The Point of No Returns

steamI really do love Steam. It is a great service and really did, in many ways, change the way digital distribution should work. They offer overall great customer service and have built an ever growing community around their service.

They are not perfect however. Steam unfortunately uses much of that consumer loyalty to its advantage giving their company and their founder, Gabe Newell, a free pass when it comes to not including some features that other services are beginning to offer.

Last November ultimate gamer villain EA, voted worst company in America two years origin-logorunning, rolled out with a full return policy for any EA games purchased on their digital storefront Origin.

Any EA title purchased on Origin can be returned within 14 days of purchase. This, according to EA, is an “unconditional guarantee” if you do not like it for any reason you can get a full refund. This shows they are listening to consumers and standing by their products.

gog_com_iconGood Old Games (GOG) has an even better policy. If you purchase a game with their service they offer a full 30 day money back guarantee. If the game, for any reason, does not work as advertised then you can get a full refund if they cannot fix the problem you are having.

Steam only recently began offering refunds for unreleased pre-orders. That is it. If the game is broken or does not run on your system, you are stuck with it.

In the past this was not a huge issue. With the advent of Greenlight and the Early Access program it is a huge problem. There are some great games that are on Steam because of those two programs, but also an increasing number of bad, broken, and borderline unplayable titles found their way on Steam also.

This was something I never gave much thought about until the recent episode of the Jimquisition over on the Escapist. Jim Sterling, game journalist and god among men, said that Steam needs quality control over the games they sell on their market.

I would say it is not direct quality control because that is out of the hands of Steam unfortunately. Logistically that would be difficult do manage. A solid return policy would alleviate those issues. At this point with many of its competitors offering such solid return policies, Steam will need to address this at some point to remain competitive.

If a game is getting returned in large numbers, then there is probably an issue with that title that should be addressed. It would be something easy to track for Steam. They could then pull the game from the store until the issues are fixed and the game is in a playable state.

I am curious what you all think. Is a return policy something you would like to see on Steam and would it be an answer for quality control?

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