We've all been there - ready to click "purchase" on a new Steam game when you're suddenly struck by a chilling thought: What if it goes on sale tomorrow? The old answer was "sorry," but now that Steam has finally established a system for refunds, the endless cycle of self-doubt may be at an end.
Valve has announced a clear set of rules for how and when refunds will be available; the short answer is that you can get a no-questions-asked refund as long as you request it within two weeks of the purchase, and before spending two hours in the application. In the case of pre-ordered games, that countdown doesn't begin until they're actually released, so you're free to get your money back any time before then. DLC is eligible for refunds, too, but only if you've spent less than two hours in the main game.
Even if you don't meet all the requirements, Valve will still consider each request individually. So you may not be completely out of luck when a game makes your computer explode at the two-hour-and-one-minute mark.
Steam is the digital distribution system of choice for many PC gamers, but its stance on refunds had long lagged behind the more forgiving policies of competitors like Origin and GOG.com. As Steam Greenlight and Early Access allowed more games of all kinds - including those of potentially dubious value - to appear on the storefront, an escape clause for unhappy customers became increasingly important.
Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell said on Twitter that Steam refunds "look to be a very cool thing," but that it may hurt games that can be completed within that two-hour window.
It's going to have a realllllllyyy interesting effect on short form games.. Something like TWA (3ish hours) might have suffered from itJune 2, 2015
To be fair, Valve noted that this system is designed to "remove the risk from purchasing titles on Steam - not as a way to get free games." Valve will decline refund requests from accounts that seem to be gaming the system, which will hopefully keep games like Thomas Was Alone from becoming free two-hour demos.
But don't worry - refunding and immediately re-buying a game for a lower sale price is specifically not considered abusing the system.