting games is not the dangerous wild west that you make it out to be. We’re not talking about downloading ISOs from strangers on an IRC channel here.

      • Premium User Badge

        John Walker says:

        You’re right, but I think you over-estimate the familiarity the average Steam user will have with such things. Knowing which groups to trust, etc, is quite a deep understanding of the Scene. If you’re googling “Skyrim torrent”, you’re still going to get in a whole heap of trouble.

        • Tukuturi says:

          Fair enough. I understand where you (and Akbar below) are coming from on this. I do tend to overestimate the tech savvy of the average end user. Then I have to stop and remember the harrowing two years I spent in tech support. *shudder*

        • Deano2099 says:

          Do you really think so? I mean, most people I talk to have heard of The Pirate Bay, you go there, you search for Skyrim and the top result is the one most people have downloaded, so is most likely to work and be clean.

          I genuinely don’t think it’s that much hard than finding the Steamapps folder, there the game within it, then copying that somewhere else.mamlittle bit, sure, but I think we’re talking fairly small numbers here.

          • malkav11 says:

            It’s certainly easier than doing that and then contacting customer support for a refund, especially if you were to make a habit of it.

          • Premium User Badge

            keithzg says:

            Frankly for a lot of people, going to the Pirate Bay is going to be a lot *easier* than going to their SteamApps folder (one of the reasons streaming media has become so popular is that the average member of the population finds the filesystem scary and bewildering; they just type things into The Google).

            And yeah, as others are pointing out, if you’re at all trying to make a habit of this then Valve is going to be swiftly aware.

        • shutter says:

          You’re kind of trying to have it both ways here. That people are too technically clueless to find one of the major torrent sites, but are technically savvy enough to go around dicking with files in the guts of the Steam directory.

          The incremental number of people fit in that narrow band is almost certainly not that big. It becomes even less of a worry when most of the industry is adding in live updates or online content to incentivize you having the game on Steam (or GoG, or Origin), that’s why Steam essentially ended the industry worries about piracy in the first place, it’s DRM that people want to use.

          This is the promised land, where the problem of piracy is largely solved and we get to start reaping the rewards, like higher sales for devs and better customer service for customers.

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            Its not quite the small jump you’re suggesting – I’ve moved a folder out of steam just to stop it downloading updates I didn’t want and sure that maybe beyond the ‘how do I internet?’ people but I doubt there’s anyone who spends time gaming that would have much difficulty. Grabbing a torrent though you need to find and install a client, track down a site that lists it, there might be a malware risk, there’s also a legal risk, hope there’s enough seeds it won’t take forever – there’s ways round all that but its starting to be work if you haven’t done it before – abusing Steam would just be Ctrl-C Ctrl-V tick the form and done.

          • Cinek says:

            Copying and playing the game you asked a refund for is ALSO ILLEGAL, just as much as downloading Torrent is and it still bears the same risks (remember that some games, even DRM-free still communicate with server, either for checking updates or multiplayer), lower than torrenting, but from legal point of view – it’s no better.

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            I don’t think anyone’s saying its not illegal, just that illegally using a game from steam might be easier than illegally using a game from piratebay

      • Akbar says:

        It’s not about safety, it’s about the system. Imagine if Steam introduced a “free game store”, where they put illegal copies of games which the developers did not wish to put on steam. Even if they made access a bit more convoluted than conventional torrenting (eg forced the user to do a quick survey), I think it’s clearly wrong of them for creating tools that helps people break the law.

        • that_guy_strife says:

          John is kinda right, I’m thinking especially about kids. But those same people afraid of torrents probably won’t try to cross their supplier. Anyways, they very probably won’t be able to do it more than a few times.

        • hotmaildidntwork says:

          Better shut down the internet, you can get up to all sorts of legally questionable hijinks in here!

        • Punk0 says:

          These developers weren’t concerned about piracy when they elected to not employ DRM, so why now? I call bs on this whole line of concern. If they are truly worried about it, they can just insert the Steam DRM. Their real concern is that people won’t like their game and ask for their money back – which is something that the excuse of piracy has enabled them to avoid to this point. Once you got the consumer’s money, it was yours to keep (in the U.S. anyway). This is a step in the right direction, although still not as good as Origin’s, which gives you 24 hours to decide if you want a refund, and 30 days if you can’t get it to run. I’m glad to see competition is resulting in some pro consumer policies that should have been in place from the start.

        • eggy toast says:

          “The system could potentially be abused by someone at some point” does not mean that they’ve created a moral hazard by introducing the system.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      That’s a fair point, however, the other side of the coin is, by exploiting Steam directly aren’t people increasing the risk that Steam puts systems in place and actually finds out people have been scamming? From there they might see fit to start banning accounts.

      Give me the choice of maybe incurring a bit of malware and at the very worst having to reformat my PC, or maybe losing over 300 legally owned games that tallies up to about $4000 dollars worth and………..well yeah, I know which one 99% of people would be more willing to risk.

    • P.Funk says:

      Anybody who ever puts a GOG game up on a torrent site is exploiting a free system. I don’t see how its that big of a deal.

      We’re basically facing a simple issue – Consumer rights vs. Protection of Vendor’s interests

      There is no perfect solution because DRM doesn’t really work and in the process of trying to make it work we’ve done some damage to consumer rights, so its time to say fuck that, what we got is good enough, and realize that protecting comsumer rights in a marketplace that has astonishingly poor interest in doing just that compared to most billion dollar industries is a reasonable thing to choose over a handful of abuses of a legitimate system.

    • Cinek says:

      Your post John makes a major mistake implying that it’s somewhat OK to copy DRM-free game that you asked a refund for and that it’s less of a piracy than downloading torrent is. IT’S NOT. Please, stop misleading people.

  8. padger says:

    At least we all get to feel anxious about whether we made the right decision purchasing the game for two hours, now. So that’s a plus. Right? That’s not going to make me give up the first two Witcher games *at all*.

  9. Phenomen says:

    From theur return policy:

    >Abuse
    Refunds are designed to remove the risk from purchasing titles on Steam—not as a way to get free games. If it appears to us that you are abusing refunds, we may stop offering them to you. We do not consider it abuse to request a refund on a title that was purchased just before a sale and then immediately rebuying that title for the sale price.

    • Raf says:

      This. I really like that last part.

      It seems like common sense but I’m glad that they did not decide otherwise on the matter.

      • Premium User Badge

        Harlander says:

        They could make a bit of money (or, perhaps, keep from losing it) by having an option to press a button and credit your Steam Wallet with the difference between your purchase price and the sale price.

  10. frymaster says:

    This is a very odd way of looking at the changes, especially since they basically just bring Steam into line with what Origin has done for ages.

    I’m not saying it’s not an issue, but to present overwhelmingly positive news with that headline is really confusing. Again, it’s something to be mentioned, and probably should take up the bulk of the commentary (because as consumers, why it’s good is fairly obvious), but the “spin” is just… confusing

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      I think that’s fair, and I’ll change the headline.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Indeed, EA finally did something useful. Hooray for competition!

    • malkav11 says:

      The Steam policy is much more extensive than Origin’s. 14 days from purchase or 2 hours of play on any game Steam sells versus 7 days from purchase(/release if preorder) or one day from first launch on EA games (and specific third party titles, apparently) only. And Steam will consider a refund even after that window, which I imagine they would be likely to grant for technical issues and similar, probably not so much “I played 68 hours of this game and hate it”. Origin’s policy only states that you get an additional two days after first launch if it’s within the first 30 days of release and you’re unable to play it due to “technical reasons within EA’s control”.

      • Cinek says:

        Origin is less restrictive one, you don’t have the 2 gameplay hours policy (you can easily spend more than that trying to fix the issue, eg. If game crashes after unskippable 5 minutes long animation (FC4 I’m looking at you) ).

        • frymaster says:

          it’s swings and roundabouts, depending. Either way, I suspect Origin’s refund policy factored in to this decision at some level, even if only being used for contrast

  11. T-wester says:

    It’s still not easier than using a torrent. I doubt it lead to “Steam pirating” If the games in question are drm free are they already in the wild.

  12. Tukuturi says:

    Can we stop referring to the copying and sharing of copyrighted material as piracy? There is an important ethical difference, I think, between someone copying information that you would rather not and someone taking that information and turning a profit off of it. I’m not necessarily defending the former here, just asking that a distinction be made. After all, it has always been possible to buy a DRM free game on steam and then sell copies of it illegally for profit.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Yeah, releasing copyrighted material for free is way worse for artists and copyright holders than actual pirating. Pirates have to find someone willing to give them money. Torrenting is just a never ending waterslide of free shit.

      • Shuck says:

        “Pirates have to find someone willing to give them money.”
        Which means an act of piracy demonstrably results in the loss of a sale. Not necessarily the case when it’s a copyright violation. Studies show that copyright violators download far more media than they could ever consume, even.

    • that_guy_strife says:

      It’s an ethical issue, not a legal one. Akin to being an opinion, not a fact. I do agree with you. But a judge probably wouldnt.

    • aircool says:

      No there isn’t… as both of those practices still get you something for nothing. Deciding whether to make profit or not is secondary, as you cannot make that decision until you have your ‘free’ software.

      So yeah… nice try but I’d still burn you at the stake.

      • P.Funk says:

        Piracy
        noun, plural piracies.
        1. practice of a pirate; robbery or illegal violence at sea.

        The only reason the next definition relates to reproduction of materials is because the term has been abused. When you examine the word’s meaning its clear that its nothing to do with what happens on torrent sites.

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          Might have agreed with you back in the 90s when I first heard that argument but language changes, time to get over it.

    • Ejia says:

      Okay.

      We’ll call it digital piracy.

      • P.Funk says:

        So basically your new term would then mean “Digital theft and violence performed on the seas”.

        • Ejia says:

          No, it would be “Digital theft and violence performed on the C:s”.

          • Premium User Badge

            keithzg says:

            Jokes on you, all my stuff is in /home/keithzg, no C:’s involved!

            (But no, seriously, nonapplicability of it to Linux and OSX aside, that’s was a pretty great joke.)

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Pun of the year spotted?

        • DodgyG33za says:

          According to the law in England and Wales: “A person commits theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.”

          So digital copying in contravention to copyright law maybe, but not digital theft.

    • green frog says:

      There is little worse in gaming than than when the pirates get up on their high horse and start lecturing to people about “ethics.” Oddly enough, I would have much more respect for the piracy scene if they just said that they like getting free shit and they do it because they can. Instead of all this overwrought bullshit where they portray themselves as some noble crusade against the insufferable oppression of not being a parasite.

      I mean, I realize that maybe it’s really not disingenuous and you honestly believe in your infantile little ideology, but really, a rationale of cynical self-interest would be so much less loathsome than this pretentious song and dance where you think you’re a fucking modern-day Rosa Parks because you like to download video games without paying for them.

      So no, you don’t get to frame the terms people use. Grow up.

  13. smisk says:

    It’d be easy to fix the card problem, just don’t let any drop before two hours of gametime.
    It’ll be interesting to see if they address these issues. How many DRM free games are there on steam anyway? Not many I’d guess…

    • prof_yaffle says:

      Is the card issue really that much of a problem? After all both Valve and the game’s publishers take a cut from any card sales.
      If the problem is people might start buying games, and then returning them, just to get the cards to sell. Given how little most cards sell for, that seems like a really bad way to make money.

      • malkav11 says:

        That’s my thinking. You could certainly tweak card drops, but since Valve and the developer get their cut regardless, who really cares?

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          Simple, if it is actually a problem, they just lock cards earned away until the game reaches 2 hours played, let you view them but not sell them. Once the 2 hour mark is reached, “here are your cards”. The game can no longer be returned at that point, if the game is returned, cards disappear.
          Doesn’t seem like a difficult implementation if it becomes an issue.

          • Press X to Gary Busey says:

            There’s a tiny minor issue with that too, people with some serious energy to burn on the process could make re-draws to try to get foil cards by re-buying the game. But the solution then would be to keep your drops hidden in the database if you get a refund and then reissue the same cards when you re-buy. And Steam would probably notice someone systematically doing it. So never mind. ^^

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Currently playing Tomb Raider. 5 hours in and my cards are worth £0.31. Seems like a rather piss-poor amount for 5 hours “work”. Are people really going to bother trying this sort of duping game after game after game for pennies?

        Even if I earned that £0.31 in under 2 hours. That’s a whole day, 24 hours of playing the intros to video games (which are usually the worst bit anyway), then consider the time spent faffing about buying, downloading, installing, then getting the refund each time. Somewhere in the region of 30+ hours spent in order to earn yourself a single £3.75 game in a Steam sale. Nobody is going to do that, it just makes absolutely no sense.

        • jrodman says:

          What if you have an army of cybermen to do your bidding?

        • Splattercakez says:

          There’s a program you can use that ‘fakes’ playing games and racks up Steam time without the need to install or play them yourself, which is what most of those people you see with a Steam level several hundred high used to get there. You can run that program in the background all day while you do other things or over night and gradually accumulate cards, now currently it’s only real purpose is for badge hoarders after all the cost of the games is higher than any profit you could make from cards unless you literally get a game for free. With this system in place you can very easily do this and gradually rack up profit without having to do anything yourself, gain a few extra pennies while you’re out in school/uni/work/whatever, rack them up overnight, and that will add up; there are a -lot- of games that have cards nowadays, and the vast majority drop them all within two hours.

          I mean it’s pretty trivial for Valve to fix this kind of exploiting so I don’t think it’s going to really become a serious issue in the long term, and there’s also the obvious inherent issue with the profitability in that if enough people attempted this competing card prices would probably drop a lot and cease really being profitable at all, although I’m no expert in market dynamics.

    • Shuck says:

      What if the game is only a couple hours long? You have to play the entire game multiple times to get the cards?

      • Lagran says:

        Can drop times vary, and are set by the developers(/publishers?). I got all the cards for Gone Home (3 cards) in under 1.5hrs, while Starbound’s cards (8 cards) I got all after 7.5hrs.

        • Lagran says:

          …And I’ve just seen what you meant. If no cards dropped for Gone Home before 2hrs, I would have had to play it again for the cards.

  14. JonClaw says:

    You mean Valve rushed into something that’s going to backfire on them? I’m SHOCKED.

    • Shadow says:

      It does seem to be the usual naive, hamfisted way Valve has of implementing new things: start off with a decent idea, don’t really think it through much at all, release it and let the ensuing shitstorm point out the (grievous) faults. Then it’s back to the drawing board practically from scratch. I suppose it’s one way of testing stuff, if you don’t mind the PR hit (if any?).

      In recent memory, the same happened with the attempted monetization of Steam Workshop content.

  15. ResonanceCascade says:

    This system sounds perfectly fine to me ( a measly consumer) so I guess any issues are between Valve and the devs at this point.

    It does raise a question in my mind, though. Why doesn’t Valve just hire a reasonably well-staffed customer service department and set some reasonable guidelines for vetting and doling out refunds? Do they really take their flat management to that extreme? Are they philosophically opposed to any systems that aren’t automated? I don’t understand their reasoning.

    • RobF says:

      “I guess any issues are between Valve and the devs at this point”

      This is the important thing for me. Yes, all these issues exist but they’re not ones that you solve through consumer rights (or more to the point, further limiting consumer rights).

      These are fundamental problems between devs, the storefront and a percentage of people who frequent that storefront (and more to the point, have been given free reign to abuse systems on the storefront for years now). Any solutions should be looking at making sure that the consumer rights are kept in place and bolstered to be as strong as they can be and like everyone else in every other line of work has to, make sure that workers/suppliers/devs etc… within systems are amply protected too.

      To me it’s kinda sad to see the first response from devs is “oh, this is bad for me”. I understand how it is, I understand why but we should kinda be striving to do better for customers *and* devs and not at the expense of each other.

      • LionsPhil says:

        From what devs, though? Unless I’m missing it, the article just says “after speaking with developers”. After speaking with my cat, I can determine that this is farily useless oh-no what-if-it’s-actually-bad clickbaity scaremongering.

        • RobF says:

          There’s a whole subset of devs who, well, let’s put this politely. Their relationships with Steam and Steam users are fraught because Steam does little to support them right now and there are Steam users who object to anything that’s either small/arty/by a minority dev/by a woman (especially a woman some might arbitrarily decide is a three-letter-boogyman because they dare to give a fuck about other humans or whatever).

          Those same users take opportunities to review bomb games, shit up their forums and generally make life on Steam (and whether we like it or not, being on Steam is the baseline for “getting a shot at making a living from games” most of the time so…) difficult for these devs.

          So when it comes to something like this, it’s difficult not to see it as -another- avenue where they can be abused because it is another avenue for them to be abused. And I’d hope it’s also understandable as to why a number of them wouldn’t want their name attached to an article that sees them worrying about such a thing.

          • blastaz says:

            Steam really doesn’t need to support devs.
            Not in terms of visibility.
            Not in terms of community management.
            Steam is a shop not a publisher.

            If certain devs are so worried that a substantial and damaging chunk of their customer base are going to abuse this new policy, then a) they probably panic too easily and b) can throw a simple drm on the file to stop it being copied.

            People hate playing your game, if that is really your fear, isn’t going to cost you money…

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            On the flipside you also have devs with similar unscrupulous intentions. The ones that are knowingly releasing broken trash, systematically flooding the “new releases” list with just the right amount of back catalogue titles to occupy the entire list on the Steam front page, intentionally (and illegally) attempting to censor any and all bad press through DMC claims and deletion of negative reviews on Steam.

            So far they have been allowed to get away with this because Steam did nothing to curate their store and nothing to allow people to get refunds. So these devs of course are not happy because this probably screwed their chances of pocketing even small amounts of money from people who were mislead by the developer into buying a turd and then unable to get a refund for it.

          • RobF says:

            People hating the game absolutely unequivocally is not the issue at hand. People taking against a developer’s politics, sexual orientation, race, attitude (often for scurrilous and made-up-internet-reasons) and people using Steam as one of many means to punish them is.

            This is massively distinct behaviour from “I don’t like this game”.

            It’d be lovely to be able to ignore this sort of thing but it is incredibly pervasive behaviour, especially over the past 10 or so months. I don’t think limiting consumer rights is the way to tackle this at all but I also think not acknowledging that it is a problem that needs tackling urgently is piss ignorant of where we are at in games right now.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            I do agree, although we have no proof it will actually worsen this behaviour yet, Valve should be wary and start thinking about ways to combat this sort of thing. That said, I’d rather they scrap consumer reviews altogether if it means we actually get refunds. If that review system is so open to abuse, it is the thing that needs to go, not something giving the 99% of legitimate, decent users, proper customer service.

            Similar to how Metacritic needs to be wiped out because it becomes actively harmful and a great deal of games media started dropping review scores recently, I’m sure there are things that can be done with the Steam system if it becomes a problem.

          • RobF says:

            I think mainly I’m just kinda sad that we’re in a place where what should be a baseline of consumer rights, something that should be expected not celebrated, has become a thing that smaller developers fear.

            As I say, I don’t think trying to get Steam to clamp down further on refunds is even vaguely the answer and I do think a lot of the non-harrassment concerns are born of “oh god, what if…” panic that’s going to turn out largely unsubstantiated. As someone who’ll be releasing a short form game on Steam in a few months I’m obviously wary that I might get hit by refund-o-geddon but as I mentioned on Twitter to someone else, I’d sooner have the consumer rights and me have to work for my money more than the other way round.

            I buy a lot of games and especially with the increase in Early Access titles and the store becoming more open and with less press reviewed titles appearing, I want something to have my back so that I’m not shouldering the entire risk of forking out cash with no reasonable chance of a return if everything goes to shart. I’m kinda appalled that this isn’t a thing I’ve had reasonable access to the entire bloody time, never mind.

            But I’m also beginning to appreciate that a lot of the things I take as given when it comes to the rights I have aren’t universally shared so stuff I shrug off from previous retail jobs or shrug off from experience, isn’t shared. I kinda get that uncertainty. And I definitely understand the harassment stuff but that isn’t going to be solved or mitigated by restricting refunds any time soon no matter.

          • Hahaha says:

            “deletion of negative reviews on Steam.”

            You really need to look in to how reviews are dealt with and the rules that are in place in place for them in the first place

            To get you started devs can’t delete reviews…

          • LionsPhil says:

            I’m sure if it happens Valve will move as Valve do and eventually get around to implenting some partial technical workaround like hiding reviews from people who have since refunded the game.

            But this isn’t even for name-and-shame of developers who are expressing a user-hostile stance; they can do that themselves if and when they set the “no refunds” flag on the store. It’s just to support a claim made in this article. In the new layman Wikipedia terminology of citation, this is a [who?]

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            Maybe devs can’t directly delete steam reviews but they can flag them as off-topic, flag them for moderation, convince mods to delete them. This sort of behaviour intended to censor reviews has happened in the past so I really don’t “need to look into” anything. The proof is out there, devs trying to abuse the system in order to squash negative feedback. Stop nit-picking over specifics.

          • RobF says:

            “But this isn’t even for name-and-shame of developers who are expressing a user-hostile stance; they can do that themselves if and when they set the “no refunds” flag on the store. It’s just to support a claim made in this article.”

            I’m not sure if you’re just being obtuse here or something? I’m pointing out that there’s developers who are actively being harassed through Steam and any attention would only increase that and you’re all “yeah, but who?”

            Come on. It’s got nothing to do with anyone naming and shaming them for their stance and everything to do with protecting people who are already facing a flood of toss. But way to go on trying to understand why they feel how they do, I guess?

          • Hahaha says:

            @Smoky_the_Bear

            No mods also can’t delete reviews either, they get flagged and valve support folks deal with them using the rules that are in place. So if anything you have a problem with the rules VALVE have in place.

          • LionsPhil says:

            RobF: Unless I’m missing something, that it’s even such devs is purely your supposition, precisely for the problem I’m raising: the article does not say who “developers” are, even in vague terms of scale, and that is a wiiiiide grouping in this day and age.

            That is journalism on the level of attributing things to “experts”.

            But even if it is such devs, if they choose to disable refunds out of fear it’s another way the Internet will attack them, that is a) painting everyone with the brush of the trolls, especially those who actually like and support their work, so frankly my sympathy is limited and b) not going to be a secret, since if I’m reading it right the Steam store page will clearly show that fact.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        I think there are upsides for the devs too tbh. I can’t see how the problems listed here are going to be widespread enough to have much effect.

        However, consider the positives. One massive one for me, especially given all of the buggy, broken releases we’ve had the last few years, is that people aren’t going to see it as a sheer gamble pulling the trigger on a full priced game that they have no hope of a refund on anymore.
        If they try it and actually enjoy it, don’t encounter problems, refunds being available just gained the dev a full priced purchase instead of that person buying for £10 in a sale. If the person decides to get a refund and buy the game later in a sale, the dev lost nothing, they were going to do that anyway.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Exactly. Stronger consumer protection means less need to be buyer beware, which means buyers are more likely to splash out on things that aren’t a dead certainty. This is absolutely a positive thing for small developers without an established reputation.

  16. Tukuturi says:

    The free sharing of copyrighted ebooks is actually fairly well established. Audiobooks too.

  17. Akbar says:

    I feel the obvious, imperfect solution here is to exempt DRM-free games from the warranty and make the sale of ingame community items breach warranty (the former is what bugs me, though having a limited warranty beats having no warranty by a wide margin).

    I’d also expect reviews to be tied to ownership (just as if you haven’t bought a game you cannot write a review, if you no longer own the game your review will be deleted), which might be problem if say, you want to leave a negative review criticizing a game for the thing that made you get a refund.

  18. ResonanceCascade says:

    Yeah, releasing copyrighted material for free is way worse for artists and copyright holders than actual pirating. Pirates have to find someone willing to give them money. Torrenting is just a never ending waterslide of free shit.

    • Tukuturi says:

      As an artist and copyright holder, I find this mentality toward intellectual property extremely bemusing.

    • Tukuturi says:

      That is to say that I would be more than happy for you to download and share my own work for free, and in fact I have taken pains to ensure your right to do so. But if you were to attempt to turn around and profit off my work, I would be pretty angry, and I would do whatever I reasonably could to stop you.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        It’s not about how mad it makes some individual artists feel It’s about the total effect of people buying a small number of pirated items vs downloading an unfathomably massive number of them.

        Now, I’m not saying that it’s a zero sum game, or that one download is equal to one lost sale or any of that nonsense that used to get tossed around. I’m not even saying that there aren’t ways for artists to benefit from mass illegal downloading. But I guarantee that the net economic damage of a torrential amounts (get it?) of free data being available is much greater than smaller amounts of paid bootlegs. By orders of magnitude.

        • Tukuturi says:

          I think our difference here is that you are looking at the value of artistic work and its ownership in terms of economic potential, and I am viewing it in terms of creative potential. I made the decision a long time ago not to make my art my business in order to keep the luxury of my views on it. I can understand that if your art is your business, that can lead to a very different set of views on intellectual property. I’ve recently had my own views on intellectual property challenged by some conversations on the repatriation of indigenous recordings from museum and university collections, as well as by conversation about open access publishing in the academy. There really aren’t any easy answers to intellectual property questions.

          That said, I still err on the side of open access to creative work, even if (perhaps especially if) it impedes the commercialization of that work in a market economy. My reasons for that are probably too philosophically complex to argue about on a videogame blog reply thread, but I wanted to let you know that I do respect your opinion on this.

      • green frog says:

        No one has ever threatened your, or anyone else’s, right to choose to give away your work for free. The problem with piracy is that you are then also making that choice for others, against their will.

        • Tukuturi says:

          You seem to have missed the original argument, which is understandable since this thread got split in two. The point was that an ethical distinction should be made between piracy, which involves selling copies of another’s work for profit, and sharing, which doesn’t.

  19. Gabbo says:

    As with all things Steam-related for a long while now, the initial release is good to have and usually long overdue, but is out in the wild a little half-baked. I’d say give this 6 months to a year, and hopefully loopholes will be fixed.
    It shouldn’t be this way with every new aspect of Steam that Valve add, I realize , but it’s a Clark Griswold pratfall in the right direction and better than not having a proper return policy.

  20. johnnyan says:

    That initial title was full of fail…

    This is a great move, no matter how you look at it.

  21. Film11 says:

    Unfortunately this just reeks of paving the way for shitty paid mods after the Skyrim fiasco. Their awful refund policy was highlighted in that incident, and now that they’ve changed that it’s just one less obstacle towards the death of modding.

    • Horg says:

      I don’t think this has anything to do with modding, if you remember the mod store actually had a refund policy that was more lenient than this, a whole 24 hours to get a refund. People complained about that because it only gave you steam wallet credit, long term compatibility support was not guaranteed, and mods are liable to generate problems with the base game / other mods long after that window. This new policy of giving users 2 hours to refund a game is not at all linked to mods.

    • amateurviking says:

      Rather I feel like we’re finally seeing the effects of some (admittedly lackluster) competition in the marketplace.

    • wu wei says:

      It may have had more to do with the release of GTA5, in which they were extremely liberal with refunds due to the large number of people who had issues with running it.

  22. Llewyn says:

    It’d be nice if they’d extend this, for the first 14 days maybe, to any previous purchases which would otherwise be eligible. Perhaps restrict it to those titles with obvious issues reported on the forums, perhaps require some sort of manual intervention to stop consumers bulk-abusing it, but anything that represents a relaxation of the blanket ‘no*’ which applied to previous purchases would be nice.

    *I’m aware that it isn’t always, but it’s almost always more effort than it’s worth to anyone with any source of income.

    • BurningPet says:

      You mean extend beyond the 14 days period? that’s unlikely because all while its within 30 days or so, steam still hold that purchase money, past that period the publisher/developer receive it which means steam will either have to repay themselves, which with all due respect to the good image steam has, it will not do such a thing, charge the developer which is highly unlikely because the developer/publisher haven’t agreed to this scheme when signing the deal with steam so legally they won’t need to and i can guess they won’t volunteer doing so, or deduct the refund from another sale which haven’t got transferred yet to the publisher, which is basically also illegal.

      • Detocroix says:

        But chargebacks are often removed from your next month’s income if current month is already paid. The same system would apply here. Valve would just add big fat red string of numbers to your income report and you would get nothing if people abuse the system enough.

  23. Emeraude says:

    Another thing I discovered recently (yeah, yeah, slow poke, but as a rule I don’t pirate though I have nothing against others doing it per see) is people repacking games in more compact size than the legit release for those that suffer from bandwidth limit.

    Again, to quote someone not totally unrelated to the debate at hand, if piracy is a service issue, the pirates keep offering services that the legit platforms aren’t. That gives them more value than the zero tag price.

    People already pirating know what they’re doing and that convoluted way of getting a free game via Steam is probably not worth the effort.

    The question are:
    a) is this going to create a new subgroup of customers for whom this is *the*way of getting freee games.
    b) Will those actually have any significant impact for the platform ?

    (If you take retail, there have been customer abusing the return policies almost since inception to get something they need, say a TV set, or a costume for one evening, then get it reimbursed the following day when no more needed. Retail managed just fine)

  24. Clavus says:

    I don’t think abuse will be that widespread. They mention they’ll revoke your refund privileges if you’re being a dick, and I don’t think that’s something a lot of people would want to lose.

  25. Xiyng says:

    Sorry, I just can’t see any problems (except for the trading card one, I suppose). If your game lasts less than two hours, you pretty much deserve all the refunds it causes – especially if you still want to develop said games after hearing about this. And about the DRM part, well, relatively few people can even make the distinction between Steam and DRM because often there isn’t any practical distinction. And even though DRM-free games on Steam exist, finding them is relatively painful if most of your games still have DRM. The thing is, for most people pirating is much easier than copying DRM-free Steam games.

    • Matt_W says:

      “If your game lasts less than two hours, you pretty much deserve all the refunds it causes”

      Uh, what? So now we let a storefront policy dictate what kind of games we’re willing to make and buy? I love games that last 2 hours — they’re perfect for my limited gaming time around kids and work. I’m happy to pay developers who make them.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Given that there are relatively few games under 2 hours long (I mean on HowLongtoBeat.com, even Gone Home is clocked at an average of 2 hours), what I imagine those games would see is a huge increase in people playing them for nothing.

        However, would it affect their overall sales? I doubt it. Lots of people would actually go and buy the game because they knew they could complete it for nothing. It would top the sales charts, this would help it a ton. Some people would play it and decide to keep it if they liked it. Those that would already buy a game that they knew was 2 hours long wouldn’t all be clamoring for a refund just because they could.
        I think it could actually be beneficial for the game in a roundabout sort of way. Make a good game that EVERYBODY played, even if the majority of them refunded it, make a sequel that was 4 hours long. Whistle all the way to the bank.

      • pepperfez says:

        Sorry, Real Gamers only play Real Games with 60+ hours of grinding and cinematics. Anything else is a plot to bring down Gaming.

      • tintinmayo says:

        There is a difference between games that are over in 2 hours but still fun enough for repeat playthroughs, games that only require less than two hours per play session (many puzzle games could fall into these two categories), and games that don’t really have anything more to offer after an hour or so of playtime (either because it’s so short or that it becomes repetitive and boring afterwards).

        Only the third example should be concerned about the refund policy. Many Steam users are collectors and enjoy seeing their library grow: people will keep games even if they’ve already played the life out of it. You’d have to create a really shitty game that pisses off the player for them to want it removed from their library.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          I think if I’d payed full price for a game and it was completed in less than 2 hours, I would want a refund, because to me that is just a ripoff. Those short games don’t cost that much though, Gone Home was what? £15? Dear Esther similar, bought in a sale or a bundle or something, it really wouldn’t cost much.
          As you say, most people I think would then want to keep it in their library, marked as completed etc etc, another one to add to the list.
          I mean if I pay full price for a game (i.e. £30+), I’m doing my research on it. If the game is that short, the first thing you will hear is “The game is less than 2 hours long”. I’m just not going to buy it at that point, and as yet the AAA games industry hasn’t stooped so low as to make games THAT ridiculously short.

    • Karrius says:

      I went to go see a movie, and it was under two hours – ridiculous. Completely scam-worthy. After watching it, I tried to deny my money back from the threatre, and they refused to give it. Can you believe that? I paid $8!

  26. Xzi says:

    I think it’s silly to believe that those are really the only two restrictions on the system. Of course Valve is going to take a closer look at any account who refunds a lot of games in a short period of time. People who tread the line of financial fraud get banned from Steam as-is, so that will likely be true within the refund system as well.

  27. montorsi says:

    I find it odd anyone thinks it’s easier to figure out if your game has DRM, root around in your Steam folder, copy, paste, and then refund the game, instead of clicking a link on a torrent.

  28. Delusibeta says:

    Counter argument: GOG has had a 30-day no-quibble refund policy for several months now, and they’ve had no trouble with mass-refunds.

    That’s not to say that this won’t be abused at all, but I think you’re vastly overstating the number of people willing to game the system. And besides, Valve will almost certainly have safeguards in place.

    • LTK says:

      GOG very explicitly says that they will refund the game if you can’t get it to work on your system. They definitely will not refund your game after 25 days if you just say you don’t like it.

      • RobF says:

        Yeah but at that point you just say “it won’t work” rather than “I don’t like it” so the difference to the store is negligible in the end.

    • Detocroix says:

      GoG also has (10, 100, 1000?) times less the users. The best reports I’ve ever seen regarding GoG sales vs Steam sales on indie games is that GoG is about 10% of sales. If GoG system is abused, it doesn’t hurt you at all compared to what Steam can cause with it…

      • P.Funk says:

        But why would anybody out to abuse a system not go after the DRM free one?

        User base is irrelevant. The basic reality is that protecting consumer rights will always cost a few pennies. Its something that usually get rolled in to the “waste” column of the final tally.

  29. James says:

    Whilst I do think that there is little chance the system will be abused on a meaningful scale, I do think that people will try it more than most seem to think.

    That is mainly becasue Valve is Valve, and as such has all the followthrough of a sloth on strike. I suspect many people will, quite fairly, think that Valve will stop caring about the system in a couple of months and neglect it as they have done with other ideas (such as the Curator system, which has never been updated since release, not even to fix glaring functionality issues).

    Based on the fact that Valve is Valve, the system will be abused, and the abusers will probably get away with it as of a few months from now. The scale is likely to be small, but high compared to GOG or Origin.

    • Xzi says:

      Nobody bothers abusing the GOG refund system because GOG versions of games are the easiest to find and pirate on the web. There’s no way Steam will have issues on that scale…very few games on Steam are entirely DRM-free.

    • that_guy_strife says:

      I got refunds from Valve for legit reasons twice and both under 24h. Lucky right ?

      This is a huge step for them. So many shit games I bought on a whim and regretted right away. I have the spare income, fine, but being able to return something I don’t like and won’t use, especially a digital item, seems like, common good sense. Mind, it didn’t bother me having wasted that money – I knew I was gambling. Now I’ll be demoing.

      Really funny seeing the first half of comments being outraged persons with silly arguments (some didn’t even read the whole thing) getting shot down, then the latter half reasonable ones with valid reasoning and questions.

      • Cantisque says:

        I wonder if they consider “demo-ing” to be abusing the system?

        The FAQ was a little vague about what actually constitutes abuse.

        • Lagran says:

          Abuse is probably determined at some ratio of bought games to refunded ones. If for every 10 games I buy I refund 1 (10% refund percentage), that’s probably within a margin of leniency; if, however, for every 3 games I buy I refund 2 (67% refund percentage) then that either points to a computer that can barely run games, a user who doesn’t know or isn’t able to follow through on minimum specs, or a user that’s buying a lot of games, testing them out, and only keeping the ones that they really enjoy.

          There might also some kind of scale or ratio of refunds during a particular time. Steam sales are coming up, great, I buy 20 games. I refund 7 of those (35%) within two weeks, but I don’t touch the refund system for another six months despite buying more games throughout the year.

  30. Blackseraph says:

    Yeah this really is all positive no matter how you look at this.

    This also makes it so that steam actually follows proper laws in at least my country.

    • melnificent says:

      Been saying this for a long time. No matter what Steams EULA said the law (EU and UK) gives certain rights. Steam have tried to take those away with the SSA changes. But it looks like it bit them hard as they’ve finally come around.

      Means I shift my purchasing from 3rd party sites back to more of a steam focus now.

  31. jonfitt says:

    I know absolutely nothing about the details of the contracts between Valve and the developers, but it seems surprising that they can unilaterally change the terms of sale without having to alter those contracts.

    Unless Valve themselves are going to eat the cost of the refund, they are saying to every developer whose game they sell that they must now offer refunds. That seems like a key part of a contract.

    Is it perhaps that they don’t pay out on a sale for more than 2 weeks already, so essentially any sales refunded within that time will never have happened as far as the developer is concerned?

    • Cantisque says:

      I’ve always said they should allow publishers to have an optional refund policy, so it’s surprising that all of a sudden every game has it without a choice. I can only imagine that yes, they are going to be eating the cost of the refund in full.

      This is a little depressing, since the “Youtube-fodder” awful games are going to get purchased by a ton of people who have every intention of getting a refund when they have enough footage for their videos. This means these terrible companies flooding Steam with their broken games will be getting more money.

      • Gammro says:

        I think consumer rights is a whole more important than production protection. Steam did the right thing making refunds mandatory for every publisher on the platform.

        It’s the same with brick and mortar stores: The supplier/publisher has no choice in whether the store gives refunds for their products or not. The store makes the choice to allow it.

        • Cantisque says:

          If Valve are going to be footing the bill for refunded games then I don’t see a problem with that. Very generous of them and a good PR move. But if indie devs are going to be forced to shell out for refunds all of a sudden, this may have an adverse effect on their revenue and ability to produce games in the future. Just speculation, mind you. I still feel it should have been introduced gradually and made optional, the same way Valve make their DRM optional.

  32. Captain Captane says:

    I don’t see the piracy element being a factor, an added one anyway. Pirating they way people have always pirated still seems simpler.

    What I wonder though, especially relevant with the upcoming summer sale, is if I buy a game at 25% off then see it for 75% off in a daily deal the next day, will I be able to get a refund then buy it again at the further reduced price?

    • LionsPhil says:

      As quoted above, they actually explicitly permit this:

      We do not consider it abuse to request a refund on a title that was purchased just before a sale and then immediately rebuying that title for the sale price.

      Devs who drop to sales immediately after suckering all the day-one purchasers, watch out.

  33. int says:

    A nice thought but what will happen when you buy a game from Steam that requires you to lock the key to a Uplay or Rockstar Social Club account?

    • LionsPhil says:

      That is…a good question, that doesn’t seem to be in that FAQ. The cynical guess would be that you can’t refund such titles, which is another reason to check things against the big list.

    • malkav11 says:

      I would guess that it would depend in part on whether that game is playable through the external uPlay/Rockstar Social Club application, rather than the Steam specific version. If you have to go through Steam, which I believe is the case on a lot of those games, then it would not be a problem because Steam can easily enough revoke your access. Like, if I try to run my (not installed) Steam-purchased copy of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood through uPlay, it opens a Steam install window, and it doesn’t offer an install option inside the client. So if it works like that for other such games, no issue.

  34. Yglorba says:

    I think it’s silly to be too concerned about people abusing it. I mean, piracy is a thing and is easy; if someone wants to steal your game, they don’t have to take the risk of abusing Steam to do it. So it makes more sense for Steam to be as consumer-friendly as it can and not to worry too much about people trying to abuse it like that.

    • tintinmayo says:

      Exactly. The refunds are not really lost profit for the devs, because they’re either people who would have never bought the game anyway because they’re not sure or people who wouldn’t have bought the game anyway because they can get it for free via piracy.

      The only lost profit are those people who have made a bad purchase decision and are now out of money. But devs who rely on that kind of system to earn a profit shouldn’t be lauded.

      Hopefully the new refund policy will make devs think twice about releasing broken games or using PR spin to drive sales. Make games that people want to play and keep and the refund policy shouldn’t be a concern.

  35. PancakeWizard says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but GoG has that same worry devs have with this system right? As GoG is DRM free you can buy one copy and make copies to give to anyone else, right?

    • that_guy_strife says:

      And that’s why you find GOG games on every torrent site.

      Like they didn’t think of that. They’re still in business, so they must be doing something right, like attracting customerbase with no-hassle of DRM free.

      Like someone mentioned – DRM is just a minigame for hackers. It often gets cracked in the first few days of launch. The bottom line is, DRM is a pointless annoyance for paying customers, and a joke to the rest.

    • RobF says:

      Not really because GOG doesn’t carry a lot of smaller developers and as a rule don’t foster a similar community to Steam, a lot of the things that concern developers on Steam aren’t really a problem with GOG.

  36. Smoky_the_Bear says:

    “It is, essentially, the same shady antics that were possible when brick-n-shelving game stores would provide refunds on DRM-free boxed PC games.”
    As far as I recall, at least in the UK, it was not possible to get a refund on PC games due to the ease of simply copying the disc then returning it.

    Honestly the “buy the game, copy it across, request refund” scenario seems like a more long winded version of going to a torrent site, are people willing to do this really going to use this method over a torrent?

  37. InternetBatman says:

    All of the problems listed here either seem negligible, or incredibly preventable.

    Card and Return – Prevent cards from dropping for the first two hours, or return all cards and cancel / refund all sales from sell and return customers.
    Short Games – Eh. If the game is only two hours long, that could be a valid reason for returns by itself.
    Reviews – Just delete reviews if the customer no longer has the game.
    Offline Mode – This one is tricky, but there are tricky solutions, such as a game storing local time in your encrypted save games. Yes, any local solution will eventually be beaten, but really it would have to be beaten day one.

    • Cantisque says:

      If reviews were removed when people got refunded, you’re going to see a lot of bad games lose their negative reviews and have a larger proportion of positive ones.

      • green frog says:

        On the other hand, you’d have the people who would buy a game just so they can leave a nasty review, knowing that the review will still be there long after they get their money back.

        • Cantisque says:

          I’d say the majority of people who feel the need to leave a negative review of a game would also go get a refund, so most of those negative reviews are going to disappear. Better to risk (small risk) review-bombing than totally ruin the way the review system works.

  38. Be_reasonable says:

    I ran into a situation with the Witcher 3 where my rig was too slow for it, but even worse for me, they hardcoded some of the keys and did not add mappings for others. It was clearly meant for console. Yes, undoubtedly everything I have read said it’s a great game, and I would love to play it, but I can’t. In that situation, I wanted a refund, but some refund policies may not allow for that. I applaud steam for this move. People want to play games, and they are selling lots of games. Aside from a few incidents here and there, I expect that to continue except that there will be protection against the problems that I had, shovelware, broken games, etc.

  39. Fersken says:

    August 2013: Origin’s money back guarantee, some of article (and headline) about this on RPS points out this is something Valve should emulate.

    December 2013: GOG’s money back guarantee, some of article (and headline) about this on RPS points out this is something Valve should emulate.

    Today: Valve’s money back guarantee, half of the article is about how this is bad for developers.

    Seriously? There are enough things to be critical about Steam without inventing new ones. The trading card ‘issue’ for example being completely idiotic.

    Sure, there could be a small (and I believe it would be tiny) problem with people who finish short games and then return them. This was also mentioned in the RPS article about Origin’s return policy, with one sentence. But even though there have always been people who abuse refunds, most don’t. Even when businesses provide better terms that are legally required. And in Europe the law usually requires quite a bit, unless (possibly) it’s digital, because that’s special. Unless we’re talking about IP, then it isn’t anymore. Sorry, got slightly off-topic…

    And apparently it’s a surprise that games without DRM are easier to copy than with. As other commenters has pointed out, pirating a game this way is not easier than many of the more common ways, and it’s not like games with DRM aren’t hard to find either.

    So what do these people really want? Same policy as before? Less or no time to try a game? Exemptions to a policy that benefits consumers?

    • Cinek says:

      ^ This is a wise post, right over there.

      • Fersken says:

        Thanks :)

        I would like to expand on why I don’t think there is any reason to worry about trading cards;

        I buy a game on Steam. I start to play it, and after a short while, somewhere a Steam server decides I should get a trading card. This doesn’t cost anybody anything. I then decide I don’t like this game and request a refund, which I get. I now have a trading card for a game I no longer have.

        I then sell the trading card to another user on Steam. Most of this money I get. A small portion goes to Valve and the developer. The only person with less money than before is the one that bought the trading card, and he/she got exactly what they where paying for.

        This is bad somehow, because I got more money than the developers. And the vast majority of trading cards is worth a fraction of 1 euro, so it’s not like this is a get rich quick scheme.

        The article here only mentions developers, it doesn’t say who, or how many. But it might shock the author of this article and several developers that when anyone returns a physical item they might have used it far more than two hours. They might even have used it for the sole purpose they bought it in the first place, essentially just borrowing the item. And this has been possible around Europe for many years, and we somehow have managed.

        But when the largest online store for games finally gets a policy that’s closer to what the law requires here in Europe (and I suspect this is a big reason for this policy) this is worrisome.

        Maybe if John Walker could have talked to any the thousands of businesses that deals with refunds and have done so usually successfully for many years, he would find out this isn’t rocket science.

        John mentions review bombing which is something I would like to hear Valve address. But most of these issues have been solved long ago, or are (very close to being) a non-issue.

        Valve has received much criticism for its costumer service. This is the biggest issue in general with Steam in my opinion. They have said this is something they would like to improve, and I hope this policy is the first step towards that.

        • tintinmayo says:

          Also, refunding a game locks you out of the marketplace for a certain period of time, and the lockout period is additive – each new refund adds to the duration of the existing lockout period.

          Refunding games after dropping cards is not going to be a rewarding practice (especially if you count the fact that two hours usually isn’t enough to get all the cards to drop. One or two, at best. And that’s what, a few cents of income + a risk of getting your account investigated and banned?)

  40. RProxyOnly says:

    “Let alone the issues it raises for games that last under two hours.”

    You shouldn’t be paying for.,. correction.. shouldn’t be SELLING,.. a game that’s shorter than 2 hours.

    • Cantisque says:

      Sonic CD. Can be beaten in under an hour. Many fans consider it the best Sonic game.
      Love. Can be beaten in less than 15 minutes (there’s an achievement for beating in 10 mins)
      Ittle Dew. Can be beaten in well under 30 minutes.

      All these games are good and at very low price points. Length of a game doesn’t matter as long as the time you are playing is enjoyable.

      • Cockie says:

        Well, but can they be reasonably be beaten in that time in the first playthrough? I mean, Cloudbuilt can be beaten in 22 minutes but I still haven’t finished it after 30 hours.

        • Cantisque says:

          All three of those games could easily be beaten in under 2 hours on first playthrough.

  41. Don Whitaker says:

    I’m happy for this new refund policy – both as a consumer and a developer. I’d much rather have a cancelled sale than an unhappy customer. Someone who buys my game with the intent of gaming the refund system is someone who wouldn’t have bought my game in the first place. Someone who is unsure about my game and takes a chance because of the refund safety net may turn into a new sale. It may be that there is a wave of purchase/play/refund tricks at first but in the long run I suspect it’ll have a positive effect.

    • FCA says:

      I think this is precisely the right way of viewing it: a good thing for consumers, which will lead to easier spending of money, which in turn leads to good things for developers. All the rest is just noise. And if you expect your game to be less than 2 hours for most people, you just have to set your price point accordingly low, so refunds won’t be worth the hassle, which you’d have to do anyway, not to attract loads of bad reviews.

  42. MrPants says:

    I made a horrible mistake a couple years ago, when my discovery that X Rebirth was mere hours from release sadly aligned with an upcycle in my existential longing for the space shoots-n-trades. I didn’t do my research and plopped down fifty units of mighty currency to preload. I played for 40 confounding minutes then asked Steam for a refund, which is an unimpeachable right in my southern nation. They of course refused to do so.

    My original request met every one of the conditions in their new policy – I’ve resubmitted my request for a refund today and it will be interesting to see precisely how far their newfound respect for customer rights extends.

    • Cantisque says:

      I suppose if you haven’t got any play time clocked against it and they can see your previous support ticket there’s a chance they might do it.

  43. Cinek says:

    But it’s also raising a whole heap of issues for developers whose DRM-free (as is increasingly commonplace on Steam) games can now be half-inched with minimal fuss, via legitimate channels” – that’s absolutely false and misleading statement. There is NOTHING LEGITIMATE in it. Just like there’s nothing legitimate in Peer 2 Mail.

    Please, stop spreading lies and stop encouraging people to pirate games! Cause this whole lithany is doing nothing else than that – encouraging people to pirate games. Somehow entire GOG is running free 30 days refund policy on DRM-free games and universe hasn’t collapsed yet. The fact that another store offers refunds, even if in a very limited way, should be viewed as a clear positive instead of being bashed and complained about.

  44. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Steam has DRM-free games??? Since when? How do you know if a Steam game is DRM-free or not?
    Man I would have bought on Steam way more and on GoG way less if I knew that was the case. Well, I guess this news puts kibosh on that anyway, so whatever.

    • Cantisque says:

      When you publish a game on Steam, they offer a DRM service as part of the Steamworks API package. It’s totally optional. You’d still need to download it through the Steam client, but after that you can run it without Steam installed.
      link to steam.wikia.com

      • Cinek says:

        “You’d still need to download it through the Steam client,” – that’s not entirely correct. Even if you have a Steam game installation files downloaded – you still need Steam client connected to the internet verifying your account to activate the game.

        In either case – it’s still a form of a DRM, only a one-off DRM, during an installation.

    • Borsook says:

      Steam has always had DRM free games, one that I remember is Dungeons of Dredmor. You can check it by closing the Steam client and running the game’s exe, if it works without it is DRM free. There is a website that lists all DRM-free Steam games, google it.

  45. Heliocentric says:

    I suggest any developer unhappy with the new system remove their games from steam, as is their right. They could also petition Valve to adjust their policy, personally, I find the shift a brilliant step away from Valves earlier anti consumer and questionably legal practices.

    Some games people have bought off steam no longer are available to paying customers without refund.
    link to en.wikipedia.org
    So, you must understand, any rights lent to the consumer in return are nothing compared to the rights lent to developers to simply sabotage their own games and have them removed from peoples accounts.

    • Hahaha says:

      Consumer rights being more likely than not to frivolously spend money instead of thinking about what they are buying.

  46. Fappp says:

    It’s just a matter of time before a Steam Game Rental service pops up.
    Everything we had before, digitized by Valve.

  47. Borsook says:

    This seems like a “scare” article it concentrates on potential risks too much IMHO, a system like this has been in place at Gog.com for some time now, maybe looking into their experience would be better instead of presenting customers as some sort of mafia who just want to abuse the system?

    • Cantisque says:

      The majority of features Steam introduces are abused. Artwork uploads, Greenlight, Workshop, Reviews….

      • Borsook says:

        Actually most of them work fine e.g. reviews, most of them are helpful and the fact that some percentage is e.g. written as a joke or censored or whatever else happens doesn’t change that. Frankly I am surprised that so many people are doing their best to see the negative side to this. It is good for customers, ultimately it is good for steam, and it is good for most devs.

  48. Habardeen says:

    GoG also has an exploitable refund system in place, all titles there are DRM-free and it seems it is working fine. Of course the proportions are much different, but I am sure Valve has put more personnel on customer service to manage this. And it is a great move: the one needed since their customer services, simply put, has always been lacking.

    Overall, it’s hard to believe they are going harakiri with the devs for the sake of customers.
    They are not new to the online retail business after all…
    …but they were not new to the modding scene as well, perhaps.

    In my opinion, they should leave it to the developer/publisher the option to enable refunds on their titles.

    Assuming they would be mutually exclusive, what would you go for:
    refund guarantee on a DRMed game, or DRM-free titles without the refund policy?

    • Borsook says:

      It depends on what’s exactly behind this move. Personally I think it is a win-win situation for Valve, some devs may not like it, but so what, will they leave Steam? Also previous return policy actually broke the law of many countries (basically all EU) so maybe that factored somehow into this move too…

      • Habardeen says:

        Yeah, I agree. It was much needed.
        to be fair I like it as a customer, but I don’t as a (potential) developer. It looks like they are strong-arming indie devs (or mid-size self-publishers like Amplitude) who definitely cannot afford potential losses on their biggest marketplace.

        EA pulled off every new release already (albeit for other reasons) and perhaps Ubisoft/Square and the likes will too, with this move. It’s all hypothetical of course and a “what-if” at this stage, but we may see a price increase on future releases.

        • Borsook says:

          It’s all guesswork but I suspect this will have zero negative influence on sales of normal games. It will be a disaster for things like slaughtering grounds, but that’s good. For well done games – pirating it traditionally is still easier than buying and getting a refund, and those who would do so would not buy the game normally anyway. Also – I’m into boardgames and if I make and sell a boardgame each and every of my customers can send it back within two weeks and get his/her money back, such is the law. It is nothing bad if this move will strongarm devs to play fair too.

        • Fersken says:

          Why is this strong-arming indies? If they don’t like this policy they can just leave Steam. And also not sell it in Europe since consumer laws here require it, and the new refund policy on Steam is close to it. It is the same for small developers (or small businesses) as for large international corporations, you have to follow the law if you intend to do business.

          Fortunately for the many costumers around the world that don’t have these laws, Valve has made this policy world wide. Though up until now Valve have tried to ignore consumer laws in Europe and elsewhere where this is a requirement.

          • Habardeen says:

            Precisely because leaving Steam for them is economical suicide

      • Cinek says:

        Also previous return policy actually broke the law of many countries” – it actually didn’t. Steam works as a games rental service, therefore effectively bypassing return polices that are applicable to stores.

        • Borsook says:

          Actually bypassing the law in this way could be considered illegal, such practices usually are. Steam is not really renting games, it is selling them, disguising it does not change the facts. Problems is, this has never really gone to court the first big lawsuit, i.e. the Australian one is only just beginning.

  49. quarpec says:

    it’s still easier to just pirate games if you want them for free, and then there won’t be a chance that their support department flags your account for abusing their refund system by returning every damn game you buy

  50. Neurotic says:

    I had no idea you could even get DRM-free games on Steam, as I always assumed Steam *is* the DRM.

    • Cinek says:

      Because it effectively is, only an installation-only DRM. The always-on DRM is Steamworks component.