Valve’s new refund policy for Steam has been up and running for about a week, and my prediction that this system would be crippling for certain developers is already coming true. If you’ve been paying attention to the digital papers these past two days, you’ve likely noticed a series of articles circulating around the developer Qwiboo, creator of Beyond Gravity, a game with 89% approval from 616 reviews. Qwiboo has taken to Twitter to complain that the new policy has resulted in a 72% refund rate on new purchases.
It’s refunds. Out of 18 sales 13 refunded in just last 3 days. That’s 72% of purchases. Rate of refunds before was minimal.
I’d like to get something out of the way before we continue: The comparison of refunds is a fallacy, and if Qwiboo isn’t already aware that this tweet proves no point, they should be. To say that refunds have increased since before Steam had a refund policy is irrelevant, it’d be like Verizon sending you a letter that they’ve noticed your bandwidth usage has increased 100% compared to before you were using their services, and that they would like an explanation.
So how does a game with a “very positive” review score suffer from a 72% refund rate? The reviews tell a different tale. While positive reviews beat out negative by sheer number, negative reviews have been voted more helpful than the positive, to the point where seventeen of the top twenty most helpful rated reviews are negative. Reviews note the game as a simplistic one button mobile port without much gameplay that seemingly only exists for the sake of achievements.
Even the more helpful positive reviews seem to have a hard time justifying the game, starting out with these awkward introductions:
Sometimes, a game doesn’t need much to be fun.
There is absolutely no purpose to this game, other than having fun.
Now, for the sake of fairness, the “most helpful” of the positive reviews does actually paint the game in a good light.
The graphics are cute, the music is bubbly, and the gameplay is really excellent. You’ll catch on right away but mastering the jump angles and timing between planets, which are different sizes and rotate at different speeds and often in different directions, is a bit trickier and what makes Beyond Gravity worth playing.
I decided to check out Qwiboo’s Twitter account to see if they commented further on the matter, only to find that they are curating their followers.
Another indie dev showing up in the articles is Puppygames, who last year published this blog post titled “Because You’re Worthless: The Dark Side of PR.”
Without customers, we’re dead in the water, homeless and living in a cardboard box outside Berko sewage plant. But individually, you’re like ants. And all of developers secretly know it and don’t talk about it. You’re not worth supporting. It’s far, far better to completely, totally ignore support, if you want to make a living.
The new refund policy on Steam is going to mark a dramatic shift for the service, and while it marks a huge leap forward for consumer rights, not everyone is going to be happy with the new climate.