Up until the launch of the Epic Game Store, there was only one real competitor to Steam: GOG. The digital distribution platform (formerly Good Old Games) began life as a shop for older titles explicitly shipped without DRM. The platform no longer focuses strictly on making older titles available, but the DRM rule has never changed.
GOG has just announced a new refund policy that’s strikingly more generous than anything else on the market, and they’ve taken a rather novel approach to enforcement. Starting today, GOG will allow you to refund any game you’ve played within 30 days. Given that all GOG games are DRM-free, this is an obvious risk — there’s nothing intrinsically stopping someone from buying a game and then returning it after either beating it or playing it through to completion.
According to GOG’s new FAQ, it’s dealing with this risk in two ways. First, the company is going to monitor individual accounts to make sure nobody tries to use the policy to rip developers off en masse. Second, it’s basically asking users not to. The page notes that “We reserve the right to refuse refunds in individual cases,” adding:
Please respect all the time and hard work put into making the games you play and remember that refunds are not reviews. If you finished the game and didn’t like it, please consider sharing your opinion instead. Also, please don’t take advantage of our trust by asking for an unreasonable amount of games to be refunded. Don’t be that person. No one likes that person.
I have no idea if an approach like this will matter. I like to think it could, even if GOG has to crack down on a lot of “individual cases” to get things to that point. GOG’s new policy is markedly more generous than anything Steam offers — Valve restricts refunds to two hours of playtime over a 14-day period. GOG has no playtime restriction at all and pushes that window out to 30 days, which is nice if you sometimes buy titles on sale but don’t necessarily start them immediately. (Epic matches Steam’s return policy, so the two are identical in that way).
One of the reasons users hate DRM is that they hate being treated like thieves for being willing to buy a product, while those who are willing to steal and crack it face no such restriction. GOG is basically taking a bet that this is a viable business strategy and offering gamers a chance to put their money where their mouth is and not be “that person.” We’ll have to wait for data on how well the strategy works, but it’s good to see a company actually willing to test it.
The only real restriction in GOG’s policy is if you give a game as a gift to someone else. If the person you gift a game to wishes to request a refund, the refund has to be initiated by the buyer, not the recipient. As anyone who has tried to return software in the past 30 years or so can tell you, that’s not a particularly high bar to clear.
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