Valve's Non-Existent Refund Policy
CALL OUT: Do you remember the DRM debates of the early 2000s? If you do, post in the comment section. I’m interested to hear, or you can tweet me at @orangekun.
Valve is being sued for not issuing refunds in Australia and I agree. Steam / Valve’s business practices are not consumer friendly, yet there is an entire cult around the business and the practices. We all admit that Steam sales destroy our wallet, but you know why? We have to buy all of our games at one time, otherwise face exorbitant markups. Spring, summer, fall, and winter are times we as gamers come together to give our money to Steam, who in turn gives us the absolute rock bottom prices anywhere… we think anyway.
Buy a game now though and if it goes on sale in the next hour you don’t get a refund or a price match. The general idea being that you were okay with the price before it went on sale, so you shouldn’t complain when it does. However, at least in America, the idea that you can charge something and then half an hour later charge something else and not provide the difference is considered predatory in the retail industry.
Let’s say I roll into an department store and I’m like yo, I want this t-shirt. The very next day that t-shirt goes from $20 to $10, I would obviously be outraged and upset, and feel as if the store punished me for shopping there on the intention that they gave me a product that they were willing to sell for less at a higher price.
This is where most stores provide price matching and recovery. You bring your receipt in, they will refund the difference, concluding that if you care THAT much you should probably get the refund, since you would obviously just return the item and repurchase it. Stores without a price match will still let you bring everything in and return it, then repurchase it at a new sale price. Hollister had a huge sale once and I took in (not my clothes mind you) a bag of clothes that cost $250 and walked out with $175 in cash, plus a free bottle of cologne.
With games this applies to a somewhat different level, but on the general, anytime there is within reason let’s say two weeks to a month, up to several years, a store will price match the new discounted price. Nordstrom, being one of the biggest, has no expiration on their returns, so it’s literally up to each store and each manager how to deal with it.
With Steam, there is literally, 100% not joking, a big F U to anyone who dares challenge the prices. Any tickets about price matching are instantly closed and you’re told that’s the price you pay. Once you buy a game, it’s yours, forever, There is no returns, there is no process to handle discounts going down, there is LITERALLY nothing.
Again - it’s fine - it’s not some ner’do’well thing, but it’s not consumer friendly and it’s not fair. So while Valve isn’t breaking any laws here in America, they’re not friendly, because they know they don’t have to be. They know you have to come to them for games, because that game’s DRM is tied to them. A long time ago, people spoke out against the idea of DRM when it was just SecuROM and a few other technologies, because of this very same issue, however, people associated it too much with piracy.
So you must obey by Valve’s rules to play many of the games located on Steam and you have no avenue for a refund. If you accidentally buy a game, you have a very small window to write an essay to Valve to beg them to refund it back to your wallet - even if you haven’t played it yet.
The reason stores don’t issue refunds for unbox’d games is because you could install the software then return the disc, or copy the disc, and return it. Therefore, if you break the shrink wrap, you can only exchange it - which is totally great. Even if you don’t break the virtual shrinkwrap around a game, that game is yours, forever.
Again, to be fair, Steam does have a lengthy process to buy a game and you sort of have to know what you’re buying to get through it, and people are TOTALLY fine with it. I, however, think that life would be better for all of us if Steam implemented some kind of auto-refund system (if a game within x amount of time goes down in price, you get a refund to your Steam wallet if requested).
You’re still going to buy games, they still have your money, and the game developers when they discount a game have to be prepared to take the hit (generally speaking, the idea I would have is that Steam would just issue the discounted fee for every purchase leading up to the sale price). You also can relax and feel warm and fuzzy when you buy a game when it’s on sale for 25% off and see it a week later 75% off, going from $15 to $5, giving you $10 back in your wallet if you’re so inclined to be vigilant.