Why Don't Game Companies Offer Refunds For Digital Downloads?

Ever download a video game to a console or handheld and want a refund? Tough. Can't do it. But in the world of Amazon's Kindle, you can download books digitally - and return them. A workable idea for gaming?

I don't have a Kindle nor have I found anyone yet who has returned a book through the online retailer's hot-selling electronic book reader. But I discovered last week that books, bought digitally and downloaded to the device, can be returned.

This is something I didn't think was possible with digital content. I've downloaded games to my DS, iPhone PS3, PSP, Xbox 360, Wii and not once did I see an option to return a mistaken or bad purchase for any reason. Of course, in physical stores, products can be returned, sometimes only if in shrink wrap, usually within a set number of days. Regardless they can be returned, offering the consumer some security in their purchase.

The Kindle offers the consumer some of that security through its digital content return and refund system. Here's the official Amazon policy on that:

Returning Kindle Content

Any content you purchase for Kindle from the Amazon Kindle store is eligible for return and refund if we receive your request within 7 days of the date of purchase. Once a refund is issued, the item will be removed from Your Media Library and will no longer be readable on your Kindle. To request a refund and return, click the Customer Service button in the Contact Us box in the right-hand column of this page to reach us via phone or e-mail. Please make sure to include the title of the item you wish to return in your request.

Compare that to, say, the Steam policy regarding desired refunds for games downloaded through that popular PC service:

As with most software products, we will not offer refunds for purchases made online as outlined in the software licence - please review Section 4 of the Steam Subscriber Agreement for more information.

We can make an exception for pre-ordered games if the request is received prior to the release date.

And here's Microsoft's Xbox Live purchase policy, pretty much nixing refunds there:

Refund Policies. Unless otherwise provided by law or in connection with any particular Service offer, all charges are non-refundable and the costs of any returns will be at your expense. There are, however, certain circumstances under which you may be entitled to a refund for certain Services.

I don't believe there is a policy for allowing users refunds for the PlayStation Network or Nintendo download stores either.

So, in other words, consumers of digital books using the Kindle have a shot at returning titles within seven days of purchase. Gamers have no such option.

I've inquired with Amazon about why they have this policy and how often it is used, but it has me wondering about the applicability of a return/refund system for digitally downloaded games. A seven-day window similar to Amazon's could be abused by gamers who play a downloaded game through and return it. Or it could provide gamers the peace of mind to download a game they otherwise can't re-sell to a store or friend, things they might do to alleviate the cost of a game and minimise the risk of a bad purchase.

Amazon's either ahead of the curve, about to learn some hard lessons or operating with a medium that plays by other rules. It's hard to tell yet, but it bears watching and hopefully stokes conversation about what digital consumers have a right to do with the content they pay for.


    Wish I could return Onslaught from the WiiWare shop

    I guess thats why we can grab the trial versions on Xbox live.

    Books dont really have a demo/trial version. They have a summary blurb of the book.

    Also books have a much larger audience as opposed to downloadable games.

    Combined with the cost of processing the return through the game developer (Remember, a lot of online content distributors are distributors only, not developers, so all transactions are processed and forwarded), combined wtih the substantially cheaper cost of buying the game AND a half assed attempt at preventing piracy, i'd say it's fair enough.

    They dont know what you're doing with the content once you get it. You could be a pirate who wants to rip the game, crack it for online play and then get a refund back on the "legit" copy you purchased, so you get the game for free. They have no way of knowing you're not (Even steam has been cracked to bypass the legitimate servers), so it's a better safe then sorry.

    Tho when i asked steam about it in regards to getting a refund on a censored copy of L4D2 in Australia, citing it as "Misleading), the steam technician told me that the steam CRM is simply not designed on the technician end to enable refunds, simply wiping keys and transaction history from accounts is all they can do.

      The first point of online distributors are just that makes no sense for the point you are trying to make. Yes, PSN (Sony), Live (MS) and WiiWare (Nintendo) are hosting the store front.

      Buy a game, the money then goes to from one of the above companies to who the game belongs to. How is any different to the Amazon store?

      Buy a book from Amazon, they are then sending the money straight off to the publisher/author aren't they? So a book is returned, Amazon then has to claim that money back from the publisher/author right? If you look hard enough you can find books on the internet for download, keep in mind we also have libraries for free borrowing, even in Boarders you can sit down and probably get through a few chapters also.

      The idea is a good one and perhaps should be explored abit more. Live with it's Trial Games is probably the best available at the moment, but even then a demo isn't always a full representation of a game.

      The Amazon setup, you would assume means that they track weekly sales and pay the distributors weekly also along with traffic reports, ie:

      Sales w/e 3rd Jan = 100,000 @ $10 = $1,000,000
      Returns w/e 3rd Jan = 1,000 @ $10 = $10,000

      Revenue = $990,000 - Amazon Costs = Return

      That could certainly work for the Game Industry. Given that there are a few stores that provide a 7 day return on retail games, some of which can be finished in an afternoon... what is the difference? or those same people buying a game, ripping it at home and then returning it also.

      Perhaps online games can work with returns/trade ins also, return/trade the game within 7 days and receive 80-90% of the purchase price. So you aren't left with a dud game and can re-coup alot of your funds back. Essentially what isn't returned to the consumer could be passed off as a "transaction fee" that could be split between the online store and publisher/developer...

      Persoanlly in the end though, I will look to try demos first, look at various reviews also before purchasing, which is what most people do... but still think that some form of return system should be in place with online distribution.

    Only thing i have ever returned is a L4D pre order from steam... Thats about it... any form of Digital game i buy i usualy keep and play...

    I think the people who use Kindle arnt likly to know how to hack into it and steal the book and read it for ever... Though people who use digital distrabution are more likly able to by-pass security features which lock out games if they get returned/removed.


      Returned L4D preorder as well. It would be cool to trade digital games that you don't play (Got plenty from steam packs).

    I mentioned this not too long ago on kotaku comments in regards to online Piracy. I don't see why they don't allow it. They can ban and re-assign a new cd-key for any game. Good to see someone has been pondering the same things I have.

    It should be allowed. Especially on Steam, when it's not uncommon for older games to simply not work on newer systems (hit any retro title's forum and count how many "will this game work on Windows 7?" threads to see what I mean...).

    I was once refunded a purchase made on the psn. It was the first time I learnt that PAL dlc would not work on an imported US game. It was for rockband 2. Was refunded just under $20 for an album. At the time there was no fine print saying to check the region of the game and the region of the dlc. The guy I spoke to at Sony was nice as pie too.

      Well the amount was put back into my store wallet, not my credit card, that was good enough for me :D

    I hate the fact that once you have finished playing a game on steam you cannot gift it to someone else in the same manner that you can when you first purchase the game.

    It seems to me that the games industry is embracing digital games distribution not only for cheaper overheads but to cut out the second hand trading of games, a game purchased second hand is money going into someone elses pocket. This is also becoming a problem with physical media purchases that are activated with steam/windows live account's etc.

    My list of games I no longer have interest in and can't do anything with them is growing by the day

    what happens if you by a piece of DLC from any of the possible vendors, especially the ones who cannot refund after purchase, your telling me that i am paying for a digital product, that ranges from 10-20 bucks in their ""over the top" currency credit with some platforms to get something that doesn't work in that dire situation, seriously.... their needs to be a global DLC Refund Policy.

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