GOG.com announced a new refund policy today. The digital gaming store now offers a 100% money back guarantee on any PC and Mac title that they sell.
"If, within 30 days after the purchase of your game, you experience technical problems or game-breaking bugs that prevent you from finishing your game, contact our customer support," explains GOG.com in the refund policy's FAQ. "They will do their best to help you fix the problem and if, at the end of their attempts to solve the problem your game is still not working, we'll give you back your money."
The games in GOG.com are DRM-free. Therefore, a gamer who hypothetically report a game as broken that's actually working and keep playing it. There's no way for the store to deactivate your copy. The company says that their new policy is a "declaration of trust" in its customers. This trust has its limits, though.
"We know that, since we're the Internet's leading DRM-free gaming platform, our Money Back Guarantee offer here is open to a certain amount of abuse. If you're being a bad person who's abusing our trust of you and asking for a whole lot of your games to be refunded and we can't resolve your problems, we'll have to stop offering you refunds.So don't be that guy. No one likes that guy."
Their trusting attitude about refunds is no surprise. After all, GOG.com is part of CD Projekt, the Witcher creators. CD Projekt has always been conspicuously nonchalant about piracy.
GOG.com isn't the only digital PC/Mac store that offers refunds. EA's Origin allows customers to get a full refund on all PC/Mac games within 24 hours of launching the game, within seven days of purchasing it, or within seven days of the game's release date if you pre-ordered. GamersGate allows for 14-day refunds if you never used the game. You can also get your money back after two weeks or after using the game if GamersGate's support staff can't help you make the game work.
Steam, the market leader, is the notable exception. For the most part, they don't offer refunds or exchanges on games, add-ons or in-game items after their release date. European customers can withdraw a purchase if they haven't started downloading the game. Otherwise, you're stuck with your game.
A lot of the anxiety surrounding a digital-only future in gaming centers around ownership. If you buy a downloadable game, you own it less than you would if you owned a physical copy. You can't pass an old game off to your nephew or trade with a friend. The refunds that most digital stores offer help reduce that anxiety a bit.
It's curious that Steam would lag behind its competitors in refunds. Their Family Sharing feature indicates that they want to expand digital ownership. Allowing for refunds would be a great way to continue that mission. Perhaps, given the size of their customer base, they're worried about the strain that refund requests would put on their support staff?
Anyway, kudos to GOG for displaying faith in their customers. I hope their policy puts some pressure on Steam to revise their policies as well.