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Steam now offers refunds for any game, within certain conditions

Hayden Dingman | June 3, 2015
Doesn't run on your machine? Didn't like it? Want to prove a point? Valve doesn't care. They'll give you a refund anyway, within reason.

There aren't a ton, but I went through my library and tried to find a few excellent games that lasted me less than two hours: Braid, Papa & Yo, Gunpoint, The Room, Puzzle Agent, Among the Sleep, Thirty Flights of Loving. Even Valve's own game, Portal, took me less than two hours when I first played it.

If I were more of a scumbag (more than I already am), I could've finished any of those games and then--under Valve's own rules--requested a refund. There's nothing stopping me, except for Valve's vaguely-worded statement, "Refunds are designed to remove the risk from purchasing titles on Steam--not as a way to get free games. If it appears to us that you are abusing refunds, we may stop offering them to you."

How many free games can I play before Valve cracks down? Is it the second time I buy-and-refund a suspiciously short game? The third time?

A friend and fellow writer of mine, Bo Moore, suggested to me that maybe Valve needs to add a completion metric into games--i.e. if you've finished more than 50 percent of the game a switch flips and refunds are no longer viable. That would certainly solve this edge case.

But in the meantime, Valve's new rules present a bit of an issue for short games.

I speak from experience. Here's my big confession: A few years back when I was a poor and naïve college student, a friend of mine once bought the Game of the Year edition of Fallout 3 on the 360, we all installed the DLC, and then he returned the box to Amazon citing "case damage."

I tell you this story just to illustrate that people--even those who then go on to grow up and think "That was a terrible thing to do"--take advantage of returns. We all know the classic "Wear a dress to an event and then return it" scam. Valve just enabled effectively the same thing, and it is up to Valve to fix it. Not to rely on the fundamental goodness of people and hope they don't abuse it.

That being said, at least there's some recourse when Ubisoft or Activision or EA or WB or whoever screws you next time. Preorders are not the be-all-end-all anymore. You can get your money back. For that, it's worth applauding Valve. They just need to iron out some kinks.


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