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Steam Begins Offering Refunds; Can Used Digital PC Games be Far Behind?

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By Nelson Schneider - 06/14/15 at 03:33 PM CT

On June 2nd, 2015, Valve did something unexpected with their Steam gaming platform. While Steam has been beloved by PC gamers for quite some time due to its unobtrusive DRM, all-inclusive client features, and sales with discounts so huge a movie ticket and a cup of Starbucks look like a house payment in comparison, the Achilles Heel of the House that Gaben Built has always been the customer service. PC gamers love Steam when everything is working correctly, but the moment something goes awry and the need to contact customer service arises, Steam loses a bit of its luster, with anecdotes commonly siting weeks to months of waiting for a resolution.

Valve is aware of this smudge on Steam’s reputation, and back in March one of the company’s business officers, Erik Johnson, flat-out said that Steam needs better customer service. Fast forward to June, and that customer service has just gotten a bit friendlier with the added ability to return any Steam game for any reason and receive a full refund.

While it is true that Steam’s new refund system has a few terms and conditions, the fact that the Internet is filled 100% of the time with people trolls with nothing better to do than exploit whatever they can and bend any rule to their advantage means we all can’t have the nice things we want. Even in the face of exploiters, though, Steam has proven – again, anecdotally – to be rather flexible with requests for refunds that fall outside their proscribed rules.

The new ability to receive refunds on Steam-purchased digital PC games actually puts PC gaming way ahead of where it has ever been in the past, and, indeed, ahead of the consoles in a few areas. Back in the days when consoles were consoles and PCs were PCs, it was always impossible to return games for a refund because we ‘didn’t like them’ or whatever other reason we could come up with. At best we could get a replacement copy of the same game in the even the one we bought didn’t work. At worst, console gamers could always sell their unwanted cartridges/discs (for a fraction of the initial cost), while PC gamers were stuck with floppies/discs that were effectively worthless.

With Steam adopting the never-before-seen ability to get refunds on videogames, I can’t help but look forward to the day that Valve lets us sell second-hand Steam games to each other on the Steam Community Market. The company has ironed out most-if-not-all of the kinks in the Community Market, but it seems like such a waste to only use it for exchanging imaginary trading cards, emoticons, wallpapers, and Free2Play game item drops. If any gaming platform has the balls and the customer-first attitude to initiate used digital games, it’s Steam.

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