It was obviously going to happen asrolled out their new , which lets you refund a purchase made within 14 days / 2 hours play of a title or DLC. A sharp rise in refunds now has some developers worried.
This impacts smaller studios and teams more, and Matt Gambell of RPG Tycoon's Skatanic Studios argues that part of the issue is there's "no way of knowing WHY users have claimed a refund."
A spike in refunds was of course going to happen seeing how refunds before were extremely rare and 'not officially supported' by Valve. So now that an actual system is in place people are going to use it. It is alarmist to say it's 'being abused' on smaller titles? Perhaps not.
Some games can be completed within an hour and are therefore eligible for a refund under the current system. Is this fair? Everything is almost entitled to be refunded and there's no excuse for 'indie games' to be exempt - they aren't magically worthy of some immunity.
However there may have to be a tweak or two to the system itself to at least help developers know why people are refunding their games, at least for those not genuinely abusing the system.
“Over the entirety of the 31 days of May, RPG Tycoon was refunded ONCE. In these first 7 days of June out of the 60 average units sold, over 20 of those have claimed a refund,”lone developer Matt Gambell.
"...no way of knowing WHY users have claimed a refund. There’s no communication with me as a developer.I have so many questions… Could it be that they were having technical issues? Is it something that could have been solved by talking to me? Did they ACTUALLY mistakenly buy 7 copies of the same game, is that even possible?” This is something that should change.
Refunds are necessary to boost consumer confidence, not to mention rights, but game developers do at least deserve a little explanation as for why their product is being 'returned' through Steam.
It will take time as this new Steam refund policy settles down but there's no denying it is a much needed tool in the hands of the Steam consumer community, as now we're empowered to truly 'vote with our wallets'. Shameful marketing tricks are suddenly made less potent and pricing is held to higher account. There'll always be those who abuse a system, sadly.
There's another question to ponder: Should refunds exists because you don't like something? Currently Steam's refund policy 'accepts' this under its current model. However it is nearly impossible to police such activity.
Have digital markets had a free ride for too long when it comes to refunds? Many would argue so, and just as brick-and-mortar stores have to 'get with the times', the digital stores have to 'get with the laws' of consumer protection.
No one can truly say what impact Steam refunds will have until a year's time when real data comes through, but one thing is for certain: Steam users are no longer the 'powerless mark' they once were.