I’d been watching the experimental MMO Wander for some time before its launch yesterday. It had good buzz from pre-release testers and people who had played it at conventions, so I gave it a shot and grabbed it on Steam. Although it pains me to admit it, since the game has promise and the developers seem quite nice, Wander is not ready for prime time. The thirty minutes during which I attempted to play were a comedy of errors, from painfully slow load times and constant “stuck” glitches to controls that simply didn’t work.
Fortunately for me, Steam has just adopted a new refund policy. Play a game for under two hours during the first two weeks after purchase and decide, for whatever reason, that it’s not for you, and you can request a refund. Steam can even refund your purchase the same way you paid for it rather than just dumping the money into your Steam Wallet. I decided to take advantage of the offer and consider re-purchasing Wander at a later date, should the developers manage to wrangle it into an enjoyably playable state. I’m not the only one, either. The game’s forums are full of users who are unhappy with the game’s buggy launch and are requesting refunds.
There’s a problem, though. Wander also launched on the PlayStation 4, and from what I hear, the game is in an even worse state on console. In theory, console certification processes are supposed to protect customers from buying a glitchy, barely-functional game, but Wander seems to have slipped through that system’s cracks. What’s Sony’s response to this kind of situation? The company’s refund FAQ simply throws up its hands. There’s no category for, “this game is so buggy it’s unplayable,” and the “I don’t like the game” segment says, “too bad” and suggests that customers subscribe to PlayStation Plus so they can try out some games for free.
Looks like dissatisfied Wander owners on PlayStation 4 will just have to cross their fingers and hope the game gets fixed. This has been an issue in video gaming for ages. Everything (even physical disc purchases, thanks to store policy) is buyer beware, no refunds. At least Wander isn’t a $60 full-price purchase, but still, shouldn’t there be some way for PlayStation Store, Xbox Live Marketplace, and Nintendo eShop customers to get a refund for a game that plain doesn’t work?
If everybody offered a similar refund policy to Steam, we might even see benefits beyond simple consumer satisfaction. Too many games feature lazy, boring, unskippable tutorial segments. If developers risked a rush of refund requests due to poor early impressions of a game, we could see far more interesting and exciting opening sequences – or at least skippable tutorials. A refund policy would hopefully also inspire publishers to hold off on releasing super-buggy games because they can just toss up some patches after launch. Gamers have had just about enough of that nonsense as it us, but hitting publishers in the pocketbook is a great way to inspire them to hold off on releasing games until they’re ready.
What do you think? Have you had a reason to check out Steam’s new refund policy yet? Would a refund policy similar to Steam’s help the console world, or would too many people try to abuse it? Let us know in the comments.
Image credits: 1. Steam User Brakkia, 2. Steam User Aciditty