»By playing this game, you agree to finish it first before asking for a refund. Unless you’re a coward.”
With these words, an indie developer challenges players on Steam to play through his debut work Refund Me If You Can within two hours. Of course, this period of time is not chosen arbitrarily – it corresponds to the two hours in Steam’s refund agreement. In this article, we explain what the experiment is all about and why the game is pointing to a long-standing problem.
What is it all about?
Refund Me If You Can is a small indie project that you can purchase on Steam for just €3.99. Your goal: escape from a spooky labyrinth. Sound easy? On your way to freedom, however, you have to fight your way through more than 100 different paths and paths – but only one actually leads to the exit.
And of course you are not alone: While you stumble through the dark corridors and let yourself be sprinkled with audio jump scares, a monster is still breathing down your neck. “Don’t get caught by the monster,” writes the developer on Steam. “One last tip: never stay in the same position for more than 45 seconds.”
Your stay in the labyrinth is tracked throughout the game and you can see how much time you have already wasted in the upper right corner. If you don’t manage to complete the game within two hours, your chance to get the achievement “You escaped the nightmare” also expires – you lose the challenge of the developer. The achievement was currently unlocked by only 24 percent of all players.
Funny challenge or harsh criticism?
Such challenges are of course found food for YouTubers and streamers. Since its release on July 22nd, YT walkthroughs of the game have garnered thousands of views. But why is Refund Me If You Can attracting players’ attention?
After all, it’s a small game that can’t convince with its extremely sophisticated mechanics, graphics or soundscape and is even insulted in the comments as a “waste of time”.
Link to YouTube content
But challenge or not, the game draws attention to an issue that indie developers and gamers have grappled with for years: Steam’s refund policy. Valve’s agreement states:
Steam’s refund policy applies to all games and software applications in the Steam store for purchases made within two weeks of the date of purchase and less than two hours of gameplay.
In the past, however, problems have already been revealed that are associated with exactly this time window. For indie developers whose games have a maximum playtime of two hours, this often means that Steam users can play through their projects in full and then refund them immediately.
Such abuse of the system became apparent less than a week after the refunds were introduced. Indie developer Qwiboo released statistics at the time to show that since the refund program started, 72 percent of all purchases of their game Beyond Gravity have been refunded.
But not only from the point of view of indie developers there are always stumbling blocks in the system. The release of the Microsoft Flight Simulator in 2020 rained critical voices from the community. At the time of release, the simulator was simply unplayable for many due to technical problems.
The problem: The download was started via the Xbox launcher and this was already counted as game time on Steam. The right to a refund therefore expired before players could even play in. Shortly thereafter, however, Valve gave the all-clear and promised a refund even if the download had taken well over two hours.
Incidentally, we have already spoken to lawyers for a report and asked them what options are open to you if Steam refuses a return:
more on the subject
What you can do if Steam refuses the refund – that’s what lawyers say
We are interested in your opinion: How do you feel about Steam’s refund policy? Have you already had problems with this? And have you tried Refund Me If You Can yourself – if so, did you do it in under two hours? Write it to us in the comments!