Microsoft will soon offer refunds on digital games, and not all developers are happy

While the refund policy being tested seems like a great idea for customers, not everyone is pleased. The Chinese Room, the studio behind Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, has been firing off on Twitter about the impending policy change, mostly taking issue with the two-hour play window.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

That’s interesting, I was going to ask are there really games that can be beaten in 2 hours or less? But then I remember I played Gone Home and probably beat it in about that time. I guess this usage of a refund is kind of alien to me since I tend to think about my purchasing decisions as investments, in a very tiny way - I want to support the people who make the things I like, and hope they will keep it up. But looking at the Microsoft case specifically, I think their game pass that’s coming soon supplements this pretty nicely. If you can’t or don’t want to spend money to play a 2 hour game, download it through the pass and play it, then forget about it. I would probably be more apt to experiment with games if I don’t actually have to buy them.

With sales and whatnot, I rarely play games within the 14 days refund window. So that solves part of the problem for many.

On the other hand… at least one of my refunds was an indie game I completed in less than two hours, some kind of “symbolic” half-aborted adventure game. And it was like two bucks too! Two bucks is nothing really, but I felt so bad for playing it that I had to take action. Refund my honor. I know people complain than length does not equal quality, but in my experience very very short game tend to be ALSO very very bad.

Maybe it comes down to a problem of curation, but I expect a certain level of quality from Steam or console stores. Keep your “experimental,” 10 min. long, 24-hour game-jam crap on, please. Polish it, then sell it elsewhere.

Maybe they can tie return eligibility to your achievements. If you played the game two hours or less but earned the “finished the game” achievement, no refund for you.

Interesting to see a developer who doesn’t seem to know that probably most of genres don’t have “percentage of game completed”. When do I complete strategy game like Civilization or Wargame Red Dragon? When do I complete simulation game like Euro Track Simulator or The Sims? Roguelikelikes like FTL or Binding of Isaac or Renowned Explorers? Or, you know, every multiplayer game out there. Argh.

That’s a good point, the whole percentage thing isn’t going to work as a global metric. Tim played is probably as good as any.

I’d think that most people, as long as they buy a game with an accurate representation of what it is, wouldn’t return it if they enjoyed their experience. If they know they’re buying a 2 hour walking simulator and thought it was a good one, then they won’t return it. There will always be people that game any system though.

It would be interesting to see how much this is actually exploited on Steam, though I’m sure we’ll never get.

I wouldn’t be surprised if those gaming the system are tracked, and then blacklisted after it becomes apparent.

Exactly. Just like every retail outlet I’m familiar with.

I think (at least I hope) everyone understands that The Chinese Room’s percentage completion idea is just a hot take proposal from someone that’s frustrated with how their particular games fall under the two-hour rule. Obviously, a blanket percentage experienced measurement wouldn’t work with all games or situations. Open-world sandbox? Multiplayer? Score-run/roguelikes? What about someone that fires up the game for 30 minutes, then runs into a game-killing bug? They only get a portion of their money back?

The two-hour refund window is obviously unfair to short art project games like Dear Esther, but short of creating a tiered system with actual human oversight (which ain’t happening with Steam) I think it’s the fairest policy overall for consumers and the majority of games. It’s transparent and easily managed on both sides.

I like this idea.

“I’d like a refund please.”
“I’m sorry, it says here your friend @TimElhajj also played this game, and he seemed to enjoy it. Maybe raise your concerns with him?”

That’s key too - no, or very little human involvement or oversight at all. Days since purchase and total time played are very arbitrary and can be automated. Looking for certain achievements or other criteria more than likely requires human work, and that can open up more problems.

The time thing is the only way to make this work, really. Even the idea that reaching the ending prevents a refund is not ideal. It’s all good for indie developers, but what about the gamer? What if the ending comes out of nowhere after 25 minutes? It’s definitely a possibility with some indies…

– Sir, I opened this bag of chips and there was a cow eye in it. I want a refund.
– Did you open the bag?
– Well, yeah, I had to to know what was in it.
– THEN YOU’RE SCREWED HAHA! No refund for you!!!

Ten percent of me says, goddamn you autocorrect. The other ninety says - that’s a seriously damned good idea.

This is on those idiots for building games that can easily be beaten in two hours?

A percentage of completion would not be simpler to use, understand or enforce than “two hours” and anyone who tells you different is frickin’ biased as all get out.

There are idiots who think credit-feeding through a shoot-'em-up or other arcade game is “beating it” and then complain when the game only has half an hour of content. Why are the developers of those games idiots, again?

I’m not convinced this is an actual problem more than a theoretical concern. Get back to me with data that shows huge numbers of returns for people who completed the (short one hour) game.

I’m on the @TimElhajj and then I get here and there isn’t even a penis joke or anything for me to like?

Pretty sure it was Shakespeare who said “All the world’s a dick joke” or maybe it was “Whether ''tis nobler in the mind to take arms against a sea of dick jokes” anyway what I’m telling you is, the water is really cold. And it’s deep too!