We all know the feeling when you've splashed out on a new game only to fire it up and feel a crushing sense of disappointment. For the first few minutes you might try and kid yourself - after all, you've just spent fifty quid on this, so surely you'll enjoy it? But soon, inevitably, you quietly admit that it terrible and and your wallet is now significantly lighter. Sigh.
The good news is that this could now be a thing of the past for PC gamers. The new Steam refund policy will enable you to get your cash back - but how exactly does it work?
What is eligible for a refund?
Steam says that it is being generous with the policy - letting you get a refund on purchases within the last two weeks, as long as you have clocked up less than two hours play time on the title. Brilliant.
DLC and in-app purchases are slightly more complicated: Refunds follow the same rules as for games, but only if the DLC doesn't offer something that can't be reversed (such as levelling up a character in a game) and only if you haven't consumed it (say, extra lives). There's also some third party DLC this won't work on - so check the T&Cs when you buy.
If you've pre-purchased a game you'll also be able to get a refund at any time before release day. Bundles of games will be refundable within two weeks as long as you don't exceed two hours play time on all of the bundled games combined - though Valve also notes that some DLC may not be refundable or if you've transferred any of the games.
And as you might predict, there are no refunds available on games from CD keys, movies, gifts, or Steam Wallet cards. You're also ineligible for refunds on games if you've been banned by Valve's anti-cheating system.
How do I get it?
Most of the payment services that Steam accepts can manage refunds - this includes Visa, MasterCard and Paypal. There are some exceptions though - you can check the list here.
Crucially, it is worth noting that refunds will only be available if you request them manually through the Steam support website. This means that it isn't just a case of clicking a button to get your money back - you'll have to exchange messages with a human being.
Steam has also said that if it looks like you're abusing the refunds policy, it'll ban you from using it - so try not to be super annoying by demanding refunds on everything you buy.
Does anyone else do this?
This is definitely good news for Steam users, but the company is far from unique in offering refund policies like this. Both EA's Origin service and GOG have similar - and last year Apple's App Store and Google Play both introduced similar functionality.
This sounds great - but could there be any problems?
This sounds like great news, but the new refund policy could cause problems for game developers. As our pals at Kotaku US point out, it could especially hurt smaller developers.
The reason is two-fold. First off, a lot of smaller, independent games are deliberately short experiences - with perhaps less than two hours play. Under this new regime, it is conceivable that people could buy a short game, finish it in less than two hours and then head back to Steam to request a refund - leaving the developer out of pocket.
It could also lead to an increase in DRM. Whilst the tide seemed to have been turning against copy protections in recent years, with many developers opting to trust gamers instead, now if a game is DRM free it could be bought from the Steam store, downloaded - and then have its files copied to elsewhere on a user's computer. Then they could go and get a refund - essentially claiming a free game, and getting all of the benefits of piracy, without the need to go to any nefarious websites.
It will be interesting to see how the new policy plays out. Presumably the powers that be at Valve are hoping that the launch goes a little better than the mods fiasco a few weeks ago.
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