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Smaller Devs Abused By Steam's "No Questions Asked" Refund Policy

| 9 Jun 2015 01:56
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Smaller indie devs are seeing a massive surge in refund rates after the implementation of Valve's "no questions asked" refund policy.

Earlier in the month, Valve finally decided to match one of Origin's most well-received features with the implementation of a "no questions asked" refund policy that allowed gamers to get a full refund on games purchased within two weeks and played for less than two hours. However, unlike Origin which features mostly EA-made games, Steam features a wide variety of games from thousands of different developers, ranging from the very big to the very small. While the big boys will no doubt simply absorb the costs of additional refunds into their bottom line, smaller devs are starting to feel the heat, and many are considering resorting to drastic measures - like DRM - to combat it.

Qwiboo, for example, is the developer behind Beyond Gravity, a small indie game on Steam. A small game (it's main story can be completed in under an hour) for a small price (just $2), Qwiboo has seen a massive uptick in refunds ever since Valve implemented the feature. As you can see from the graph to the right, it's sales have absolutely plummeted. "Out of 18 sales 13 refunded in just last 3 days. That's 72% of purchases. Rate of refunds before was minimal," they Tweeted.

The key factor in Qwiboo's story is the length of it's game. As Beyond Gravity can be finished in an hour, and Valve's refund policy puts a blanket 2-hour grace period on all games, there is nothing to stop someone buying the game, finishing it, and then refunding it like some kind of free rental.

Elsewhere, other devs are considering more drastic measures. Cliff "Cliffski" Harris of Democracy and Gratuitous Space Battles has always proudly sold his games completely free of any sort of DRM, but is now worried about people simply buying his games, downloading them, getting a refund and then continuing to play them.

"Bloody hell steam refund rate has gone from 0.09% to 17%. Methinks people are taking the piss. Here comes DRM again sadly..." Harris lamented.

While many people initially celebrated Valve's refund policy, the blanket "2 weeks, 2 hours, no questions asked" doesn't seem particularly well thought out, and after the whole paid mod fiasco may be turning into another "Valve is completely out-of-touch with its fans and its partners" PR fiasco.

Source: PC Games N

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