One clever indie dev has made quite the piece of statement art about Steam’s refund policies: Refund Me If You Can. (opens in new tab) It’s a horror game where you’ve got to find your way through a maze-like sewer while pursued by a monster. The trick here is that it’s hard enough that it might take you more than two hours to figure out your escape: Which means that beating the game would take you past Steam’s refund window. (If you don’t already know, here’s how Steam Refunds work.)
It’s an odd, clever, meta-textual bit of game design. If I beat the game in less than two hours, is it now ethical to refund it? If I don’t beat it, but refund it inside that two hour window anyway, am I breaking some kind of implicit pact with not just the developer, but myself?
To many developers, users refunding games they’ve beaten deeply discourages someone from making a game that takes less than two hours to play. Last year, a developer made a public departure from games entirely (opens in new tab) due to the large number of refunds on their game. There’s also that time a developer publicly shamed (opens in new tab) someone who left a positive review into re-buying their game.
Suffice to say, Steam’s two hour refund window has been a source of weird troubles over the years. Not just for indies, either: There are also mundane problems like MS Flight Simulator taking so long to download that it blew past the two hour window. (opens in new tab)