Refund policies have come a long way in the past decade, Steam’s in particular. But having the most games in any given week — and the most games in various states of quality — means you’ll probably think about refunding games on Steam the most. So just in case, here’s how you can get a Steam refund.
This story first ran on Kotaku Australia on July 14, 2021. It has been retimed as a weekend read because it is still useful information to know.
Steam refunds are a big deal in Australia, primarily because we like to think our corporate regulators were hugely responsible. (In truth, Steam had implemented refunds before the case had ended, and the policy was likely an inevitability thanks to other territories, like the European Union’s Right of Withdrawal law.)
How to get a refund on Steam
Steam’s automatic refunds are available for any game that has been played less than 2 hours, or if you have owned the game for less than 14 days. This isn’t the full extent of what refunds you can get, of course: Australian Consumer Law provides strong protections for any games that don’t work as advertised, ensuring refunds if a game has a major faults that would have stopped you from buying the title if you’d known beforehand. (See the most recent example.)
But to lodge a refund request, you need to go through Steam support first. Here’s the steps to follow:
Go to https://help.steampowered.com/ and login to your Steam account when prompted. You might have to grab your phone for a Steam Guard code here if you have 2-factor authentication enabled. You can also do this through the Steam client by selecting the Help button at the top of the Steam window, then selecting Steam Support, which will take you to the same page.
Once you’re logged in via the browser, or you’re on the Steam Support page through the client, you’ll see a question: “What do you need help with?”
If the game you want to refund is one of the last four games played, it will appear in the options on the screen. If not, you can click on Games, Software, etc. or A Purchase. From there, you can pick the game/purchase you want to refund.
Once selected, Steam will give you a series of options asking what your problem is. Some include “It’s not what I expected”, “Gameplay or technical issue”, “DLC or bonus content is missing”. Here’s an example from a game I’ve purchased recently:
(Don’t worry: Synthetik is actually great. This is just an example.)
Whatever option you pick, Steam will then have another set of dialog prompts. As you work through the menus, you’ll eventually come to the “I’d like to request a refund” option. Where this is varies depending on what you click: if you select “It’s not what I expected”, it’ll be on the next page. (If you pick gameplay or technical issue, Steam will try to drill down further to get more information about the issue you’re having before offering a refund.)
Once you’re on the refund select page, Steam will then let you choose whether you want the refund to go into your Steam Wallet, or through your original purchase provider (PayPal, credit card etc.)
From there, you can also provide more details about the specific reason why you want a refund.
You can use this same process to get a refund on any preordered games too. “When you pre-purchase a title on Steam (and have paid for the title in advance), you can request a refund at any time prior to release of that title. The standard 14-day/two-hour refund period also applies, starting on the game’s release date,” Steam’s policy says. Steam will also refund games if it went on sale shortly after you bought it, according to their official policy.
There are some genuine reasons why you might not be able to refund a game. Getting a VAC ban — Valve’s anti-cheat protocol for games like Counter-Strike and Dota 2 — will remove your ability to refund purchases for the game you were banned from. Valve’s policy also doesn’t permit refunds on “video content”, which means things like the Ghost in the Shell movie or the RWBY series.
It’s also worth noting that you can still go through the support page and get a Steam refund if you’ve played it for more than 2 hours. It’s not a guaranteed success, but plenty of people have gotten a Steam refund in high-profile circumstances, especially if most of that playtime was spent troubleshooting the game and trying to improve its performance. Instances like Cyberpunk 2077 are a great case study, but it’s far from the only one.
If your refund is approved, just note it can take 7 days for the funds to appear in your account. If your refund request is denied, you can try to have your request reviewed by another Valve employee.