Steam, a games distribution platform with 125 million active users, announced a new and very lenient refund policy today. If it's been less than 14 days since you bought a game and you played it for less than two hours, Steam's operator Valve will refund you "for any reason."
"Maybe your PC doesn't meet the hardware requirements; maybe you bought a game by mistake; maybe you played the title for an hour and just didn't like it," Valve's new Steam Refund page explains.
The new refunds policy also applies to a game's downloadable content that is sold separately after its initial release (DLC), pre-purchased titles, and any in-game purchases made within one of Valve's games, assuming you didn't already consume said item. Other, non-Valve games that offer in-game purchases will have the option to enable refunds, and players will be notified whether a developer has enabled refunds at the time of purchase. You will not get a refund if you were caught cheating and banned from a game.
This is a big deal because you can now essentially test drive any game in Steam's huge library, which includes the vast majority of AAA releases as well as a neverending flood of smaller, indie games.
It'll be interesting to see if Valve can stick to the rules it outlined today
Refunds could pose a potential problem for the latter, as a lot of indie, arty games can be completed in under two hours.
Conveniently, Steam keeps a tally of how much time you've spent playing any one game, and looking through my library, I can see that Gone Home, a 2013 indie hit about a college student coming home for a visit only to discover an empty house and family secrets, took me only 89 minutes to complete. Proteus, another indie, and a personal favorite, took me only 37 minutes to complete. Sunset, a much awaited game from Tale of Tales, can be completed in under two hours as well.
It'll be interesting to see if Valve can stick to the rules it outlined today. As the company recently proved with the launch and quick scrapping of its paid mods initiative, it has no problem changing directions if players and developers don't like its ideas.
For now, though, don't try to play one hour and 59 minutes of every game on the store without paying a dime.
As Valve explains: "Refunds are designed to remove the risk from purchasing titles on Steam—not as a way to get free games. If it appears to us that you are abusing refunds, we may stop offering them to you."