Steam’s two-hour refund policy leads independent developer to quit game development •

This is why we cannot have beautiful things.

A new debate has erupted around Steam’s two-hour refund policy.

If you didn’t know, Steam offers a refund for all game purchases, no questions asked, as long as your playtime is less than two hours and within two weeks of purchase.

It’s a consumer-friendly policy (or a cost-effective way to cut down on the number of customer service workers, depending on who you ask), and the two-hour play threshold is meant to prevent less worthy consumers from confidence to operate it.

But while most AAA games easily exceed the two hour duration (looking at you, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla), small indie games with short stories can fail. This potentially leads to a situation where players can complete a game and return it within two hours.

This is exactly the situation facing indie developer Emika Games, who recently released Summer of ’58, a psychological thriller that received an overall Very Positive rating on Steam. Unfortunately, the game can be completed in around 90 minutes, giving players plenty of time to exploit Steam’s refund policy.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the developer said he is “quitting game development” and said he is not earning enough to develop more games due to the high amount of refunds.

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It’s an unfortunate situation where a pro-consumer policy hurts the developers who can least afford to lose sales. It is also a difficult problem to solve.

Lowering the two hour threshold will only hurt consumers going through extremely long AAA versions. Steam could potentially have a separate policy for shorter indie games, but that would require additional staff to verify that the games are much shorter, which Valve is unlikely to do. Another potential technical workaround is to use Steam Achievements as signifying game completion. If a player gets final achievement for completing the story, the option to flip the game may be removed.

How do you think this could be resolved to strike the right balance between consumer rights and developer safety?

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