Indie game developers are claiming that ever since Steam unveiled a new refund policy earlier this month, many users of the service have been abusing the new refund policy which says you “can request a refund for nearly any purchase on Steam—for any reason.”

Developers Puppygames and Qwiboo, two indie developers who have released a number of titles on Steam between them, have even released graphs which show how much this new policy has affected their sales, which you can see below. Let’s take Qwiboo as the first example to show exactly what’s been happening since the new Steam refund policy was unveiled.

This indie dev released on Steam Beyond Gravity; a procedurally generated “platformer” where you jump in-between planets and try to collect as many pickups as you can. The game is priced at $1.99 and has been on Steam for almost nine months. During that time, the game has received a lot of positive reviews. And after the new refund policy? Well, their sales tanked.

Qwiboo Steam Sales Image


Sure, this just could be one indie developer, right? Not really. Puppygames are reporting that their sales figures, as well as their refund figures, are showing almost the exact same results as Qwiboo. Take a look at the graph just to see it first hand.

Puppygames Steam Sales

Granted both of these figures just show their sales figures. This could easily be brushed away by saying that everybody who was going to buy games on Steam from Puppygames and Qwiboo must’ve already bought them. What would the new refund policy have to do with that? Well, refunds from both developers’ games have gone through the roof. As Qwiboo puts it:

So far, Valve Inc., Steams parent company, has yet to comment on the matter.

  • cwaz13

    In order to get a refund you can’t play a game longer than 2 hours. When you boil it all down, all the Steam refund policy does is essentially offer a 2-hour demo/”rental” period at worst. If people are playing your game for an hour or two and already don’t like it, then perhaps the quality of the game should be a bigger concern…?

    • Edward Wokhands

      Exactly. The entire reason for the 2 hour time limit is for that exact reason, to prevent abuse. This isn’t abuse, it’s unhappy customers. GoG have had the exact same refund model for as long as they’ve been around and haven’t had these problems.

      Steam needed this because I actually left their service for GoG specifically because over last Christmas I’d bought over 8 games that didn’t work that had no fixes. I had SO much trouble getting help or a refund. Their previous non-refund policy was immoral in my opinion as it trapped people who bought faulty products. That doesn’t happen anywhere else. This is a fair solution as I actually amassed about 40 minutes “playtime” trying to get a game working that crashed a few seconds in.

      The problem with these two developers is that we don’t have a true gauge of how many people wanted a refund before the new policy. Maybe the majority of people wanted a refund or regretted the purchase. Not everybody writes a bad review for a broken or terrible game. Those 8 games that didn’t work for me? I didn’t write a review for any of them because I was trying to get help in the forums.

      There’s no way I’d play 2 hours of Metal Slug or or Super Meat Boy or Trials and then return it.

      I guess the question is; is it wrong to return a game because it’s bad or not to your taste? If I buy a burger and don’t like it I can’t return it, I can’t do that with a movie or music. I guess it’s just the price developers pay. The consumer has lost a LOT moving to digital distribution so this has put a little power in our hands. I guess it does hurt small developers though.

      • colgateJR

        They should probably limit this to titles above $X though. Many of the cheaper indie games can be played in full in very few hours or rely on some repetitive content (a la Tetris or Pacman) that can be explored fully in the “2 hour trial” and then refunded.

        You can’t expect developers to provide tons of content in those $1 and $2 games, but this is kind of entitling users to expect that.

        • Edward Wokhands

          That’s a good point. A good way to solve this would be for the developers to post a “run time” you know the way movies used to on the DVD box? You know, an expected completion time.

          So say it’s a 20 hour game then the system would just say for instance “if the player has played for less than 20 divided by 10 then allow refund”. So they’d have 2 hours in that case. If it’s a 2 hour game then they’d have 12 minutes. Then again this is awkward because I’ve definitely spent more than 12 minutes trying to get some indie or some shorter games working. This isn’t supposed to be about playtime, it’s about getting it to work. I wonder if some sort of flag could be set? So if you’re having problems with a game you click “help” or whatever and from that point the game could become restricted, up until the problem point. So time could stop accumulating in Steam while the “help” flag is set but it could also stop you from progressing past a certain point in the game by disabling controls or something like that. Then when the game is fixed you click the help button again and time starts accumulating again. I mean someone who really needs help won’t be playing the game anyway.

          Or they could setup a streaming service where Steam records your desktop as proof of the problem? Upload it to them, they take a look at the video to make sure and then refund you. Someone could watch a live stream of your desktop as they chat with you and help. We already do exactly this with internet providers and other tech companies, a person gets on the phone with you and takes you step by step. What’s different about that other than the live stream of the desktop? That would solve the issue completely.

          There are multiple ways around this problem, they just require money and Valve are making enough money to try something like this. When I had that first problem I was disgusted by their “customer service”. Yeah, these ideas could be open to exploitation but with a little thought this could be fixed. I don’t see many ways around the video streaming idea other than really elaborate setting up of fake streams. Again, developers are saving a LOT with digital distribution. They should put some of that money back into the customer. You’re right, the current model will hurt smaller developers (I’m one of them and the game I’m making right now would be open to exploitation from this model). It’s too simplistic and all games are different. I mean Journey for PS3 was 2 hours long and won GOTY. Most people on Steam could have completed that and just returned it meaning a GOTY winner would have lost a crapload of money.

          It doesn’t matter whether something is good or bad, when someone buys it the money should go to the creator for their time and work. Again, if I buy horrible food I won’t go to that restaurant again, if I buy a bad game I’ll know to avoid that developer in the future but I can’t just return it because I don’t like the taste.

          Maybe I should post these ideas on the Steam forums. :p Valve should be talking about these kinds of ideas. ¬_¬

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