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Steam now offers video game refunds for 'any reason'

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Valve's online games platform Steam has added a refund policy. According to a newly published page, "you can request a refund for nearly any purchase on Steam — for any reason." As long as a player has purchased the game within the past 14 days and played less than two hours, they can file a request through Steam's support system. Valve will return the money within a week through the player's payment method or, failing that, Steam Wallet.

Valve has laid out some special circumstances where its blanket policy doesn't apply. Downloadable content and in-game purchases, for example, may or may not be covered, depending on whether it's been "consumed," whether the underlying game has been played two hours or more, and whether the developers have their own refund policy. Movies aren't a particularly big part of Steam's catalog, but there are a few gaming documentaries and VR experiences on there, and they generally aren't refundable. You can't get refunds for Steam items you buy from third parties (presumably including sales like the Humble Bundle.)

Competing services like Origin and GOG already offer refund policies

Valve says it will still look at requests that fall outside the refund policy, but there are obviously no guarantees. It's also not clear if it will make any concessions to games that are playable in under two hours — to name one popular example, it's entirely possible to go through indie game Gone Home in that time. (Practiced speedrunners could theoretically do the same to larger titles, but that's a bit of an edge case.) Valve reserves the general right to avoid abuse of the system, although it notes that "we do not consider it abuse to request a refund on a title that was purchased just before a sale and then immediately [re-buy] that title for the sale price."

Until now, Steam games were effectively non-refundable in the US. Valve carved out exceptions for local consumer protection laws in the European Union and New Zealand, but even these were somewhat confusing. Now, it's closer to competing digital platforms like Origin and GOG.

Electronic Arts-owned Origin offers what it calls a "great game guarantee" for any EA game and some third-party games. Buyers can request a refund for any reason within seven days of buying a game or 24 hours of launching it for the first time; if they're returning it because of technical problems, that can be extended. GOG, which lets users download games without copy protection, is in a somewhat more vulnerable position. It offers a 30-day "withdrawal right" for any purchase, as long as it hasn't been downloaded or launched at all. Beyond that, though, it will only refund a game if there's a major, game-breaking bug. Valve, meanwhile, can afford to be liberal — in 2013, one estimate said it was responsible for 75 percent of digital computer game sales.