Firewatch Developer Offers Classy Response To Steam Refund Request

Firewatch Developer Offers Classy Response To Steam Refund Request

Last weekend, one Firewatch player was having a monetary dilemma. They’d beaten the game. They liked the game, which tasks players with hiking in the Wyoming wilderness. But they also felt that spending $US18 ($25) for a 2-3 hour experience might be asking for too much.

Over at the Firewatch forums, [RG] Undercover Fish explained the conundrum they were in:

So this game was 18$. I purchased it because i enjoyed games like this. And I enjoyed this game. Alot. Like, way more than a healthy amount. But it was 2-3 hours. I feel like there could of been more, and im thinking of refunding. But here is my problem: I loved this game. It was a unique game with awesome narration and storytelling. I like the developers. I mean seriously, have you seen how active they are on theese forums? What other dev is that connected to their community? I want to support the developers, but there was so much more i could of got with my 18$. Should i refund, or hold on to it?

Steam, as you might already know, offers players refunds “for any reason,” so long as the request is “made within fourteen days of purchase, and the title has been played for less than two hours.” Ostensibly, Undercover Fish could have made a refund request for Firewatch despite enjoying the game, but they wanted to get some input from other players before pulling the trigger. Sure enough, people responded to Undercover Fish’s post, arguing for and against getting a refund for Firewatch. One of the responses actually came from a Firewatch developer, Jane Ng, an artist at Campo Santo (full disclosure: I’m friendly with one of the developers there).

It’s a long read, where Ng takes the time to explain how much making Firewatch meant to Campo Santo. Ng says that, despite having the opportunity to take on cushier jobs elsewhere, the team chose to make sacrifices create to a game they really believed in. And, despite the arduous journey involved in the making of Firewatch, she would never hold it against a player who wanted to ask for their money back on the game. Really, you should read the whole thing — it’s worth your time:

hey there.

I thought about not responding, because normally ppl who want to refund are rude and unpleasant and I choose to not engage and dwell on it.

You seem nice and I figured what the heck, why not have a conversation about this, now that I have read it and it’s right here in front of me.

So here is what I think. As the developer. Sorry if it’s a bit stream of consciousness because I want this to come from the heart.

The 11 of us all took a lot of risk to make this, and sacrificed financially to give Firewatch a chance. We all could have had much better paying jobs elsewhere, but we all thought this game idea had potential to be something special. We seemed to like each other OK, so we all took a big leap of faith. Two years, we say. Let’s give this a go, worst outcome is we all hate each other and go back to various money jobs, but we all could say, WE TRIED.

Two years +. We are all crammed in a tiny office, sharing one bathroom. It is not a glamorous thing, making an independent game. It is just a small room full of computers and a used microwave and $10 office chairs we luckily got from craigslist. Life happened during those two years: there were big breakups, profound illnesses of loved ones, a baby, etc. The dev team got to be like family, because that’s how making an indie game is, you are all in it together, through thick and thin, supporting one another bc if you don’t, there is no way in hell this game would get made, let alone any chance of it to be worth more than a bucket of ♥♥♥♥.

We were excited, but terrified. We felt free, but were constrained. I have been in this industry for 15 years almost, and this is the hardest I have ever worked. We all gave it our all, to make this weird thing, and we had no idea if it was any good to anybody else. All we could do, was try the damn hardest to make something we are honestly proud of. At the end, if this was a commercial failure, all we have got is what we have made. Nobody could take that away.

So yes, I am sad when people think this game is not worth the money we asked for (which we thought was a fair ask). It makes me feel like I failed them. It is OK if people don’t like the game, but it affects me personally a lot, when people feel like it was not -worth- the time they engaged with it.

But do I blame you for wanting to get the most out of your $18? No. I don’t know your financial circumstances. $US18 ($25) might be a lot. Or even it isn’t a lot, why shouldnt’ you try to get the most out of it? That’s a fair desire. That’s why we asked for $18 too, because money is something we could all use more of.

So I supopse in conclusion, if you do refund, I am not upset. It’s on me to learn not to care too much. All I ask is that maybe sometime in the future, when the game goes on mega dirt cheap sale, you could gift tthe experience to someone else you think will enjoy it like you did.



What a class act. It was such a good response, that it changed Undercover Fish’s mind. If you look at the original post on the Firewatch forums, it’s actually been edited with a decision:

I have made my decision to keep the game. Campo Santo had more balls than Donald Trump on steriods to make this game, and they deserve the money. Feel free to talk about games/this game/developers/morals/refunds or whatever, but i will not change my decision.

Heartening stuff.

You can read our Firewatch review here.


  • I’m glad the person asked the question, but people that think like this shit me to no end.
    Can you really put a price on enjoyment?
    To pay the price of admission in the first place you would have expected an amount of enjoyment. This user got that enjoyment in spades.
    His only gripe was it was a bit short.
    So, by the same reasoning, if a refund was available for me after paying $18 aud to see star wars, i could argue that i could take it because i felt the movie could have fit more in, despite enjoying it immensely.

    This person is simply looking for validation so he doesn’t feel bad for requesting a refund for something he enjoyed.

    This studio worked damn hard to bring you a game of that quality. You have no right to ask for a refund after enjoying it.

    • Can you really put a price on enjoyment?

      You say that, but then immediately start insisting that the guy got a worthwhile deal which means you put your own price on enjoyment.
      Have you never eaten a meal that was really good but not filling? That’s what his problem is. He’s eaten a really, really tasty mouthful and now he’s left hungry and wondering if that mouthful was tasty enough to be worth the price of a full meal. It’s the classic quality vs quantity argument. In this case it’s exceptionally high quality vs exceptionally low quantity. For you and me one might be enough to offset the other but we can’t make that judgement for everyone. If there was a correct answer to quality vs quantity Steam would have automated pricing.
      It’s not just a case of enjoyed vs not enjoyed it’s about satisfaction with the purchase. I’m not the sort of person who asks for refunds or even trades in old games but I own plenty of games that I’m not entirely satisfied with. It’s incredibly hard to make that decision after finishing the game, which is why I hate the ‘I’ll pirate it, then buy it if I liked it’ line of thinking, but it is possible to not be satisfied with a game you enjoyed.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think game length is a terrible way to judge the quality of a game, but when it’s taken to extremes like this you can’t just ignore it.

      • yes but everyone’s threshold for satisfaction is completely different. Thats why there are so many annoying gamers in the world lately, they all think their opinions is the right and only one. How can any dev match EVERYONE’S view.

        • They can’t. That’s why this dev (and every dev) tries to put a price on their game that they think, and hope, is what people will be willing to pay. Even then, the subjectivity of value will rock that boat and there’s nothing anybody can do to change that (except lower the price continually).

      • You’d never expect to get a refund from a restaurant because the meal you ate was tasty but just wasn’t filling enough for the price, though. That’s the part I object to about it at least, this idea that refunds are for “I didn’t get exactly what I wanted”. It doesn’t work that way anywhere else.

        • I’d expect it. Wouldn’t necessarily do it, but I remember ordering a ‘large’ Pizza Capers pizza that wasn’t from their gourmet capers range… it was seriously the size of a kids mini-pizza from any other pizza chain, at more than the price of a standard large from dominos or pizza hut.

          It tasted fine, but my first thought on realizing I’d just paid the price of a large pizza for a kids’ pizza was, “What the fuck?” It’s a bit rich to then EAT THE THING and ask for money back, which is what I think some folks object to here, but a game is different.

          Reason is: Unless warned otherwise, you don’t know how much game you’re getting until you’ve already ‘eaten’ it. You can’t look at the box art and say, “That game/meal’s tiny, I’m not going to pay for this,” like you’d be entitled to in a restaurant.

          It’s less like ordering a restaurant meal and more like consuming food out of a tube and being surprised when the food stops coming out about a quarter of the way through what you thought was the meal you paid for.

          This is the kind of thing where ‘number of hours’ is actually pretty important to display. People might complain about, “Oh boo, you’re downvoting because it’s only 30hrs, such a waste!” But when you’re talking about something that may very well be shorter than a movie, and you’re paying anywhere up to double the price of a movie ticket, then that statistic really is pretty damn relevant.

          • Respectfully, if you expect to get a refund because you’re unsatisfied with an otherwise tasty and faultless sandwich, your expectations aren’t aligned with reality. Rarely, some restaurants or shops might give you a refund to keep you as a repeat customer, but they’re few and far between.

            I used a movie comparison in another post. Cinemas will very rarely refund your ticket price just because you didn’t like the movie. If the equipment broke down, sure, but because you didn’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would? Nope. Only on rare occasions.

            When you buy something from a seller, you’re purchasing what they’re offering, not necessarily what you want. It’s the seller’s job to make sure the product they’re selling is provided as described, and it’s your job as the consumer to make sure what they’re selling is what you want. If the product isn’t as described, you’re entitled to a refund. If it is, the responsibility is yours.

          • No. A cinema ticket tells you what you’re getting in terms of hours.

            We’re not debating – or refunding – based on quality. It’s about what we thought we were getting in terms of quantity. It’s about expectations. It’s about reasonable expectations, and who is responsible for setting them.

            And you can’t make an informed purchasing decision regarding one of the very valuable and relevant metrics – length – if that information isn’t advertised. And length IS important when it’s so short.

            You can see how big your meal is when you order it, before you bite into it. You can see how long a movie lasts when book your ticket.

            But unless a game tells you how long it normally is, you CAN’T tell until you’ve started on it. (Or read the complaint reviews. And being forced to go to a third party for important purchasing information is a huge no-no. It veers into the territory of the ugly-ass ‘caveat emptor, bitches’ attitude that consumer law is meant to protect us from.)

            If you pay the price of what you would expect from an indie offering to last for maybe half a dozen hours and find that you got a third or even a quarter of that, then that would be a nasty surprise that you didn’t necessarily have any way of knowing about, and that absolutely could have informed your purchasing decision if you had known in advance. It’s about Expectations.

            That’s why I say it’s an important thing to have advertised. Because at present, people are using the sticker price as a guide, on the (in this case flawed) assumption that it has some kind of bearing how much content they’re getting. And that’s not an unreasonable assumption to make.

          • I feel like you’re being deliberately blind to which factors are equivalent here. The length of the game is just one measure people might use, satisfaction is another. Whatever factor is important to you, it’s your responsibility to find the answer before purchasing. Whether it’s length or satisfaction or “the colours weren’t as bright as I wanted” is irrelevant, none of them are suitable reasons to obtain a refund. You’re not entitled to a refund unless the product received differs from the product offered, or is faulty. The responsibility to ensure the product is correct for your personal wants – which nobody but you can possibly know – is yours and yours alone.

            I edited this a few times to try to be clearer and tone down a bit on the first sentence, sorry if you read during the edits.

          • Ah, I did read before edits. Thanks.

            The fact remains that you’re entitled to a Steam refund for any reason whatsoever, provided you meet their criteria.

            You’re moralizing by your own personal criteria (which conveniently are reflected in Australian consumer law, for the most part.)

            I’m arguing, on the moralistic side, that you see in above comments about informed purchasing decisions.

            As far as I’m concerned, anything that forces you to go to a third party to get the information you need for an informed decision is a bad thing. And in the case of Firewatch’s duration, duration IS an important factor (maybe not to you, but that doesn’t make it any less valid a metric to evaluate a purchase by), and in this case, that duration can’t be measured without visiting a third party, or – and this is critical – experiencing for yourself and discovering it wanting.

            A restaurant will show you the size of your meal.
            A cinema will show you the run time of your film.
            These are important values to the person who was asking for a refund, but Firewatch’s store page does not list its play time.

            One has to assume that if its play time were listed as ‘1-4hrs’, then the person who was considering a refund would have been able to make a better informed purchasing decision.

            Being informed helps reduce refunds down to the only value you seem to ascribe as being worthy – failure to deliver on promises.

            The fact that you can’t ‘fail to deliver’ on an expectation you don’t give any meaningful information on is NOT an excuse to provide no meaningful information. Because the end result is inevitably people filling in the blanks on that meaningful information, and finding that the result was unsatisfactory.


            it’s your responsibility to find the answer before purchasing.
            I cannot disagree more. It is the purveyor’s responsibility to make that information available so that the purchaser has the relevant information at hand, directly from the source, without having to consult with third parties. Especially when it comes to such easily quantifiable information about duration, compared to more subjective factors like ‘quality’.

            “You should have done your homework,” (ie: “Caveat emptor, bitches,”) is exactly what consumer law protects us from.

          • @transientmind You go to third parties to find information on subjective measures. That’s always been the case, whether it’s food, movies, video games or anything else. The length of any interactive medium is a subjective measure unless the experience is so heavily scripted that you have no control at all over its pace. You wouldn’t expect a book seller to list how long in hours it would take you to read the book, the best you could hope for is a page count (which most readers would know is an vague indicator at best of length).

            How long it takes you to consume something that is designed to be consumed at your own pace isn’t something the creators can put any kind of accurate measure of on their store page. You’ve seen what happens when game devs say “15-20 hours of gameplay” based on their own play style but people who play faster blow through it in 10 and then complain that the devs lied. I’ve always pushed against putting a duration estimate on marketing and sales material at companies I’ve worked for previously because it always ends up being either a meaningless figure, or more often a point of contention that malcontents can point to for why we’re the worst devs ever and then demand refunds because that “15-20 hours” line is a sales pitch that has to be honoured under law in some jurisdictions. It’s just not worth adding it when anyone can go online and find what they want to know from third parties in a heartbeat.

          • Page count is an excellent example. But it’s pretty much a case of there are actual coded-in restrictions that will prevent a game from being (hacks not included) able to be completed in anything under a certain time.

            Ranges would be acceptable. 2-4hrs? It still sets a reasonable expectation of a ballpark figure.
            For example, 2-4hrs is very significantly different from 10-20hrs and for those who value time-investment, it will be an important statistic to inform their purchase.

            If you stand around staring at the scenery and taking photos, refusing the move the plot along, then sure… maybe the game could be said to take ten hours! Maybe twenty if you leave it alone or just keep walking back and forth from points. But you get a developer to go through and play their 58th play-through, just testing certain dialogue combinations instead of dawdling for the ‘rich engagement experience’, and you’ve got a reasonable expectation for the minimum time.

            And here we get to the guts of it: Keyword ‘reasonable’.

            Nebulous? Maybe. But even the law – known for its fussiness – talks about ‘reasonable’. Look at warranty periods.

            We know what ‘reasonable’ is, and if a dev can idle-run through the game while listening to the dialogue and minimal problem-solving/lollygagging time, you’d be very hard-pressed to call that anything other than a ‘reasonable’ estimation of the time.

            And ‘reasonable’ should be enough. It should be provided to inform purchasing decisions. It might ‘harm sales’ but if publishing more accurate information ‘harms sales’ then that’s actually exactly the point. When people decide not to purchase something when they have access to more information, that’s someone who isn’t then asking for a refund instead.

          • What’s faulty though? Is a bad game actually bad enough to warrant a refund or only if it has bugs? Or is that just the opinion of the player that it’s bad?

            That’s how murky this issue is.

          • @snacuum I agree that faulty is poorly defined when it comes to software. I couldn’t answer your question on a general basis, only case-by-case. In this case, nobody on any side of the equation seems to think the product is faulty, just less satisfying than expected.

          • @zombiejesus Yeah I know. The comparison I’m making to this is that ‘less satisfying’ is a subjective and relative judgement that we can only criticise but can’t coerce. As much as some of us disagree/disapprove the lack of satisfaction is a feeling only available to this player alone. The decision to refund by way of a completely justified system rests only on their shoulders. It’s fine for the developers to appeal to change their mind, but ultimately in this kind of situation, the money is not in their hands.

          • Plus my general impression is that, for people gaming on a budget, time spent on a game becomes much more important to them. If I only had $25 to buy a game which might be my only new game for the next six months, heck yes I’d want better value for money and buy a game that I can stretch out until my next new purchase. The $25 AUD that the person spent in this scenario could have been used to pick up a 60 hour long game on Steam during the sale and, even if the quality doesn’t match up to Firewatch, there’s a certain satisfaction in having a game that provides time value for your money. Firewatch provides value in the focused narrative experience which is fine for some people but not as great for others.

          • It’s his own problem if he didn’t research the game to see if it met his personal needs before buying it. If his goal was to buy a game that could tide him over until next pay, his first step should have been to look at how long the game is reported as being in reviews. Instead, if he were to get a refund then he got 3-4 hours of play out of it, enjoyed himself, paid nothing for it and the devs get nothing for providing him with that experience.

            It’s perfectly okay for him to regret his purchase if that’s how he feels. It’s not okay to partake in and enjoy someone else’s work and then turn around and take your money back out of their hands after you’ve already consumed it, unless it was faulty in some way.

          • As much as it might be unreasonable to do so, Steam allows players to request refunds. Heck, EB allows refunds if you return the game in seven days and it’s still in good condition. I could blast through an entire game in a week if I was so inclined and effectively get it for free.

            I feel the problem is that there is no way to accurately tell how long a game is based on someone else’s playthrough. Some people speed through things while others take the time to explore and smell the flowers. There is no objective measure that says that “this game is X hours long” unlike movies. The guy in this scenario probably saw the trailers and thought it looked like something he would enjoy but his dissatisfaction results from mismatched expectations. As much as he should have educated himself, he thought Firewatch was going to be longer than it actually was. Whatever value he thought he was going to get for $18 didn’t eventuate.

            The problem is that getting a Steam refund on a game merely removes your license to experience the game. Once it’s refunded, you can’t access the product unless you pay for it again. It doesn’t remove your experience with the game because that’s not what you paid for. The transaction was to acquire a license to access the game. He can get a refund because he no longer wants that access and wants to use the $18 for something else. The experience of playing Firewatch was a result of paying $18 for the access to the game. He never consumed the product at all as the product was merely access to the game.

            I’m taking the legal and jerk position on this. He’s perfectly within his rights to ask Steam for a refund. If he’d never posted on the forums then none of this discussion would have ever happened and he’d have $18 back because no one would have known or cared. As long as Steam is allowing refunds, people can get their money back. Maybe Firewatch should have been longer so that people couldn’t complete the entire game and request a refund while being within Steam’s refund guidelines. That would have prevented this situation in the first place.

          • He never consumed the product at all as the product was merely access to the game.

            Playing video games IS how you consume video games.

          • @renne On an extremely technical level, what you buy through Steam is access to a particular game. You never actually own the game itself. It is heavily assumed that you will play the game to which you have the license but the game itself was not the product. The license is the thing that you can get a refund for.

            I agree that playing through video games consumes the video game in the common sense of consuming media. However, for Steam refund purposes, you only “consume” the game once you’ve played it for at least two hours or you’ve owned the license for less than 14 days. So, in Steam’s eyes, despite finishing the game the guy was supposedly able to get a refund for the license because he had not “consumed” it in such a way that would contravene the refund guidelines.

          • I just don’t think dissatisfaction alone is justification for a refund. To me it’s an ethical matter independent of Steam’s policy on the matter. If the product were faulty in some way it’d be a different story, but he got what was offered, the devs did everything they were meant to do. Where else would you get a refund on something you’ve already consumed when there was no fault on the part of the seller?

            (Side note, consume in this context doesn’t mean to expend, it means to use)

            If you buy a book and read it, the store isn’t going to give you a full refund when you go to return it because you didn’t like it. If you watch a movie at the cinema, same thing. If you attend a course but it didn’t teach you anything new, you don’t get a refund. If you ride a rollercoaster, you don’t get a refund afterwards because you didn’t like it. You gained use from what you obtained, that use can’t be given back. You can’t unplay the game, unread the book, unwatch the movie, unride the rollercoaster. You got the experience, even if you give back the means by which you got it. By most ethical standards, there would be no grounds for a refund in those circumstances because you would be cheating the seller by doing it – you’d have gotten the full product they were selling, and they got nothing in return.

            There are a lot of things people can do, but it doesn’t mean they should. Yeah, you can get refunds from Steam this way, but unless there was a good reason for it, you shouldn’t. Why? Because it has a cascade effect on developers, who now have an incentive to insert pointless filler in the start, or make that helpful tutorial unskippable so you’re forced to spend time on it, or make deliberately vague statements about what the game contains so you have nothing to point to when they don’t deliver what you thought they would. And the good devs, the indie devs? The ones that depend on every sale to stay afloat? They end up terrified now that even though their game is really fun, people will just blow through it as fast as they can to get the ending and then get their refund.

            I’ve argued this point in other threads before, but please, please don’t exploit Steam’s refund system. It only makes things worse for everyone in the long run. Absolutely use it for real problems, that’s what it’s there for, but not for things like this.

        • If someone in a restaurant served you a single mouthful on a plate you’d probably turn it back and eat elsewhere. They don’t charge you $60 then serve you mouthful by mouthful until they decide to stop. That’s what makes such a big difference here. You can’t see how long the game will last until it’s consumed. When you buy a game you can’t see ‘oh, this is three hours worth, but it looks fresh and tasty’. You can make an estimate but you still take it on good faith that the quality vs quantity will be within acceptable margins. It’s not wrong to make a short game but it’s perfectly understandable for someone to say ‘if I had of known this was only three hours of really good content I wouldn’t have brought it’.
          Refunds open that train of thought up to abuse but not everyone who thinks that way is trying to abuse refunds.

          • The food analogy was yours, not mine, I was just responding in kind. Movies are a better comparison. If you see a movie and you don’t like it or you think it wasn’t long enough, you’re not entitled to a refund there either and you shouldn’t expect one. They happen sometimes, but it’s certainly not the norm.

            If the length of a game is a concern, it’s really the consumer’s responsibility to address that concern before purchasing. There are professional reviews, Steam user reviews, discussion threads, all manner of ways he could have figured out about how long the game lasts on average (since everyone plays at different speeds). No promises were broken by the developers as far as I can see, and he didn’t mention any bugs interfering with his play. If he didn’t address his own concerns before he bought the game that’s his responsibility, not the devs’.

            Getting a refund at this point would mean he got to experience the game, enjoy it (even if a bit short) and the devs get nothing in return. That’s a plainly unfair thing to expect.

          • I feel like you’re missing some info here.

            Lets say an AAA game is usually $60 and Firewatch is $18

            Then we could say a decent pub meal is $30, but you would like to buy a meal that only costs $9. All that is available for $9 is garlic bread or a trio of dips with some naan bread or something. In the real world, this is pretty spot on isn’t it? Would you order nothing but the garlic bread and then decide that you’d like a refund because the garlic bread didn’t fill you up? No, because that would be ridiculous.

      • I agree with your analogy regarding a great meal that leaves you hungry. However, most don’t have a single course meal, unless they make it themselves at home. Food for thought.

        Regardless, I felt this way after Mass Effect. Then after Mass Effect 2, and 3 soon after. I will probably feel this way with Andromeda too. Whether or not it is an indie or a AAA game, I think, when it comes to the games we love, we all hunger for more afterwards.

        Now I understand that Subway was sued for having 12″ subs that were actually less than 12″ long. However, how do you put a time on a video game? Is that what devs/publishers will have to do in future? Fine print on the back of the box letting you know that this game is 2-3 hours long? Then a speed runner beats that time = refund. Another spends much longer on the game, false advertising? I mean a movie tells you it’s exact run time so why shouldn’t game? Because it’s interactive!

        My first Mass Effect play through was 111 hours. I wanted to see everything and do everything, and that mean’t revisiting places in case I may have missed something etc. Perhaps when I play Firewatch (which I will definitely be doing), I will be just as interested as exploration and taking in the beauty of my surrounds as I will be in actually completing the game.

        Let’s not forget, talking about three (or more) course meals, that there may very well be episodic content released for the game. Just look at the new Hitman game for example.

        Whilst I appreciate how he asked the question, I feel it was a bit selfish personally. Perhaps asking a dev before actually purchasing the game about whether or not it’s worth the money would have been the way to go. Just my opinion though.

  • I really do not understand peoples reactions to the price of this game. I also do not believe they have engaged properly with the game if they are completing it so quickly. I have so far been playing it for an hour since it came out (i do not get much time to play video games of late), and i have already gotten my money’s worth out of it.

    I do not remember seeing so many negative reviews about the price and length of the game when gone home was released (another amazing game), which i believe was even shorter and cost more at the time.

    Fire watch is a beautiful game, and i hope the developers do well from its release.

    • Yeah, I took well over twenty minutes just agonizing over the text intro, by which point I had been delivered several gut-punches worthy of the price of admission, and that was before getting to experience all that wonderful dialogue. To me, it was worthy.

      But I can understand why some folks might’ve felt short-changed.

    • I do not remember seeing so many negative reviews about the price and length of the game when gone home was released (another amazing game), which i believe was even shorter and cost more at the time.

      Whoa. Where on the internet were you? The first thing I heard about this games was complaints about it.

  • He totally didnt deserve a classy response. Another whiny gamer who has absolutely no idea about the value of something’s worth. Sure its complimentary in some ways but in others its just typical of the gaming community. But it doesn’t take long in the game to see the quality and love in the work, to say nothing of the brilliant voice work which in itself costs a lot. These things cost money and time, which in itself costs money. To ask for a refund is a bit rude. Its like seeing the 2 hours of Deadpool and complaining that it wasnt a 2.5hr film. So therefore you deserve a full refund. Makes my head explode from stupidity.

    No one forced him to buy it without waiting for “how long to beat?” or a review to give its a time frame, then deciding if it matched his money VS time ratio (you know that ratio that most gamers know is a sliding scale of personal judgement unmeasurable by devs as such)

    • Yeah except waiting for reviews and not buying it day 1 is like getting no money at all. Just ask AAA publishers…

  • Maybe if the fucking game didn’t run like mud on ps4 and didn’t have bugs which force you to restart. Dont buy this game. Camp santo made their money back. Boo hoo you spent time doing something you love, doesn’t make it worth mine or my money.

      • I dont care about frame rate in games, but when its constantly chugging, every 10 seconds, it bothers me. When after 2 hours I have to start an experience again because the game broke, it bothers me. It ruins the flow of the game. I wish i bought this game after a patch. I defended fallout because i didnt notice the frame rate dropping often, the bugs are fine because the game is HUGE. Maybe its just my luck but my firewatch experience is an exercise in frustration.

    • This is really a very strong response. Games running on consoles don’t always have flawless framerates. Especially indies. Obviously it’s not a great situation, but it’s not news to anyone.

      Do you have some other issue here, or is an inconsistent framerate just one of those things that grind your gears?

      • I wouldnt complain about the frame rate, it doesn’t bother me at all in other games like fallout which upset a lot of people, its the fact after 2 hours i had to restart due to a story glitch. That set a fire off under my ass! I think the story is great and i love the art direction, but that almost makes it worse because my first experience of the story was broken. I know the whole game size/value debate is bubbling up at the moment but seriously in a 4-6 hour story based game it feels really undercooked.

  • Considering this game isnt AAA its got something no AAA has ever had; engaging voice acting that feels 100% real, between two real people.
    i think its so worth the money because ive played games that are 20+ hours that felt about as engaging as a pickle and cost 100$. so for a title to be about 20 bucks for 2-4 hours and feel that real? totally worth it.
    and it made me feel an emotion in gaming i hadnt yet felt. (slight spoiler) when his wife got dementia and had trouble remember, it didnt hit me at home, it was just so fucking horrible and sobering, even now it makes my eyes almost water despite me being a manly man.
    this game is a gem in a pile of shit that has flooded steam. i hope it doesnt sink to the bottom, it deserves to float.

    • I will happily pay full price for a short game that is excellent all the way through. In fact, some games actively suffer for their extended length.

      Recently I played Bravely Default and loved it until I just wanted the bullshit padding to be over. It was shameless. It reminded me of Okami, which was really good, but would have been one of my favourite games ever if it were about 5 hours shorter.

      • I’m with you, shorter games with compelling stories are great.

        I know my opinion is just that, an opinion but it really grinds my gears when people use time as a metric of quality in games. Metal Gear Solid takes what, 8 hours to beat? It is probably one of the best games of all time.

  • Fair enough to feel like the game isn’t worth the price, but to ask for a refund is just rude and taking advantage of the generous guidelines on refunds. If you completed the game, and enjoyed it, you don’t deserve a refund -_-

  • Getting a refund on a game you enjoyed and had no issues with is morally wrong. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it.

    Go to Australian consumer law if needed, but if the product isn’t defective and is delivered as advertised etc then you’re not entitled to a refund. I don’t care if Steam offers one regardless, it’s still morally wrong.

    That said I’ve enjoyed this game immensely…and I don’t own it and haven’t played it. Just watching a couple play throughs on Youtube was enough to both spoil it for me and also let me enjoy it. I got so hooked that when I’d watched all the vids from one guy I had to go find another channel doing it so I could see the end of the story.

    It’s a great game but I’ll never buy it. How that stands morally I’m not quite so sure. I guess it’s ok, similar to going to a friend’s house to watch a movie that they paid for…except I’ve never met this “friend” and I’m watching it over the internet.

      • The implicit contract being that they produce a product for your entertainment and that you pay for that product; you both fulfill your parts – you pay, and then enjoy the product – but then you decide to take your money back not because they didn’t fulfill their part, but because Steam lets you.

      • It’s like going to a restaurant and eating a meal. You enjoyed the meal, it was great!
        Then you walk up and ask for a refund because this restaurant lets you.

        You’ve consumed the content, enjoyed it and then decide you want your money back and just have it for free instead. Meanwhile that restaurant (or game dev) miss out on that cash after giving you an enjoyable experience.

        It’s morally and ethically wrong. If you struggle to understand this then you might need a lesson in ethics…

        For me I enjoyed watching the game so much on YouTube that I feel a bit guilty for not buying it.

        • Morality aside, without a doubt that restaurants policy would be abused no matter how sweet the grandma.

          Which is what makes this discussion interesting: the refund policy is arguable morally correct in its existence at all, but we also acknowledge that it’s morally incorrect to use it wantonly.

          • The refund policy only exists because Steam don’t want to spend money to implement one that they have to manage. Makes it open to abuse.

            It’s morally correct to offer refunds for people who are unsatisfied, especially for PC as it may not run on their particular setup etc. People abusing that to play games that they like for free is where it becomes immoral.

          • Yes. We’ve all agreed about the potential for abuse. My conceit is that the concept of value in a refundable marketplace is relative only to the buyer.
            They may enjoy it, but that still didn’t pass the duration requirements for this persons value judgement – opening up the dilemma for refunding.

            That’s one of the great questions here! What counts for value in a subjective sense? or an objective sense? We may not all agree. In fact, I guarantee it.
            As in:
            – How long must a game be for its price?
            – Is enjoying the game enough to justify any price?
            – Is how much/long the seller values it reasonable?
            – Is how much/long the buyer values it reasonable?
            How about: Is a short amazing game objectively better than a longer mediocre game?
            What if they’re both $20? What if they’re both $60?

            What I’m trying to say is, yeah abusing refunds is not ok; but unless a player tells us they did that, we’ll never know their justifications and thus never have the moral right to prevent it.

  • You pay more to get a decent lunch at a cafe, you get it once, consume it and have to pay again to relive the experience.
    You pay more to go to the cinema for less time of entertainment.
    You pay the same amount for 5 lattes in the city.

    Youre getting your value out of these games. Stop being so stingy.

    • More so, this time to value ratio is a terrible metric to use.

      Plenty of AAA games are touting 40+ hours of game time to make you pay the full amount, but its so much filler bar a few games.
      When I buy a book I don’t hope that they put in 100’s of pages of superfluous filler to pad out my reading time.
      When I watch a movie I want it to be concise and each scene aiding the story or character progression. Gamers are strange wanting so much irrelevant filler and equating that to value.
      Mind you I enjoy the filler in some aspects, but It’s not how I justify the price.

      • Bit skewed there on the time metric. I’d say most gamers want a high quality game with a decent quantity of gameplay.

        So a 40+ hour game that has horrible gameplay and is essentially just a grind wouldn’t be as favorable as a perfectly constructed 10 hour game that keeps the player fully engaged.

        So whilst total playtime on it’s own as a metric isn’t useful it’s still part of the way we judge games. Personally for a $25 game i’d expect pretty good quality and something like 20hrs of gameplay. For $40-60 I’d a great game with 60-80hrs gameplay like Skyrim or Dark Souls 2 etc. If the game doesn’t meet my requirements on either quality or length then I might bend a little one way or the other but generally I just don’t buy it. Too many other games to play.

        So what if I misjudged how long I thought a game would be? Depending on how much I enjoyed the game I may or may not be bothered by it. If like this guy I got a lot of enjoyment out of it then I’d say it was worth the cash.

    • Whoa, Mr Fancypants here with his big expensive lunches and constant viewings at Imax and terrible coffee addiction 😛

      But really though, I wouldn’t spend anywhere near that much for any of those things. And would expect something pretty substantial in return for that chunk of change.

    • Unfortunately I require the food to live, so while the value of the food is at my discretion, it’s a sunk cost for everyone.

      On movies, you don’t think movie tickets are actually good value these days huh? (not to mention in that case I’m using someone elses discrete equipment I have no control over i.e. less personal attributed value)

      And hey, lets not fool ourselves into the idea that a) coffee isn’t expensive and b) we’re drinking that much because we want to. (work and sleep hours)

  • This customer represents the ugly sense of entitlement so many gamers have these days. Games take time and money to create. $18 is nothing. People spend far more than that on coffee each week.

    • Just because some people do doesn’t mean everyone does. That $18 (USD) might have been all he could afford to spend on games or leisure activities for the next 1-2 months. When you’re that tight on cash you look at your purchases very carefully.

      • And by looking at your purchases very carefully you would discover that the game you intend to purchase is only 2 or 3 hours long.

  • Gamers want it both ways.

    They want The Experience they thought they were going to get.

    But they don’t want to pay for it.

    There’s a fascinating discussion of “value” here that is just waiting to happen.

    I don’t know how i’m going to feel by the end of a book/film/song because it’s somebody’s work and efforts.

    The author can’t predict everybody’s separate and particular reactions, so that’s why they don’t make it for everybody, only those who can pay for the thing.

    There is a difference between giving your money away and not being satisfied with what you paid for, as opposed to knowingly and willingly using the platform or scenario in which you bought it to recoup some or all of your costs back.

    This is not how the real world works.

    • Don’t forget that old gem, “I loved the game for 30 hours but a 10 minute portion right at the end didn’t satisfy me. I demand a complete refund, class action lawsuit, and the world must know what a horrible developer X is”, ala Mass Effect 3.

      What really makes me sad about Firewatch on Steam right now is it has so many negative reviews, and they’re almost entirely fixated on the ending feeling unsatisfying. Aside from personally disagreeing with that (I think the ending was done quite well), what kind of twisted approach to entertainment do so many people take that the end of a story somehow invalidates the fun they had along the way?

      I hate this whole ‘the end is the only thing that matters’ mentality a lot of people have. If I went through life with that mindset I’d be miserable because all the fun I had with friends I’ve fallen out with or ex partners I’ve broken up with would just be instantly invalidated by the ending.

      • It’s nothing new, either. Noticed it’s pretty common to focus on the end ruining the entire experience retroactively when it comes to relationships, too.

        Several folks I’ve known over the years will revise their entire opinion of their relationship to the point of mentally re-writing history to pretend that they weren’t actually glowingly and sickeningly happy and bragging about their amazing relationship just because things soured at the end and now their ex is literally worse than Hitler, and always was.

        To point out that, “Hey you guys were really happy for a while there, and to be fair, they do actually have several redeeming qualities as a human being,” is to invite ostracism.

        • It’s not uncommon, you’re right. I think it’s sad though. I know a lot of people who do that rewriting history thing, I’ve done it before too. It’s just taking moments in your life when you were happy and rewriting them so actually you weren’t happy after all. Why do such an awful thing to oneself?

      • It’s to do with how our brain and memory works. We focus on the short term and are also geared towards heavy amounts of emotion. So if something disappoints us it’ll get our emotions out of whack which changes what you remember happened previously and how you view it.

        Doesn’t just happen in games, I’m still struggling over Star Wars episode 7.

      • Except that they are all wrong because the ending of ME3 was pure poetry.

        It was so damn good that I refuse to ever watch the extended cut. The “True” ending, with that little 2 second stinger at the end that changes absolutely everything? Goddamn.

  • i’m all for customer protection but when its at the expense of small dev teams working on personal games that a joke, and honestly border-line stealing, i couldnt imagine a big fuck you to anyone than saying hey that was good i liked that give me my money back.

    • That’s the new dilemma being posed here. Not so much whether they deserve a refund, but whether we can reach a consensus of objective value in a system designed to protect us from misunderstandings about it.

      • thats upto the consumer to determine himself prior to purchase, there is copious amounts of material out there that show cases the game. he can read reviews, watch dev blogs, watch lets players, ask friends about it.

        in this instance the player had an enjoyable experience then deemed it unworthy of admission because of play time. i dont go see a movie and think 90 minutes is too short for this film i want the $40 ive spent on tickets back, i tell people its good and it was too short and i wear that mistake and use it to evaluate the next movie i want to see, or the next game i buy.

        i work retail, and it shits me when someone says ohh thats a bit expensive, all i can think is fuck you, do you intimately know how that product was made, how long it took, how much effort was placed into that product.

        • thats upto the consumer to determine himself prior to purchase,
          Yeah and the thing that makes this issue so interesting is that it’s now also up to the consumer to determine what they do after purchase.
          What’s now possible is to both be able make an educated decision before and after the experience. In a hypothetical bizarro-world where we considered value only after purchase we would now be in a thread chastising someone who prevented themselves from experiencing something before casting judgement.

          i dont go see a movie and think 90 minutes is too short for this film i want the $40 ive spent on tickets back
          Yeah that’s you. Somebody else might definitely do that. We’d think that’s petty and weird, but we can’t force people to ignore just the duration of something as a major factor in their satisfaction.

          i wear that mistake and use it to evaluate the next movie i want to see, or the next game i buy.
          Peoples thresholds for doing this are different. If I bought a little torch for $2 and it didn’t work very good I’d probably just deal with it, but if my $500 video card was a lemon then you know I’d raise hell for my compensation. Same with media: someone who values an experience according to specific (and maybe strange) criteria will feel motivated to act or not.

          i work retail, and it shits me when someone says ohh thats a bit expensive, all i can think is fuck you, do you intimately know how that product was made, how long it took, how much effort was placed into that product.
          Oh boo hoo. I’ve worked in retail and eventually I learned that every time a customer said it was too expensive, there was nothing I could do to change their perception of expense. Even if you convinced them to buy I guarantee they still thought it was unreasonable.
          And that has nothing to do with appreciating the effort. I know how much effort and passion goes into making a Mercedes but I damn well think they’re ‘expensive.’

  • I think its a pretty valid reason for a refund to be honest, and something I definitely would have done in his/her shoes. 2-3hrs for that price is a bit much, even though the game might be great… but it also depends on the replayability of it too.

    That being said, the respect I have for that dev for that response would have turned my opinion around and as with the OP, I’d have not bothered with the refund.

    • Why is that a valid reason for a refund? If you see a movie but didn’t like it, you don’t get a refund because you already consumed it. If you buy a sandwich and it’s not quite what you hoped for, you don’t get a refund because you already consumed it. Unless a product is faulty or hasn’t delivered on its promises in some way, why is a refund warranted?

      • Yeah, I think it’s a valid reason to complain but not necessarily a valid reason to refund. Whereas if it’s something like janedoe mentioned above where the game’s a buggy mess, that seems more like a legitimate reason to do so. Though I guess the frustration there is that you can’t do that with the PS4.

      • If I pay for a movie, I expect a full length movie though, not just a 30min film. So you are saying the game could go for 10mins and cost $100, but if it was a good 10mins and you enjoyed it, its worth $100? Where do you draw the line? Its not so much about the quality, but how long you can actually enjoy that quality for

        Honestly though, for $18 I probalyb wouldn’t have actually bothered… but I can see where he is coming from 🙂 Am a bit on the fence about it, as I can see both sides of the argument

        • I’m saying if the length of the experience is important to you, it’s your own responsibility to research if the product being offered meets your need beforehand. It’s not reasonable to expect the seller to give you the experience for free after you’ve finished consuming it because you decided it wasn’t quite exactly what you wanted.

          • Not really, I think its quite reasonable to expect that for a certain price a game/movie/book/etc goes for a certain time. You don’t go to see a movie and check how long it goes before you buy the ticket do you? You just assume that the movie you are paying for is a full length movie

            As I said though, where would you draw the line? By what you are saying, they could have charged $100/$200/$300/etc for the game, but I still should not feel entitled to a refund?

            I see where you are coming from though, i guess it does all boil down to ‘buyer beware’ in the end

          • What does it matter? He could’ve researched it and then not bought the game. Making these developers, nor this player, no richer for it.

          • You seem to be implying that if people aren’t going to buy your product you might as well give it to them for free. That’s a bizarre way to look at things. The guy likes the game, he just doesn’t like the current price. He might pick it up later when it’s on special. If he gets it basically for free now, finishes and returns it, he has no incentive to buy it later on special. That’s why it matters, because it’s a lost opportunity for a later sale.

          • Yes, I am implying that. It’s not a very popular opinion, maybe nihilistic even (probably wrong word).

            While I certainly don’t believe that we all necessarily deserve to get things scott-free, I’ve realised that there’s straight up no value for anyone missing out for whatever reason. As my backlog grows I began to realise that it doesn’t matter how or why the media in it got there; the value I get from it is only linked to its overall value to society, yet divorced wholly from the money I had, now have, or may never have.

          • I respect your view on things. I’m not sure I agree with it necessarily, the ideas of barter value and compensation for work done are things that have been problems for society for as long as it’s existed and everyone has different ideas of how it should be handled. I think your view probably isn’t a majority one, and the question of how things should be handled right now tend to be determined by the majority view at any given time.

            I appreciate you being direct with your opinion!

  • I enjoy articles like this and the comments / thoughts that people have about it. When it comes to money and video games it really gets people all fired up.

    • Yeah I just came here to read comments. Plenty of interesting thoughts going on here. I’m tempted to write my own opinion, but it’s already been covered by other people.

  • It’s also about comparability. If one $20 game gives you about 20 hours by rote of its gameplay and another $20 game gives you 5 by rote of its gameplay then it becomes easy to distinguish how much value someone might give a game.
    And then you can add subjective viewpoints into account, which totally greys up this issue. One persons $20 means something completely different to someone else, and then what to do about it differs too: someone would say “take it on the chin and learn your lesson” and others would be “engage with the systems available to you to get what you want.” Neither are objectively wrong.

    *Edit* For the record, I don’t actually support the idea that someone who finished a game is entitled to a refund; with the exception being that after beating the game they ultimately come to the conclusion that the experience is unsatisfactory for the transactions value. I do support discussion about how much theoretical value is given to games and how it’s approached.

  • Its a good game, short and sweet and I am sure mods and expansions will come eventually. Now if only I could get my $75 back from StarForge, THOSE MOTHER FUCKERS could have at least given elite backers a free copy of their new reign of kings game (which I hear coincidentally is being abandoned also… LOL)

  • 2-3 hour game? I’ve put at least 3-4 hours into it and I haven’t even finished day 2 yet. Feel like a bit of an idiot though, I spent about an hour wandering around trying to figure out how to get where I needed to go and gave up in the end, haven’t been back to it since.

  • People always want something for nothing, and it pisses me off. You bought a game and you didn’t like it/thought it was too short blah blah. Just don’t by the next game from the dev, just like everything else in life. To use someone else’s example…I buy a pizza and it’s smaller than I thought and overpriced…you know what you do? Don’t buy a pizza from there again! It’s really not difficult and people are just abusing the fact that Steam offer refunds to get something and not pay for it.

    • But if it’s a common opinion that the pizzas are overpriced then complaining about it might get them to reconsider their pricing and make all the customers happier! Otherwise all these people would just never come back and the pizza shop would go out of business. OP is clearly sympathetic to plight of the devs but he honestly doesn’t think the game is worth the money they’re charging. Of course “worth is subjective” but if the majority of people feel the same then it’s the devs who need to change.

      I think ultimately it will reflect badly on the devs if they don’t change. If enough people complain about the pricing, then Firewatch will become known as “that orange overpriced game” and they’ll be doing themselves a disservice.

    • Why though? Why do things this way when you can literally remedy the dissatisfaction with the click of a button?

      Do the devs really deserve the money of a customer that wasn’t satisfied just because they worked hard?

      • No, they deserve it because the customer consumed their product in it’s entirety. Keeping with my pizza analogy it’s like eating the whole thing, then asking for my money back.

        This whole refund thing is bullshit in my opinion. Steam have tried to make it fair, but people are just abusing it. And honestly, if people really don’t think a game of this quality is worth $30, then we’re in for a shitty future in the games industry.

  • @actionflash, because I’m really bad at hitting the correct ‘reply’ button.
    So if this game was actual trash (there’s tonnes of examples) then still wouldn’t deserve a refund just because they ‘finished’ it?

    The reason I make this argument is because games (and most similar media) has been getting a free-pass on having their sales-figures boosted literally by a portion of dissatisfied customers. Games aren’t alone here, literally every poor purchasing decision that couldn’t be refunded has this effect.

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