It appears that Steam’s new refund policy will hurt indie developers more than they initially thought. Today, Qwiboo and Puppygames shared some graphs, showing declined sales due to Steam’s new policy. It’s still too early to speak, but from the looks of it, the new Steam refund policy allows gamers to play and test a lot of games for free.
On one hand, that’s not a bad thing. In the past, we’ve been getting a lot of demos. Nowadays, game demos can be really counted on the fingers of one hand. Okay okay, that’s an exaggeration but you get the point. Thanks to Steam’s new refund policy, players can test and see whether a game is worth their time.
On the other hand, this new policy will hurt indie developers. You see, some gamers are really greedy and will take advantage of this new policy. What was that? Your game costs as much as a beer? No matter. And that’s the sad thing about this whole thing.
Take for example Qwiboo. This indie dev released on Steam Beyond Gravity; a procedurally generated “platformer” where you jump in-between planets and try to collect as many pickups as you can. The game is priced at $1.99 and has been on Steam for almost nine months. During that time, the game has received a lot of positive reviews. And this is what happened when Valve announced Steam’s new refunds policy.
As Qwiboo tweeted, out of 18 sales 13 refunded in just last 3 days. That has never happened before as Qwiboo noted.
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.#SteamRefunds
— Qwiboo (@qwiboo) June 6, 2015
Qwiboo agreed that refunds should be available, however this new 2-hour policy is currently being abused by a lot of gamers. And while this may not hurt triple-A titles that last 10-20 hours, it does hurt indie devs. Qwiboo also provided another graph, proving that Steam’s upcoming Summer Sale is not to be blamed for these low sales.
And Qwiboo is not the only indie developer that suffers from this exploitation. PuppyGames has also shared a similar graph for its Steam sales. As we can clearly see, sales took a dive after the announcement of Steam’s new refunds policy.
It remains to be seen whether Valve will react to this whole exploitation of Steam’s new refunds policy. In its current state, players can enjoy indie games for free.
Our opinion is that Steam’s refund ‘time-played’ policy should be dynamic. For indie titles that are priced at $2, it should be around 20 minutes or so. For games priced at $30, it should be around one hour and for games at $59.99 it should be 2 hours. Or at least something like that.
The point is that in its current state, Steam’s new refunds ‘time-played’ policy can hurt indie devs.