In the last 20 years or so it has become painfully obvious that consumers of video games have no rights to a quality product. We just buy our games based on whatever media is presented to us and screenshots and hope for the best. Is that all beginning to change for the consumer?
I remember a time when I could buy a game on PC or otherwise, and if I was not happy with the product, or it did not run correctly on my machine I was able to return the product for a refund. I had consumer rights. My purchase was protected. Those days quickly ended, as illegal pirating of games “supposedly” was being fueled by hackers buying the game and returning it after pirating it. So, it became the norm that if you bought a game, opened it, and played it, you own it, like it or not.
Developers wrung their greedy hands as the money flowed in from sales of games that had no chance of returning to the consumer. Quality also began to plummet, as Developers didn’t have to work as hard to make a quality product. After all, the money from pre-orders and day one release sales is guaranteed, so why work hard for it?
RISE OF DIGITAL DELIVERY
About 10 years ago digital versions of games began to take form. With that, Digital Rights Management systems such as the popular Steam platform began protecting digital products. But where were the rights for consumers? Consumers still took all the risk, as refunds still were not available for consumers. Gamers began relying more and more on game review outlets such as IGN to report on the games apparent success or failure. Unfortunately gamers soon found out that many of these outlets allegedly accept money from the Developer for a favorable review or suffer the consequences of a bad review.
The gamer was then forced to solely rely on reviews by other gamers. But then again, the corruptness of the gaming industry sunk its teeth into the reviews and began filtering out bad ones, leaving only the praise. Some also firmly state that Developers hire professional reviewers to leave positive reviews for the game, essentially once again to deceive the gamer to make that non-refundable purchase. So once again the gamer sat assuming all risk for the purchase, left with no recourse. It was “Buyer Beware” and there was nothing you could do about it.
RISE OF THE REFUNDS
That started to change in June of 2015 with the announcement of Steam Refunds. Steam, arguably the most popular digital delivery and DRM system in the world, implemented the first refund policy in the modern era from a MAJOR company (the much less popular GOG already had a 30 day policy in place long before). It did not come without its own criteria though. You must request your refund on the game purchased within 7 days of purchase, and MUST have played less than 2 hours of the game in total. Not totally unfair, as I personally know whether I will like a game within minutes of loading, and if it does not load because incompetent Developers forgot to include the EXE file with the game (it does happen believe it or not) I can just request my refund and have that money returned to my credit card, PayPal or even as a store credit.
Finally the consumer has some rights on digital purchases and I firmly believe that other platforms such as uPlay (considered the WORST digital delivery and DRM system ever conceived) will eventually jump on board with the idea. Not because they want to, but because they will have to. I also believe with refunds being a real possibility for Developers once again, they will have to start delivering quality working games or suffer the backlash of lost revenue, as it should be!
Is this the start of a new era for gaming? Are we witnessing the return of power to the gamer? I cannot say for sure, But I can say that today in 2016, I feel WAY more confident in my purchases, as I am protected from fraud, and downright sloppy lazy development. Have I used the new refund system yet? YES, and I am proud of it. If Developers want my money they have to actually work for it.