Escapist Podcast: 211: Morality of Steam Refunds

211: Morality of Steam Refunds

This week, we discuss the recent situation with Steam refunds and Firewatch.

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I solidified my views on video game pricing a long time ago. Unfortunately for the current crop of indie games, for the $20 AA price point my frame of reference is the NFL 2K series. I think that AA games should be 20-30 bucks and have the level of quality as that series. Firewatch isn't an AA experience but they're charging an AA price. I did get enjoyment from it, but still did not get value for the money they charged. Feeling like you've been overcharged is a valid reason to use steam's refund policy and there's no call for shortening the 2 hour window because some devs want to sell a ten dollar game for twice that price.

Quality and length are both modifiers which determine the value of a videogame to people. So judging a game based on it's length is just as valid as judging a game based on it's quality. Yes, an impossibly long game isn't worth it if the quality is sh**, but in the same way the best possible game imaginable is also not worth it if I can only enjoy it for a minute. Both these values are important to judge the overall value of a game on and everyone will put a different emphasis on them.
Personally I am glad that I did not buy Firewatch, as I would have most likely aimed for a refund as well. The quality of the game is pretty damn good ... for the most time. Having watched a Let's play of the game the ending is very disappointing. All the mysteries in the game just get checked of like a to-do list in those last 15 minutes of the game and then it just ... ends. For a game that put you in front of different choices in the beginning, the game does a poor job of actually having them matter in the end.

There is no perfect system. No matter what system there is it will be abused. To wit, there are titles out there that block out certain functions until past the two hour mark to prevent people from refunding it. Now I'll be honest, Firewatch looks like an interesting game, certainly more interesting than a fair number of walking simulators released as of late which are in far worse quality, dull as dishwater and done by developers more concerned with pushing a snobbish "high art" attitude than a game. That said, you don't keep customers by complaining about them, you keep them by having a game they want to keep. The complaints about refunding Firewatch are really no different than the complaints about used game sales a couple years back and the solution to it is the same; make a game that people want to keep.

LordLundar:
The complaints about refunding Firewatch are really no different than the complaints about used game sales a couple years back and the solution to it is the same; make a game that people want to keep.

Nah, the solution is going to be the same for the used game retail market. Make you spend even more money on a shoddy product. This is where the whole "season pass" got started.

I'm a little disappointed in Steam's refund policy as I feel I'm in a situation where I feel it should apply but it clearly doesn't based on the terms.

I've purchased Darkest Dungeon during the holiday sales. I didn't end up playing the game for a couple months after installing it (immediately disqualified there). When I did play it I was having an okay time but really couldn't get a solid grasp on what the game had to offer in my 90 minute play session. I put the game down and eventually revisited it a week later. After playing another 2 hours I realized the game doesn't mix things up and feels like the same repeated action over and over again. I'm not happy with my purchase...I've spent 4 hours in the game (though less than that actively playing it) and there's no way I'd qualify for a refund.

Looking back it was stupid of me to give a game a second chance. I should have immediately refunded based on first impressions but because I thought it might improve with time I'm out my purchase price.

Meanwhile I own Five Nights at Freddy's and have played it for only 45 minutes yet I have no intention on refunding. My short time with the game wasn't enough to beat it but it gave me such a memorable and great initial gaming experience that I felt my money was well worth it.

I'm not qualified to say what would be fair as far as refunds are concerned but I would like to see the 2 week time limit dropped completely. Steam should acknowledge the fact that there are people buying multiple games on their steam sales and can't get around to playing all of them so soon. There's a reason many PC gamers have backlogs. I also feel that 2 hours is just too short to judge way too many games. It works for certain genres where it doesn't for others. That being said, the longer you push it the more you open up to exploiters. I guess the question becomes...is that even a problem?

Isn't the person who refunds games regardless of quality to save money effectively the same as someone who pirates games? This was never intended to be a sale even though money changed hands briefly. If that's the case...then what's the harm in offering a 10 hour refund?

SecondPrize:
I solidified my views on video game pricing a long time ago. Unfortunately for the current crop of indie games, for the $20 AA price point my frame of reference is the NFL 2K series. I think that AA games should be 20-30 bucks and have the level of quality as that series. Firewatch isn't an AA experience but they're charging an AA price. I did get enjoyment from it, but still did not get value for the money they charged. Feeling like you've been overcharged is a valid reason to use steam's refund policy and there's no call for shortening the 2 hour window because some devs want to sell a ten dollar game for twice that price.

Codswallop. I mean, naturally where there is taste there is no argument, but in the case of Firewatch they were asking ?15, which is at less than half as much as a standard AAA game, so it isn't as if they haven't tailored price to the size of the experience. My main issue with your post though is that I don't think "overcharged" should be a valid reason for getting a refund for anything. In no other artistic medium could you get a refund simply because you didn't think something was worth the money, after the fact. You can't get your cinema ticket refunded because the new Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtle movie wasn't all it cracked up to be. You can't read an entire book and then bring it back to the book shop, because you didn't like the ending.

As I see it, the only legitimate reasons to return a game are if the game doesn't work properly, or if the product is something completely different to what was promised in the advertising. Everything else is just exploitation an overly generous returns system on Steam.

maninahat:

SecondPrize:
I solidified my views on video game pricing a long time ago. Unfortunately for the current crop of indie games, for the $20 AA price point my frame of reference is the NFL 2K series. I think that AA games should be 20-30 bucks and have the level of quality as that series. Firewatch isn't an AA experience but they're charging an AA price. I did get enjoyment from it, but still did not get value for the money they charged. Feeling like you've been overcharged is a valid reason to use steam's refund policy and there's no call for shortening the 2 hour window because some devs want to sell a ten dollar game for twice that price.

Codswallop. I mean, naturally where there is taste there is no argument, but in the case of Firewatch they were asking ?15, which is at less than half as much as a standard AAA game, so it isn't as if they haven't tailored price to the size of the experience. My main issue with your post though is that I don't think "overcharged" should be a valid reason for getting a refund for anything. In no other artistic medium could you get a refund simply because you didn't think something was worth the money, after the fact. You can't get your cinema ticket refunded because the new Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtle movie wasn't all it cracked up to be. You can't read an entire book and then bring it back to the book shop, because you didn't like the ending.

As I see it, the only legitimate reasons to return a game are if the game doesn't work properly, or if the product is something completely different to what was promised in the advertising. Everything else is just exploitation an overly generous returns system on Steam.

Overcharging is certainly a valid reason for getting a refund. If you're selling a five dollar game for twenty bucks, which is what Campo Santo is doing, then people are going to feel ripped off and they will get a refund. Tricking me into spending more than what your game is worth doesn't entitle you to keep my money. I'll probably wind up buying firewatch again when it drops to a fiver in a sale because that's what I think it's worth.

SecondPrize:

maninahat:

SecondPrize:
I solidified my views on video game pricing a long time ago. Unfortunately for the current crop of indie games, for the $20 AA price point my frame of reference is the NFL 2K series. I think that AA games should be 20-30 bucks and have the level of quality as that series. Firewatch isn't an AA experience but they're charging an AA price. I did get enjoyment from it, but still did not get value for the money they charged. Feeling like you've been overcharged is a valid reason to use steam's refund policy and there's no call for shortening the 2 hour window because some devs want to sell a ten dollar game for twice that price.

Codswallop. I mean, naturally where there is taste there is no argument, but in the case of Firewatch they were asking ?15, which is at less than half as much as a standard AAA game, so it isn't as if they haven't tailored price to the size of the experience. My main issue with your post though is that I don't think "overcharged" should be a valid reason for getting a refund for anything. In no other artistic medium could you get a refund simply because you didn't think something was worth the money, after the fact. You can't get your cinema ticket refunded because the new Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtle movie wasn't all it cracked up to be. You can't read an entire book and then bring it back to the book shop, because you didn't like the ending.

As I see it, the only legitimate reasons to return a game are if the game doesn't work properly, or if the product is something completely different to what was promised in the advertising. Everything else is just exploitation an overly generous returns system on Steam.

Overcharging is certainly a valid reason for getting a refund. If you're selling a five dollar game for twenty bucks, which is what Campo Santo is doing, then people are going to feel ripped off and they will get a refund. Tricking me into spending more than what your game is worth doesn't entitle you to keep my money. I'll probably wind up buying firewatch again when it drops to a fiver in a sale because that's what I think it's worth.

On what grounds is it only worth $5? A cinema ticket or DVD in the UK is 7-10 pounds. A game that took me five hours to finish at 15 pounds? Just going on entertainment/time alone, that is an acceptable metric. That said, I don't think the length of a game is a very good metric to measure a game's value. To quote HAWP:

maninahat:

On what grounds is it only worth $5? A cinema ticket or DVD in the UK is 7-10 pounds. A game that took me five hours to finish at 15 pounds? Just going on entertainment/time alone, that is an acceptable metric. That said, I don't think the length of a game is a very good metric to measure a game's value. To quote HAWP:

On the grounds that it has as much content as other games I wouldn't pay more than 5 bucks for and far less than AA games I'd buy for $20.

SecondPrize:
snip

Amaror:
snip

I know, right? Fuck Campo Santo for charging such a ridiculous price for their "game".

I mean, just last week I bought a movie on Bluray for $22.00USD. It was a really fantastic film; lots of clever writing and witty dialog; but the film ended up being only two hours long! Can you imagine the audacity of the production team?! ONLY TWO FUCKING HOURS!

What an absolute rip off. How dare they charge that price for such a short experience?!

And then here comes Campo Santo asking $18~$20 for an experience only five to seven hours long?! The nerve!

What about a system like this:
Every developer sets a 'midpoint' in the game (maybe shorter than that like 25%, the exact % would have to be refined), at their own criteria they can base on reaching a certain story point or hours spent or anything they want. I can't imagine this would be hard to implement given the achievement system is basically the same kind of monitoring. The developers' incentive to not lie is that placing it too low would make people react 'holy shit I've only been playing X hours and it's already half-over!?'. The customer is notified when they've crossed this half-way point. If the customer plays, say, 10 minutes after they've been notified of this point then they become ineligible for a refund. That way you have short games not getting screwed by arbitrary number of hours and longer games don't have the ability to misrepresent the opening 2 hours.

I'm so happy someone else out there recognizes the painful dialogue of Life is Strange!! This whole time I felt like I accidentally clicked some option that said "make dialogue uncomfortably ironic", and have been playing a totally different game than everyone else. I guess I can stop taking Thorazine now.

Vigormortis:

SecondPrize:
snip

Amaror:
snip

I know, right? Fuck Campo Santo for charging such a ridiculous price for their "game".

I mean, just last week I bought a movie on Bluray for $22.00USD. It was a really fantastic film; lots of clever writing and witty dialog; but the film ended up being only two hours long! Can you imagine the audacity of the production team?! ONLY TWO FUCKING HOURS!

What an absolute rip off. How dare they charge that price for such a short experience?!

And then here comes Campo Santo asking $18~$20 for an experience only five to seven hours long?! The nerve!

Movies aren't games. I have built a concept of value where each are concerned and they are not the same. To me, Firewatch is a five dollar game. I don't expect everyone to price games like I do but I'm certainly not surprised that a title which can be completed under the minimal amount of time Valve gives you to decide if you've made a mistake is being refunded. Also, five to seven? That's stretching it further than Mr. Fantastic. Many of the people refunding this game actually completed it. Valve will give some leeway for something like three hours but there are an awful lot of people who completed this seven hour experience of yours in about two.

SecondPrize:
Movies aren't games. I have built a concept of value where each are concerned and they are not the same. To me, Firewatch is a five dollar game. I don't expect everyone to price games like I do but I'm certainly not surprised that a title which can be completed under the minimal amount of time Valve gives you to decide if you've made a mistake is being refunded. Also, five to seven? That's stretching it further than Mr. Fantastic. Many of the people refunding this game actually completed it. Valve will give some leeway for something like three hours but there are an awful lot of people who completed this seven hour experience of yours in about two.

Can you point me to someone who legitimately beat the game in two hours? (and wasn't just racing to the end in a speed run attempt) I've seen many claims of doing so but have yet to see one verifiable example.

You're welcome to your concept of value, and it's of no real consequence to me whether you enjoy the game or not, but it seems nonsensical to me. You've created a disproportionate value system where one media product is allowed far more lenience in it's price-to-length ratio than another is. I find that very odd considering, in this instance, both media products offer a linear, narrative-driven experience.

So I'm left wondering why people are comfortable with throwing $20~$25 at a Bluray of a movie which lasts all of two hours, but get their knickers in a twist over spending $17~$20 on a story-driven game that lasts over twice that length.

'Course, we're talking about gamers who will review bomb a game on Steam, claiming the game is utter trash, but will still rack-up hundreds of play time hours. Or, gamers who claim to have beaten a game in two hours (and never returned to play again), yet they'll have dozens of play time hours logged.

Vigormortis:

SecondPrize:
Movies aren't games. I have built a concept of value where each are concerned and they are not the same. To me, Firewatch is a five dollar game. I don't expect everyone to price games like I do but I'm certainly not surprised that a title which can be completed under the minimal amount of time Valve gives you to decide if you've made a mistake is being refunded. Also, five to seven? That's stretching it further than Mr. Fantastic. Many of the people refunding this game actually completed it. Valve will give some leeway for something like three hours but there are an awful lot of people who completed this seven hour experience of yours in about two.

Can you point me to someone who legitimately beat the game in two hours? (and wasn't just racing to the end in a speed run attempt) I've seen many claims of doing so but have yet to see one verifiable example.

You're welcome to your concept of value, and it's of no real consequence to me whether you enjoy the game or not, but it seems nonsensical to me. You've created a disproportionate value system where one media product is allowed far more lenience in it's price-to-length ratio than another is. I find that very odd considering, in this instance, both media products offer a linear, narrative-driven experience.

So I'm left wondering why people are comfortable with throwing $20~$25 at a Bluray of a movie which lasts all of two hours, but get their knickers in a twist over spending $17~$20 on a story-driven game that lasts over twice that length.

'Course, we're talking about gamers who will review bomb a game on Steam, claiming the game is utter trash, but will still rack-up hundreds of play time hours. Or, gamers who claim to have beaten a game in two hours (and never returned to play again), yet they'll have dozens of play time hours logged.

You are aware that you're posting in a thread about a discussion on a podcast about a game being refunded a lot on a platform that offers refunds with 2 hours spent, are you not?

SecondPrize:
You are aware that you're posting in a thread about a discussion on a podcast about a game being refunded a lot on a platform that offers refunds with 2 hours spent, are you not?

That so? Thank you for informing me.

And you are aware that the podcast is saying the claim is that the game can be beaten in two hours, are you not? I've yet to see anyone who's actually done it in that time.

As I said before, if you have a specific example, I'd be more than happy to see it. Otherwise, what we have here is a podcast questioning the ethics of a hypothetical situation based on vacuous claims.

\_(ツ)_/

Besides, that doesn't really address my confusion on why this particular media product, in your view, must have a drastically reduce price whereas another, similar media product is fine at an inflated price.

Vigormortis:

SecondPrize:
You are aware that you're posting in a thread about a discussion on a podcast about a game being refunded a lot on a platform that offers refunds with 2 hours spent, are you not?

That so? Thank you for informing me.

And you are aware that the podcast is saying the claim is that the game can be beaten in two hours, are you not? I've yet to see anyone who's actually done it in that time.

As I said before, if you have a specific example, I'd be more than happy to see it. Otherwise, what we have here is a podcast questioning the ethics of a hypothetical situation based on vacuous claims.

\_(ツ)_/

Besides, that doesn't really address my confusion on why this particular media product, in your view, must have a drastically reduce price whereas another, similar media product is fine at an inflated price.

If you've not seen it, look harder. Again, movies are not video games. I expect different things from them. I grew up playing JRPGS that could easily take 30 hours to play through and wouldn't stand for a movie of that length. Assuming that these two vastly different media formats can both be judged on length with the same weight makes little sense.

 

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