Some developers are struggling with Steam refunds | PCGamesN

Some developers are struggling with Steam refunds

Steam sales graph

Last week Valve finally decided to give buyers a little more power by allowing anyone to claim a refund on games within 14 days of purchase, provided you’ve played for no more than two hours. Whilst this is no doubt a great move for buyers, some developers are already struggling with the repercussions of such a system. 

Qwiboo is the developer behind Beyond Gravity, a small indie game on Steam. The game’s main story is bite-sized, and can be finished in around an hour. It’s priced accordingly, too, at £1.59. But since Steam’s refund policy was introduced, it seems like players are taking advantage of the two-hour limit to play the game for free. 

“Out of 18 sales 13 refunded in just last 3 days. That's 72% of purchases. Rate of refunds before was minimal,” said the developer on Twitter. https://twitter.com/qwiboo  

Puppygames, developer of Revenge of the Titans, has seen a massive spike in players asking for money back since the policy went live. “55% refund rate on RoTT alone. Versus 5 refunds in 10 years direct,” the developer tweeted. 

Puppygames also tweeted a graph (which can be seen in the header image) showing sales before and after the refund policy, and it’s a pretty damning story. 

Also coming forward with a similar story is RPG Tycoon developer Skatanic Studios, run solo by Matt Gambell. “Over the entirety of the 31 days of May, RPG Tycoon was refunded ONCE.  In these first 7 days of June out of the 60 average units sold, over 20 of those have claimed a refund,” said Gambell on the Skatanic blog

Gambell is pro the refund policy, but has issue with the fact there’s no information on why a customer wishes a refund. “One user purchased the game 7 times and then refunded 5 of them. (Did they buy 6 copies for friends, only to find that 5 of them already had it?),” he explained. “I have so many questions… Could it be that they were having technical issues? Is it something that could have been solved by talking to me? Did they ACTUALLY mistakenly buy 7 copies of the same game, is that even possible?”

With the situation like it is, Gambell worries this will push indies who were traditionally anti-DRM into a position where they feel like DRM is the only way to protect themselves. “Now I kind of want to add DRM to the game so that you can’t play it because you’ve actively revoked your rights to it… but doing that is against everything I believe in and is totally unfair for those that have paid for it and have paid for it to be DRM free,” he said. 

It’s a position Cliff Harris of Positech Games is worried about, too. 

If there’s anything we can agree on, it’s that DRM is a bad thing and none of us want it.

While there’s no question that the refund policy is good for consumers, do you think Valve need to re-think the developer-end of the policy? Or should studios just accept that this is the best solution? 

Thanks Destructoid.

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pegran avatarunwanted avatarcpt.fantastic avatarTovias avatarDog Pants avatarQDP2 avatar+19
Mountain_Man Avatar
731
2 Years ago

It's people like this who ruin it for the rest of us. I remember around 15-years ago when GameStop used to have a generous and consumer-friendly 10-day no questions asked refund policy until the "burn it and return it" crowd put an end to this service.

13
pegran Avatar
38
2 Years ago

this isnt about abusing the system

this is the quality control that Gabe promised 2 years ago for Greenlight.

4
cpt.fantastic Avatar
244
2 Years ago

This is fantastic. Whole time I've been thinking that buying a game that is greenlit was close to gambling but now you can buy a game and get a refund if it's shovelware.

This isn't the first time that puppygames are crying over money and that's not a surprise with mediocre and forgettable products. It's called quality control.

4
QDP2 Avatar
961
2 Years ago

I know that many of these initial complaints are from 'shovelware' as you call it, but this system is very easy to exploit, and really shouldn't exist. Steam did not think through the possibilities of what people are willing to do, and as an Aspiring Game Developer I'm kind of ashamed they threw this out there without consulting any of the game owners it would effect...

If you read my other comment, you will realise that this system allows many more games to be forfeit and open to refunds after many hours play, not just the steam limit of 2 hours. This makes larger games (even 10-20 hour long games depending on how much time the consumer has over the 2 weeks) possible to be played through and returned without a penny landing on the developer. Remembering that most Indie Dev's can't afford servers and other suitable equipment to run online games, the one incentive a person may still have to keep the game. This is a terrible system, and needs to be removed before it really begins to get abused.

1
Fattox Avatar
465
2 Years ago

There will probably need to be improvements made so such exploits are not possible, i wouldn't expect anything less from something that's kind of touchy and complex like this.

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There needs to be a balance struck, and for YEARS it's been in the devs favour to abuse if they so wish. Now there's a chance for consumers to abuse it (as some will) and suddenly it's way worse? Neither party should be able to exploit a system or people, but saying one is worse than the other and saying we should backstep to how it was before isn't something i can agree with. They should see the effects of the situations before and after, and hopefully they can come up with something beneficial for both parties.

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After seeing so many people lose out to Early Access games that get abandoned (Stomping Lands, Spacebase) or where development all but grinds to a halt (Castle Story + many others), and other cases of marketing/hype in general... I think a lot of consumers aren't going to do anything much but welcome the chance to have their cash refunded when they feel something has been mis-sold.

5
Aever Avatar
654
2 Years ago

Shouldn't exist? Really? The games market is the most customer unfriendly market in the world. Between ridiculously abusive EULAs and very tight refund policies, the customer has very few ways to get his money back when games don't work as expected. This has become almost the de facto status for new games. Doesn't work well, has issues? "No worries, release it. It's not like they can ask for their money back. lol!". -Every PM in the world will think like this.

Title after title build up immense hype then fall flat to deliver what was advertised. You know what, the games industry is the only one that gets away with false advertising and that is wrong. Imagine cars being advertised as games. "Yeah, we'll just cut all stats by 10% at launch." or "Buy the car now, it's mostly functional. We promise we'll add proper breaks later. Really, we will.".

If nothing else, providing the customer with the ability to get a refund is enforced by law in Europe. It's our right by law, so it has to happen.

Yes, some people will abuse the system, because some people are jerks. There are ways to make abusing the system harder, but in the end it will happen. That's the way it has to be.

3
QDP2 Avatar
961
2 Years ago

I'm not saying the old system was perfect in any way either, but this new method is far worse right now, as there are now many indie groups who spent months working on their game to now find it worn down and thrown out by people abusing the system. Imagine working on a piece of art for 3 months, to then have everyone just take a photocopy of it for free and walk away. Bias will always exist, but it makes more sense for the devs to have it since they are supplying the games anyway. I agree many AAA companies need a system like this, but pulling it onto all games will run some peoples chance of income for three next few months, money they earned with a decent yet small game that people managed to play for no cost abusing steams systems. I love the idea of refunds, but don't crush indie games because of it, the stats show for themselves that it's not just some people abusing the current system

1
Aever Avatar
654
Aever replied to QDP2
2 Years ago

I don't think there is a perfect way for this system to work, but if I have to chose between protecting myself as a customer or protecting indie developers ... I'll chose to protect myself. Sorry, I've been burned far too many times, albeit mostly by the big publishers. But since the law doesn't differentiate between AAA and Indie, I'm not willing to give up on my protection against one for the sake of the other.

I'm hoping that this will make companies think twice before lying to us or releasing sub-par products. That's the good that can come out of the new refund policy.

1
Tovias Avatar
1026
2 Years ago

You guys sure took your time in making an article about this.

I am loving it, by the way. It was about time indie developers put their pants up and started producing decent games that go beyond what you find in newgrounds.

Hope they maintain this policy so indies can get some sort of standards, bunch of pretentious twats.

Almost want to try get a refund for Starbound but seeing that game in my library is a good reminder of what early access and indie in general is like.

2
dejayc Avatar
8
2 Years ago

You're ignoring the fact that there is probably a large percentage of game "renters" who will download every game on steam to test them.

1
TehRawk Avatar
14
2 Years ago

And you are ignoring the fact that it is far easier to pirate a game, than it is to "rent" games on Steam. Not only that but you are not restricted to two hours of a game if you pirate it.

Having to wait up to two weeks before you get your money back in your account is not convenient. Plus who is to say you are guaranteed to get your money back. Surely if someone was using the system like that, Valve would just consider that abuse and refuse refund.

2
Admiral Kirk Avatar
2
2 Years ago

It takes seven days to get the refund, its not like you push a button and it happens. There are also other factors to if they get a refund that Steam isn't talking about to keep them from being abused. If you request a couple of refunds in a row, they're going to get denied. I asked for a refund because the game I bought WAS NOTHING like the video shown. And while I fully support indie developers, I prefer to give my money to the honest ones.

Also, you do know you could return games before, right? It just wasn't automated. It's not like there was never a return policy.

2
Hutch Cartmen Avatar
5
2 Years ago

What the article fails to mention is that sales have gone up. People who would never had bought the game have done so now and some of them refund and some of them do not. Without that information we can't say developers are on the short end here.

2
HistoricalGamer Avatar
5
2 Years ago

Source? That simply isn't true based on what "cliffski" said on his twitter, he said sales have increased by about 1%, while he's seen a huge 17%+ spike in refunds. You're making statements without backing those up with facts.

2
Dog Pants Avatar
1389
2 Years ago

I hope they can tweak this to make it work for both parties. While it's commendable to offer refunds for products which are buggy or unfinished, developers shouldn't be suffering exploitation of perfectly serviceable products. I don't know how a consumer could easily prove that they have a valid reason for a refund though, so this is likely to cause problems for a while yet I suspect.

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Incidentally, and for the sake of discussion, I think the emphasis should be on the customer to decide in advance whether a game is suitable to their taste. If there's nothing technically wrong with the product, and assuming it matches the description of what is being sold, then I see no reason to expect a refund.

1
Reikhardt Avatar
133
2 Years ago

Couldn't have put it any better myself good sir.

1
Hutch Cartmen Avatar
5
2 Years ago

I disagree completely. This new refund system is a great way to test out games. If i don't like it i can return it and try something else. It also allows me to try out something i would normally never get. And guess what, I bought a game that i normally would never have done b/c i don't like the genre, but it turns out to be quite fun and I am keeping it.

Let me ask you this though, did you buy your car without a test drive? Did you buy/rent your house before you stepped inside? Did you get that couch without sitting on it first?

1
dejayc Avatar
8
2 Years ago

I've never been able to sleep overnight in an apartment I've considered renting, to see how well the heat works and how noisy the neighbors are. I've never been able to use the toilet or shower when getting a tour of the place.

When buying a car, I've never been able to take the car to a drive-thru to see if the cup holders are convenient, or drive the car on a sunny, rainy, and snowy day to see how well the traction control works in all circumstances.

When shopping for a couch, I've never been able to watch TV on it, or take a nap or even sleep overnight on it to see if it's really comfortable.

Why should games be different?

1
Dog Pants Avatar
1389
2 Years ago

I don't think the intent of the refund system is to let people demo games. This isn't like test driving a car, this is like buying a car, taking it out for a couple of nights, then taking it back for a full refund. Neither is very fair, in my opinion. I can see where you're coming from though, and if this indirectly promotes more demos then all the better.

1
QDP2 Avatar
961
2 Years ago

My fear is the clock method steam uses.. What's stopping a person for playing a game for 15 minutes, disconnecting that computer and continuing playing said game for the next 10 days, to then send a request from another computer (keeping the gaming PC's status offline to avoid sending in the many clocked hours) to get there cash back?

This is so poorly designed, the only way I see steam refunds working is by the dev's effectively building demo's into the start of the game (maybe the 1st 30 minutes of gameplay), and then place a wall between the user and the demo stating that to continue playing you have to forfeit your right for a refund. I can't see any other way to incorporate this into steam, but for this to happen all games would effectively become free for the first 30 minutes, which could still ruin many games sales...

1
nu1mlock Avatar
770
2 Years ago

Achievements work in offline mode. Devs could easily add a 2-hour achievement or talk to Steam about adding "hidden achievements" for the 2-hour mark.

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That wouldn't work on DRM-free games though, of course, unless played through Steam.

2
QDP2 Avatar
961
2 Years ago

If the computer that plays the game were not to connect to the internet until it had already been refunded, it would make no difference...

1
nu1mlock Avatar
770
2 Years ago

True, but if forcing refund requests through the client itself means that the person would have to install and run Steam from another PC or go through something like virtual sandbox. It would bring more hassle.

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Refunds are necessary but they do need to rethink it.

1
QDP2 Avatar
961
QDP2 replied to nu1mlock
2 Years ago

I agree, there are ways to work around this. Forcing internet connection for the first 2 hours of gameplay (with a button to forfeit ability of refund if you are going to play offline soon) would be another way of dealing with these problems. My main point still stands though, at the moment steam have thrown in a system unprepared for the abuse it is receiving by the steam community. Unfortunately I would be willing to bet people are not mature enough to accept there money was spent on a game they enjoyed, but instead people will do everything they can to try and earn said money back, based off the current abuse already happening on the site.

1
Mountain_Man Avatar
731
2 Years ago

The only thing is that as soon as someone logged back in from their main computer, the true play time would be immediately uploaded, and Valve could see right away that it was a fraudulent refund. At that point, Valve would be able to flag the account so that the user would be ineligible to receive refunds in the future.

1
QDP2 Avatar
961
2 Years ago

Whilst this is true I could almost guarantee there is no system in place checking user gameplay time of returned game after the refund process has happened. Taking into account that far too many people will be using refunds for steam to scroll through manually, as well as steam servers themselves may not recognise the hours if the game is not owned, some coding on steams side will still need doing before this is suitable for public use.

1
HistoricalGamer Avatar
5
2 Years ago

The bigger risk is there are many games out there that count the gameplay time based on having the launcher menu up. You can minimize that one you click "play" and then continue to play without your time being logged.

1
Daniel Mtanous - USA Avatar
95
2 Years ago

Maybe there should be more substance to your games then just clicking the button over and over?

1
Aedelric Avatar
3
2 Years ago

I can only say this to all those developers, complain less and provide more constructive feedback. Things will not be fixed if you do not provide an adequate and fair solution. Not that any of them gave a damn when they screwed over customers for years and years.

People do not refund good games they like, so long as a developer makes a good game then they have nothing to complain about. So long as a second purchase is permanent and non-refundable, then developers have no real right to complain. I have a few games in my catalog I wish I could have refunded, the developers that made then did not deserve the money. Steams new refund system was much needed.

1
CrimsonCrow Avatar
2
2 Years ago

This makes me wonder why they didn't envision a restocking fee so that the part of the game a person did play goes to the developer/distributor. It also puts a bite on those who abuse the system. For some of the games I have ended up with in my library I would have loved a partial refund any day, and for all the reasons listed that a refund policy is good for.

Some of the comments from developers lead me to believe that before there had been no refund requests compared to the increase. They see these as lost sales or abuse, which is possible. Then again those people may never have tried it as they were on the line about it and this let them. It's also fair to say that a game once purchased meant we were stuck with it and had no way to refund at all even though our complaints were legitimate. Steam only doled out refunds, before now, rarely and as I heard once a year (did not verify this) so I never wanted to waste my chance for a refund unless it was a substantial purchase, so I just suffered all the smaller purchases that I fell for the hype, presentation, development promises or was just a plain old stupid impulse buy that I regretted anyway.

Lastly they should allow games that fall into the less then two hour to complete category to be exempt from the refund as it can be so easily abused. I think two hours is plenty of time to know if things work or don't or if a game lives up to expectations or not, while one hour demo's I've experienced only let you learn the game and you never get far enough to really see much at all.

Just my thoughts.

1
Kerrigor [LP] Avatar
1
2 Years ago

Please watch Totalbiscuits video on this. His points negate all of these against it. (mostly) Not to mention the reason that they're saying " Bloody hell steam refund rate has gone from 0.09% to 17%. Methinks people are taking the piss. Here comes DRM again sadly... " is because steam never offered a way to get a refund ... so of course refund rates are higher! :') Steam is only offering a service that should have been there in the first place.

1
flagoon Avatar
27
2 Years ago

Damn, finally I can buy GTAV, check how it plays on my computer and return it if my machine is to weak. I'm all about that.

1
Fattox Avatar
465
2 Years ago

FYI - I saw elsewhere a screengrab of Puppygames' sales history, and the "sales" shown in picture for this article had dates correlating to the rise/drop in sales. I didn't see the numbers claims pertaining to "refund" amounts though. But still, *of course* there's more refunds now, because Steam just told people "no" in the past...

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There deffo needed to be something like this added in, because having "one refund per account, ever" was anti-consumer as hell.

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We've got the point where we call people who pre-order "idiots", so now at least there's some recourse for titles which over-promise. The best way to avoid refunds? Make better games. (I'm lol'ing at all the downvotes people are getting for this valid opinion)

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They really should incorporate a time-locked demo feature (only available while online) so that money never needs to change hands. Because i see people using this as a way to 'try' a game. Similar to how "free weekends" work. I guess they won't bother with such a thing now, because if people "demo" a game this way, Steam gets to keep the funds in the Steam wallet/bank account. Clever. ;)

0
Your Scariest Nightmare Avatar
1

Thanks a lot Black Mesa.

0
Herr_Mungus Avatar
1
2 Years ago

It's discouraging to hear people lump all people involved in this discussion into groups, like indies, devs or users. The reality is that there is a problem but the new Steam solution didn't solve the problem, it just changed the argument. Steam needs a better system to provide the customer with a way to get legitimate refunds. It also needs a system to ensure devs don't simply bear the brunt of abusive consumers.

Consumers are getting very used to Free games that aren't free for those doing the work. To those that think the game industry is the only industry that has refund issues; consider how many people get refunds for watching movies they didn't like and often that will cost you $12 or more dollars. No, users aren't picked on in this industry any more than any other, we've just developed some lopsided expectations.

The refund system on Steam is a step, but it's not a solution. Steam need to do more work as does the game industry as a whole to improve QA and customer satisfaction.

0
unwanted Avatar
788
2 Years ago

I don't understand this "DRM" stuff. That is literally what Steam is.

Also, these devs need to calm the fuck down. What's the difference between refunds and people not buying the game? People can try it and maybe keep it or never touch it. People are basically using them as demos. Make deoms again and this would be less of a problem.

-1
nu1mlock Avatar
770
2 Years ago

I agree with you on that a person might not have bought it if he couldn't try it first.

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However, being on Steam does not mean that your game isn't DRM-free or that it won't work without it. It's up to the developer to choose if Steam is required after the purchase or not. Many games are playable without the Steam client after download.

2
Fattox Avatar
465
2 Years ago

Spot on. They are only mad because money changes hands. If they had the option of a time-locked demo, they'd see no 'sale' logged and assume no loss was made.

0
fly790420 Avatar
26
2 Years ago

Well, put more efforts into making your game decent and interesting from the start then...Jeez.

-1
Stinkflipper Incarnate Avatar
269

Two hours is clearly way too much time. If you haven't figured out if you like a game enough to keep it within the first hour, you should not be entitled to a refund.

-1
Fattox Avatar
465
2 Years ago

I dunno about that. I bought Void Destroyer which claimed it had "Full support" for HOTAS setups. It didn't work properly with my Warthog setup though. I spent at least an hour troubleshooting over Steam messages with the dev, to no resolution.

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Granted it was cool that he tried to help me, but it was also for his own benefit of fixing his game. Having an hour of my time (actual time, and Steam playtime) used for mostly his benefit, and then telling me i couldn't get a refund, wouldn't be cool in the slightest...

2