Gotta be careful with April Fool’s Day announcements — most companies know just how to push gamers’ buttons and won’t hesitate to do so on the one day a year we’re all supposed to laugh it off. But Sony apparently wasn’t fooling when it quietly changed its refund policy yesterday. It was so difficult to tell because the rules, while mostly reasonable, come with two strict caveats.
According to the new rules, all purchases from the store — including games, DLC, and other add-ons — now come with a 14-day window in which players can request a refund, even in the case of pre-orders. Before now, gamers outside the Europe couldn’t request a refund on a pre-order. Depending on when you ordered, the rules are a bit different. If you pre-ordered a game more than 2 weeks before its release, you can cancel and get a refund any time before the game‘s release. If you pre-order with less than 2 weeks before the release, then you have the standard 14-day window.
The two-week window is pretty standard — Microsoft and Steam both offer no-questions-asked refunds within the same time period. But in order to be eligible for a refund, PlayStation gamers have to follow some pretty strict guidelines. Not only can they not play the game, but they can’t download or stream it either.
For comparison’s sake, you can refund an Xbox or Steam game if you’ve played for less than two hours. So you can at least try the game, see if you like it and still get your money back. With PlayStation games, even doing a pre-launch download means you don’t qualify for a refund.
Also, the refund will go to your PS Wallet, even if you used a credit card to purchase the game.
I have no problem with a strict-but-reasonable refund policy. Even if Sony wanted to say refunds are negated if you’ve played the game — I’d grumble but I wouldn’t be too put out. But saying people can’t refund a game if they so much as download it seems a little much. There’s an option on the PS4 to automatically download files from pre-ordered games. I have it on, and I’m willing to bet a vast number of other users do, too — it’s pretty handy. So I’m either going to have to turn that off or be dead certain about every game I pre-order from now on.
Sony has allowed itself one escape valve, that being it will refund already-played games it deems “faulty.” What makes a game qualify as faulty? Your guess is as good as ours — but if I were a cynical beast, I’d say a faulty game is one where the bugs are so bad they make the news and cause dozens of customers to start demanding refunds.
That said, I will give Sony a bit of credit here, because it’s not the last platform to change its refund policy to be more consumer-friendly. You still can’t get a refund in the Nintendo eShop — Nintendo‘s Account User Agreement says, “Except as authorized by Nintendo or as required by applicable law, Digital Items are not returnable or refundable.” I’ve heard that, if you’re very lucky and willing to stay on the phone with Nintendo support, you may be granted a one-time exception for a broken game, but no more. In fact, if you visit the Nintendo support site, this is what it says to those seeking refunds for accidental purchases:
Please be sure to read the game descriptions and check out the screen shots available through the Nintendo eShop before making purchases. Parental controls can be set on Nintendo systems that allow parents to set restrictions on Nintendo eShop purchases if applicable. In addition, many websites make reviews available of games which you can use to make your purchasing decisions.
Oof, that is more than a little condescending.
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