Author Topic: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]  (Read 4816 times)

Offline Wingflier

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I thought this was an interesting topic.

Total Biscuit recently made a ~30 minute video in which he responded to 2 indie developers who used "statistics" to show that their game sales had been significantly impacted (negatively) by the new Steam refund system. TB analyzes the data and give his opinion on whether these claims are legitimate.

He also receives emails from about half a dozen other notable indie game developers who chime in with their opinion of the new change as well.

Whether or not you watch the video, I'd love to hear your opinions.
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Offline crazyroosterman

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2016, 11:02:18 AM »
that video isn't new its several months old (: but regardless I think it probably resulted in less sales for developers in general By The Way, Good Sir I'm more than happy it exists for my purposes it means I can performance test a game regardless of weather it has a demo or not but though really I think that on a whole things like this make developers put more effort into their game(apart from triple aaas I doubt it affects them enough for them to care) so yea I think its a perfectly good change that they made
also not to forget it wasn't an actual new feature they were just fixing something that didn't work not that that really changes anything but something to keep in mind
although when it came to very big games (mechanically and so on) I doubt it really changed their sales really at all since 2 hours isn't nearly enough time to decide weather you'll like a game like stelaris(sorry I'm probably spelling it completely wrong) for instance if I were to go buy install and play it right now id be enjoying because of the novelty alone really.

edit not that I don't mind talking about it though but since then I haven't heard any indie developers saying that they were massively hurt or god forbid weren't able to make a profit because of the refund system so again I think its fine.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2016, 11:31:22 AM by crazyroosterman »
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Offline Aklyon

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2016, 11:17:47 AM »
I'm gonna agree with crm, thats not a new video. I'd thought he'd made a second one after seeing this is a new post.

Offline x4000

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2016, 11:21:01 AM »
I watched it a while back, but haven't refreshed myself.  To my eye there hasn't been any significant impact from refunds.  We already had chargebacks anyhow, and the number of refunds+chargebacks has not increased substantially since the new system came into place.  Market saturation and discoverability issues have hurt us, but we aren't seeing some massive number of refund requests or something (in fact, very very few).
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Offline crazyroosterman

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2016, 11:32:47 AM »
I'm gonna agree with crm, thats not a new video. I'd thought he'd made a second one after seeing this is a new post.
same here in fact I distinctively remember watching that video and feeling the same I do about it now really.
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Offline TheVampire100

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2016, 11:42:06 AM »
People want refunds for trivial reasons. You can see tis kinf of threads always in games, mostly early access. "This wasn't the game you have promised, giff me refund. Giff me now!"
Like crazyroosterman said, I think everyone is affected by the refund system. however, I don't hink that the losses will have a big impact. If you rely on your game on "impulsive buys", then you probably made something wrong with your game anyway. What I mean with this is, if developers except that people buy their game just because they currently have money and th eame is cheap, then they rely not on people who buy their game for the game itself. They failed with the product.
People who like the game, the target audience you should have and should keep, will keep the game. And I think the refund system is a nice idea if you just want to see if you like the game or not. If developers don't liek that, then they should put up a free demo, so people can test it in other ways and don't have to rely on the refund system.
10-20 years ago it was normal, that video games hat a playable demow hen they were released. To promote them. Nowadays developers don't care anymore.

Offline x4000

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2016, 11:50:49 AM »
10-20 years ago it was normal, that video games hat a playable demow hen they were released. To promote them. Nowadays developers don't care anymore.

It's not that we don't care.  In fact, I came into this bussiness expressly believing in demos and always providing them even when other developers did not.  And making a demo is not hard for me to do.  But I don't do it anymore.  Why?  It actually stalls people from buying the game.

A traditional buy cycle goes like this:

Scenario 1: Person A hear about the game and wants it.  It is not on sale.
- They read some reviews, maybe watch a video or two, depending on their level of interest.
- They either wishlist the game or buy it, depending on how bad they want it.
- Derailment from demo: they either download the demo and don't play it right away, then forget to buy or wishlist it; or it remains a "this seems good but I need to try the demo first but I don't have time" sort of infinite loop and they never get around to buying.

Scenario 2: Person B hears about the game when it is on sale.
- They quickly scan some reviews, and see if this is something they want to plop down X money for.
- If it's something they are really on the fence about, they are most likely to either just let is pass, or want a really quick video impression.
- They either buy it, skip it, or if it just still seems to expensive then they wishlist it.
- Derailment from demo: they feel like it would be irresponsible of them to buy the game without trying the demo first, but that takes time and there are a variety of games they are interested in, so the likelihood of a skip is much higher.

At this point in PC gaming, demos have been widely shown to have a detrimental effect on game sales, particularly when put right next to the buy and wishlist buttons on steam.  If someone is really looking for a demo and wants to come to our site to find one, then that's usually a case where they're motivated enough that I have no trouble giving them a demo.  So a number of our games have demos that are not on steam, but instead are buried on our site a bit.  It's not that we have something to hide, but the simple psychology of such a glutted marketplace creates an unfortunate situation in the majority of cases.

In the end, if someone is going to buy a game of ours for whatever price, and then they find out they can't run it for some reason, I'm super glad they can get a refund.  Nothing could be more valid in my eyes.  I'm super glad that system is there.  Obviously there are problems with short games and so on, though.

My 2 cents. ;)
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Offline crazyroosterman

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2016, 11:52:42 AM »
People want refunds for trivial reasons. You can see tis kinf of threads always in games, mostly early access. "This wasn't the game you have promised, giff me refund. Giff me now!"
Like crazyroosterman said, I think everyone is affected by the refund system. however, I don't hink that the losses will have a big impact. If you rely on your game on "impulsive buys", then you probably made something wrong with your game anyway. What I mean with this is, if developers except that people buy their game just because they currently have money and th eame is cheap, then they rely not on people who buy their game for the game itself. They failed with the product.
People who like the game, the target audience you should have and should keep, will keep the game. And I think the refund system is a nice idea if you just want to see if you like the game or not. If developers don't liek that, then they should put up a free demo, so people can test it in other ways and don't have to rely on the refund system.
10-20 years ago it was normal, that video games hat a playable demow hen they were released. To promote them. Nowadays developers don't care anymore.
pretty much spot on although demos do cost money to make which is enougher reason that the refund system is good because it allows people to test the game out without the developer having to go to the effort of making a demo to it and really I think being able to test the game it self out is really better than seeing reviews or talking to people on forums since you may love the idea of something but hate the reality of it
for instance the swindle a game I want to love (stealth based building looting game) but the controls felt like the absolute worst so I refunded it not that I need the money back but I want developers to feel they need to put effort into their games to get my money so its a matter principle for me.
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Offline crazyroosterman

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2016, 12:01:23 PM »
10-20 years ago it was normal, that video games hat a playable demow hen they were released. To promote them. Nowadays developers don't care anymore.

It's not that we don't care.  In fact, I came into this bussiness expressly believing in demos and always providing them even when other developers did not.  And making a demo is not hard for me to do.  But I don't do it anymore.  Why?  It actually stalls people from buying the game.

A traditional buy cycle goes like this:

Scenario 1: Person A hear about the game and wants it.  It is not on sale.
- They read some reviews, maybe watch a video or two, depending on their level of interest.
- They either wishlist the game or buy it, depending on how bad they want it.
- Derailment from demo: they either download the demo and don't play it right away, then forget to buy or wishlist it; or it remains a "this seems good but I need to try the demo first but I don't have time" sort of infinite loop and they never get around to buying.

Scenario 2: Person B hears about the game when it is on sale.
- They quickly scan some reviews, and see if this is something they want to plop down X money for.
- If it's something they are really on the fence about, they are most likely to either just let is pass, or want a really quick video impression.
- They either buy it, skip it, or if it just still seems to expensive then they wishlist it.
- Derailment from demo: they feel like it would be irresponsible of them to buy the game without trying the demo first, but that takes time and there are a variety of games they are interested in, so the likelihood of a skip is much higher.

At this point in PC gaming, demos have been widely shown to have a detrimental effect on game sales, particularly when put right next to the buy and wishlist buttons on steam.  If someone is really looking for a demo and wants to come to our site to find one, then that's usually a case where they're motivated enough that I have no trouble giving them a demo.  So a number of our games have demos that are not on steam, but instead are buried on our site a bit.  It's not that we have something to hide, but the simple psychology of such a glutted marketplace creates an unfortunate situation in the majority of cases.

In the end, if someone is going to buy a game of ours for whatever price, and then they find out they can't run it for some reason, I'm super glad they can get a refund.  Nothing could be more valid in my eyes.  I'm super glad that system is there.  Obviously there are problems with short games and so on, though.

My 2 cents. ;)
that's pretty interesting and now that you mention I have been subject that type of psychology sometimes (not very often though I usually just use demos for the same thing I use the refund system for performance testing) does that count for something like a free standalone dlc that may as well be a demo? granted that's pretty non existent and the only thing I can think of that fits there is the expenderbro  download able for bro force(requiring of course that you don't need the base game for it) because I was rather on the fence about it in till I played that downloable and I thought it was so sick I went and bought broforce the next day and put about 81 hours into over a long period of time.

edit I should mention though that that only exists because the developers had a licensee deal with the people making the next expendable movie that was coming out at the time
« Last Edit: June 13, 2016, 12:04:03 PM by crazyroosterman »
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Offline Wingflier

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2016, 01:24:49 PM »
That is realllly interesting about the psychology bit of buying demos.

It's definitely true that modern gamers are just inundated with games anymore. I know that's certainly the case for me. At this point I probably divide my time between about 8-9 games, all which I love, but none which I devote any overwhelming amount of time to (as I used to).

Though I personally would definitely play the demo of a game I was really interested in, I think I have a bit longer attention span than the average gamer, in a world where patience seems to be considered less and less virtuous. I can certainly see how people who were torn between several different games and/or had a lot less free time than I did wouldn't really have the opportunity to try the demo, leading to an infinite feedback loop, as you said, of just never buying the damn game.

Sorry about saying the TB video was made "recently". It just showed up in my news feed for the first time today. Though granted, I did not expect so many of you to have already seen it. I knew this forum had some Cynical Brit fans, which is why I made the discussion to begin with, but I didn't know there were that many fans. So yeah, apologies if we've had this discussion before and I missed it.

It's a really sad state of affairs that in our current society, game designers have to compete against each other at all. Unfortunately it leads to a lot of really good developers and titles getting completely overlooked or never even seeing the light of day due to lack of interest and/or funding. That's just one of the pitfalls of Capitalism though, there's nothing much you can do about it. I'd like to think that in an ideal utopian society everyone could pursue their dreams and it wouldn't be motivated by such frivolous things as attempting to grab the attention span of masses of nincompoops, but there it is heh.

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Offline Aklyon

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2016, 01:39:01 PM »
...theres a news feed on youtube?

Offline crazyroosterman

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2016, 03:50:53 PM »
That is realllly interesting about the psychology bit of buying demos.

It's definitely true that modern gamers are just inundated with games anymore. I know that's certainly the case for me. At this point I probably divide my time between about 8-9 games, all which I love, but none which I devote any overwhelming amount of time to (as I used to).

Though I personally would definitely play the demo of a game I was really interested in, I think I have a bit longer attention span than the average gamer, in a world where patience seems to be considered less and less virtuous. I can certainly see how people who were torn between several different games and/or had a lot less free time than I did wouldn't really have the opportunity to try the demo, leading to an infinite feedback loop, as you said, of just never buying the damn game.

Sorry about saying the TB video was made "recently". It just showed up in my news feed for the first time today. Though granted, I did not expect so many of you to have already seen it. I knew this forum had some Cynical Brit fans, which is why I made the discussion to begin with, but I didn't know there were that many fans. So yeah, apologies if we've had this discussion before and I missed it.

It's a really sad state of affairs that in our current society, game designers have to compete against each other at all. Unfortunately it leads to a lot of really good developers and titles getting completely overlooked or never even seeing the light of day due to lack of interest and/or funding. That's just one of the pitfalls of Capitalism though, there's nothing much you can do about it. I'd like to think that in an ideal utopian society everyone could pursue their dreams and it wouldn't be motivated by such frivolous things as attempting to grab the attention span of masses of nincompoops, but there it is heh.
yes I do like his channel he's knowledgeable and he always does his best to be honest which I appreciate even in the few accusations that he's full of crap he's also what introduced me to arcen and this forum so I have to thank for that as well
how ever considering his disdain at having ,fans, and the unhealthy attitude that entails id you not call me a fan
btw on what you say about competitive ness...yes that definitely causes problems but at the same time we really kind of need that in a way for developers to innovate and not grow lazy(we do still have that problem of course but it would be far worse if they didn't have to compete with each other) although it would be nice if all developers simply did their own thing really.
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Offline Mánagarmr

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2016, 01:59:57 AM »
That's excessively depressing about demos, as it REALLY hurts me as a customer. I think demos have been a big boon for me to try a game and see if it has potential. That said, it's a double edged sword. If the game doesn't gel with me, I won't buy it...eh, I dunno. It just feels like demos is a courtecy so one doesn't have to buy things sight unseen. HOWEVER, we now also have a vastly different access to news and reviews compared to say 20-30 years ago. Back then, you basically had cover art and some marketing blurbs on a box to judge a game on.
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Offline Wingflier

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2016, 02:28:12 AM »
Actually, I think competitiveness does just the opposite. It makes developers lazier because they have to make games they think people are going to play, and in many ways that's the death of innovation. After the 50th DotA clone, it's been done to death. After Diablo 2 version 9001, there's no reason to keep playing RPGs. Sure, these games are lucrative, but they aren't original.

There are still companies doing unique things, but they struggle and often don't survive as they are in competition with everyone else. If people could just make the kinds of games they wanted to play, it would be a whole different world.

I do think demos are nice, but like Mana said, with a whole host of reviewer sites, videos and avenues, plus the Steam refund system, I suppose it's not as necessary as it once was.
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Offline x4000

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Re: Does the new Steam refund system hurt indie developers? [TB video]
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2016, 09:39:59 AM »
Agreed with you guys on pretty well all the points except one: I'm not sure that innovation is dying.  There are just more people doing the non-innovative stuff.  There were plenty of companies doing that already before, but now there are 100 derivative games for every 1 there used to be.  I think the cool thing is that there are now 2 or 3 innovative companies for every 1 there used to be.  There are also 3 or 4 customers for every 1 there used to be, and innovation is more accepted.

The trouble is that those 1000 derivative games are burying the 30 innovative ones, and making it really hard to find them.  It's also spreading out the market when it comes to those extra customers.
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