Why I Am Never Buying Another Game from Steam

Oct 30, 2015

NBA 2K16 is 2K Games’ latest iteration in its annually released basketball simulation. It was released on September 29th and I purchased my copy for the PC via Steam on October 14th. Eleven days later, I requested a refund from Valve and encountered a very negative customer experience. One that is going to have some pretty firm consequences upon my future PC gaming.

In NBA 2K16, I encountered a lot of UI bugs. Or maybe the same bug exposing itself in several different ways. There are a lot of nested menus and the game responds to many different sources of input. I was using my XBox 360 Controller for PC, and my systems all have keyboards and mice hooked up. Frequently, the UI would get stuck in one nest of the menu and I had to get out of it by using one of the alternative input methods. Many times, the UI would just become unresponsive.

In-game, things could work worse. The controller was applied by the game as both controller and mouse input. So when I was in-game, I could often see the mouse cursor flying around all over the screen. I tried playing after physically removed my mouse. At one point, the game jumped to Windowed mode and the virtual mouse often tracked outside the game window and would interact with another app.

All of this made getting through the off-court time very burdensome. Drafts and Roster Changes took forever. In one game, the game showed three players to be assigned to a team in my next 2k-title-imagegame. Two of them moved to whichever team I flicked the left analog stick to. When I started the next game, that second player-control was given control of my one of my on-court players out of the five, at random, and I could not do anything with that person. So my guy would inbound a ball all the way to half-court because it would not/could not pass it to the player that was right in front of me but under this phantom player’s control. My game-save at some point also just dumped the custom editing I had done with my in-game avatar and I started showing up as the default model.

When I described all of this to Valve and asked them for a refund, I was denied, because I had played the game for more than 2 hours. I explained it again, adding some additional color commentary: I had been a customer for eight years, I had bought over 180 games, I had only played more than 2 hours because the game was so buggy, I had never asked Valve for a refund before, and so forth.

Valve claims that every refund request is reviewed individually. That is only valuable if the individual reviewers have some ability to decide or request authorization to offer a customer something outside the box. I just kept getting back this citation of a two hour game-play limit.

The two hour limit is incredibly arbitrary. I was likely to put 120 hours into NBA 2K16. If an on-court match in that title takes about 30 minutes, are they saying that I should know within the first four games whether I want to keep the game or not? What about time spent as GM’s and Coaches? Two hours is fine if this is a shooter with eight hours of game-play. But it does not make sense for a major sports title. I would be ok with this if it was for a subset of reasons, like you can’t return the game if you played for more than two hours if your reason is “I decided I don’t like the game”. But for bugs? A standard 30-days should apply.

steam_clientValve seemed to place no value on my customer loyalty. This was a game I had paid full retail price for ($60), and had high expectation for. I submitted the refund request twice, replied to the initial refusal, and Tweeted at steamsupport, no response.

So what was my response? Initially it was a scorched earth policy. I uninstalled the Steam client and any games from all of my gaming PC’s. I did some research on other online retailers to figure out an alternative digital service to buy games from. GameFly doesn’t sell PC games anymore. HumbleBundle uses Steam DRM for almost all of the games it sells. Ditto for Green Man Gaming. And again, unbelievably so, so does Amazon.

I settled on my new plan to use Good Old Games as my primary means of procuring titles for the PC. GoG wares are DRM free. They now have their own client similar to Steam, which makes installs of large games way easier. Games there are sometimes a bit more expensive, and the service gets very few of the newest titles. OK, so for the latter, I am planning on using the direct services from the big publishers to procure those titles. It will certainly be less convenient than just using Steam, but I do not see rolling the dice on them for further purchases when I cannot expect them to actually review the merits of my refund request reasonably and dispute my logic if think they have more consistent rational on their side.

After climbing down off the walls, I did reinstall the Steam clients and no more than 5 of my favorite or newest Steam games per gaming PC. I plan on running Steam in offline mode.

Feel free to do as you see fit. I did not title this post “You Need to Stop Buying Games from Steam”. This is just my story and what I intend to do about it. Feel free to offer your own story in the comments below!