Do developers really have anything to worry about with Steam's new refund policy?

Should Valve rethink the two-hour playtime policy?

Steam's new refund policy has caused quite the stir in the gaming community. Many gamers rejoice that they finally have the option to refund games that they find completely intolerable, while others question how this new policy will affect indie developers and big budget developers with significantly shorter games.

How with this hurt developers?

Steam's policy states that a user can refund a game within two hours of clocked play time. It is then very reasonable to think that this could be harmful to shorter games. 

screenshot of Beeswing

While some indie developers have been vocal about their concerns, others like Jack King-Spooner, creator of the recent game Beeswing stated that a refund policy of this nature is better than not having one. “It does make it a bit like a free rental for wee games, doesn’t it?” he said. “But I think it is better than not having any refund policy at all. I think that if people want to scam a game for free, they’ll work it out one way or another.”

“But I think it is better than not having any refund policy at all. I think that if people want to scam a game for free, they’ll work it out one way or another.”

Life is Strange Promo image

It is difficult to gage how much this policy will encourage gamers to take advantage of developers with shorter games, but only time will tell. It will also be interesting to see how this affects larger developers like Telltale and DontNod's episodic games. 

Valve has stated that people who are abusing the policy will be unable to make refunds in the future, though some users wonder exactly how abuse is defined in their policy. Perhaps Valve will be more forthcoming with an explanation, soon.

Should Valve Rethink the 2-hour play time policy?

It may be beneficial to everyone if Valve alters the 2-hour play time policy to a proportional play time of shorter games. This would mean that developers would have to estimate the average play time of their game before selling it on Steam. Meaning that if a player has bought a game with a two hour or less play time, then it would make sense that the player would have a smaller window in which to return the game.

Even if Steam's policy stated that gamers could only clock a half hour of play time in order to get a refund, that would still be more than enough time to figure out if the game was completely unplayable or not. I may not speak for other gamers, but I can usually tell within the first ten minutes whether or not I think a game is complete garbage.

Perhaps the controls are wonky or the graphics are intolerable, which would render the game unplayable; I would want my money back under those conditions. These issues are something that the player is going to discover very early on, so the two-hour window doesn't seem to be necessary for games so short.

It is absolutely a good thing for Valve to introduce a refund policy.

Ultimately, Valve will need to study their policy over time and make adjustments to the policy where needed. 

Do you think people will scam the system for free games? What kind of policy do you think could best solve the issue? Let us know down in the comments!

Published Jun. 3rd 2015
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  • The Soapbox Lord
    Featured Contributor
    Not to mention the games without DRM can be duplicated and then refunded, in essence giving people a free game.

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