Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Steam Refunds: Bad for (Some) Indies?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on June 8, 2015

BeyondGravityIt seems the one-size-fits-all approach to refunds (which in principle I’m totally on board with) is being used against indies.

Indie Developers Report Steam Refund Abuse From PC Gamers, Show Graphs To Back Their Claims

This goes hand in hand with this article from Polygon noting that the system has been optimized to minimize the impact on Steam itself (which, okay, I cannot really fault them for doing):

Steam Refunds: Does Valve Win Either Way?

RoTTI think the first article article makes a good point about very inexpensive games that really don’t represent more than a couple of hours of quality gameplay having a different system in place. The game cited most strongly in the article (Beyond Gravity) is a procedural platformer with pretty positive reviews and a decent video of gameplay, so it’s not just a bad or deceptive game. Probably. And I can personally vouch for Revenge of the Titans – another game cited (indirectly) which has also received overwhelmingly positive reviews. I love the game.

(Which counters some of the comment arguments that say something to the effect of, “Bah! Stupid indies! Make better games!”)

Now, I’m not a major consumer of extreme short-form games. I have played a few — and I have lots of games in my Steam library with less than an hour of play. But as a child of the arcade generation, I have a healthy respect for the kinds of games that you can enjoy in doses of just a few minutes at a time. So I can at least empathize, even if I’m not the primary customer here, and I would like to be able to see this style of game continue.

Now, I like to consider myself a realist who recognizes the market keeps changing – either organically by customer migration or by fiat from the major players – and that it is up to the content creators to adjust to market reality. But right now, smaller indies are facing a squeeze from extreme price pressure – which they’ve responded to by making shorter games – and now the refund pressure which encourages longer games.

Something’s gotta give somewhere.

UPDATE: More on the Pros and Cons in an article at Gamasutra: Developers Respond to Valve’s New Refund Policy

Filed Under: Biz, Indie Evangelism - Comments: 8 Comments to Read

  • McTeddy said,

    I have a far less negative opinion of players than many indies, so I tend to support the refunds completely.

    I find it very hard to believe that players are going to play a game, enjoy the crap out of it for two hours, and then return for their money back. I own plenty of games I beat in a few hours that I’m proud to have in my collection.

    But I’ve also been burned. I’ve paid for a game and realized it was shallow, repetitive, and not worth the money I paid. These burns make me hesitate to support a new dev, genre, or specifically indy devs with a simple looking game.

    Indies who are worried? Before this, I had to be afraid you were going to sell me a greenlight scam. Now, me and many players just like me are far more likely to give you a chance.

    As a buyer, I’m going to avoid any devs who protest this too harshly because I can’t help but wonder “What are they trying to hide?”.

    If you trust that your product is actually worth the price, why not stand by it?

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    One of the dubious joys of being an indie is that you tend to come into contact with a lot of the worst examples of consumers. The vast majority are great – but you don’t hear from them. You tend to hear from the people who either really, really love your game (YAY!!!), hate or are upset about your game (Ugh, but at least may be justified or at least reasonable), or those who are just really, really obnoxious trolls (Ugh. Just… ugh.)

    I fall in the same camp you do, Teddy. So I really don’t understand those reported stats – particularly when combined with the really positive reviews. Maybe this is just some trolls having fun with the new system, but it’ll all blow over soon and get to normal when they get bored with it (and Steam starts flagging some of their accounts for abuse). But as for this moment, it seems that some of the concerns have proven valid.

  • Ayrik said,

    I think this probably falls under the same category as pirating. Where they would never have been purchases in the first place. That’s my optimistic hope!

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Don’t stop believin’. Hold on to that feelin’…

  • Cuthalion said,

    I’m not sure they would’ve never bought it in the first place, since the graphs are showing sales going down, not remaining steady while refunds go up.

    Unless Steam let you retroactively refund existing purchases when the refund system went live? But I assume not.

    I’m really sad every time I see people respond to Puppygames discussion of indie price pressure by telling them their game just isn’t worth the money they charge. It’s usually pretty obvious they didn’t play it; they’re just assuming that, if someone asked for a refund, it must not have been worth the money.

    It’s still baffling for Revenge of the Titans, since that game is quite a bit over 2 hours.

  • automata said,

    The refund policy hasn’t been around long enough for people to have enough information on its impact. There will no doubt be tweaks to it later on as well.

    Having said that, the only developers I can see this being bad for are those who make short, single-play games that customers find so unbearable they wouldn’t play through it again. I don’t really think this is the type of game that needs encouraging, especially when it and the outright scams are going to discourage customers from buying better games.

  • FallenAngel said,

    Steam is already busy slapping wrists, or in some cases breaking them, concerning the abuse of the refund system. People have had their refund rights revoked or in extreme cases even their steam accounts banned outright.

    Let’s wait for a couple weeks until enough warning shots have been fired and see what happens to this (admittedly concerning) trend.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I’m glad to hear this! That’s the thing… you want to do right by your customers. Totally. So you make it a policy to make it easy to fix their issues. But of course, you get the fringe (and on Steam, that’s a LOT of people to make up a BIG fringe) that will take anything you give them and abuse it. That becomes the “why we can’t have nice things” problem.

    Sucks, but I’m glad to see some people are being “made examples of.”