I don’t mean to sound like one of those crazy PC Gaming Master race guys, but PC gaming is pretty rad. The games are cheap, the selection is second to none and we can even get refunds on digital purchases. It’s pretty awesome. That being said, in a little over a year I’ve purchased and then refunded 5 different games. Whilst great for consumers, I wonder if I’m doing more harm than good.
Money isn’t something I’ve got an awful lot of, and so I try to pick my targets when it comes to my gaming. I’ll usually wait, wait…and then wait a little more before I throw dollar at a game, even if it’s a game I know I’ll enjoy. Thankfully, in the event that I don’t enjoy it, Steam has my back. Their refund policy is unique in that, as long as you’re not taking the wee-wee, they’ll give you a full refund.
Having the nuclear option of a Steam refund allows me to gamble on games I wouldn’t otherwise try; Orwell being a prime example. I picked that up because it looked interesting, different and very new. The reviews (at the time) weren’t fantastic, and truthfully I could have waited for a larger discount, but safe in the knowledge that Steam had my back, I picked it up. And I’m glad I did, Orwell was exactly what I wanted it to be.
The problem arises of course, when I start to feel like the refund system is there as an escape clause; a means for me to get money back on a game I’m not enjoying, rather than a game that’s fundamentally broken or poorly optimised. Should I as a consumer have the right to return a game if I’m not enjoying it? Should refunds be issued to games only if they’re fundamentally broken, or if they run poorly on your system?
This is where I am right now. Two nights ago I grabbed The Mooseman on Steam, and within 60 minutes I’d fallen back to my safety position and requested a refund. According to Steam this is perfectly within my rights, and yet I feel somewhat dirty, like I’ve tricked the developer out of a sale.
You see The Mooseman was fine. It wasn’t broken or poorly optimised. I had no reason to dislike it, I just wasn’t having any fun. After half an hour I realised this and suddenly I was left asking myself if its worth pushing through for the sake of completing it, or if I should get my money back and spend it on something else altogether. Ultimately I went with the latter. The games gone; my license revoked.
I likely wouldn’t have completed The Mooseman, the game just wasn’t for me. In that case, am I justified in refunding the game? As a consumer, do I have a free rein to return the game regardless of quality. Should I be able to ask for a refund if I’m bored?
I think I do, provided I’m not gaming the system by playing hours and hours of a game, or even completing it before requesting my money back. And yet, even with that, I can’t help but feel like I’m being a touch dishonest. The Steam refund system is a great addition to an already fantastic platform, but I wonder if it’s doing more harm than good to smaller developers. Sure I’m buying their game earlier than I would normally, but if I can so easily discard their hard work, is it hurting them in the long run? And should I care if it is?