Microsoft recently announced that they would be conducting a trial run of refunds for digital copies of games. This allows anyone who has possessed a game for less than two weeks and has played it for less than two hours, to be refunded. Most gamers have been generally quite happy about this, but as a few indie developers point out, the new policy isn’t exactly advantageous for non-AAA games.
The Chinese Room, the studio behind Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Dear Esther, has been the loudest among these (the rest having replied in favor to the latter). This is certainly understandable, as the studio makes a living of off games that throw all the conventions and stereotypes of what defines a video game, straight out the window. Dear Esther, for example, has a run time of about an hour if you don’t feel much like staring at the beautiful skyline.
Under Microsoft’s new policy, anyone who has completed the game could return it whether or not they liked it. I point out the latter, as such fringe and experimental games as those made by The Chinese Room, may not have much in the way of replayability. If you’re the type of gamer that keeps games based on the replayability principle, then such games as Dear Esther will fall by the wayside, no matter how much you loved it.
The Chinese suggest an alternative: using a percentage of the game completed. However this runs into problems, as open worlds, like No Man’s Sky or MMO’s, can take far over two hours to judge fairly as good or bad.
On one hand, developers can try and believe in the honesty of gamers and that we won’t exploit this new policy. On the other, that seems like awfully naive logic that allows some gamers to play quite a few games for free. Which in my opinion, brings up the question of demos. Depending on the game, demos could be a useful counter to this policy, so that gamers can be assured that their money goes towards what they believe to be a good game.
Do you think these indie developers are right about Microsoft’s new policy? Let us know in the comments below.