Let’s be real — the vast majority of us cannot just spend our money without any repercussions. As a result, we budget things out, perhaps only choosing to splurge when the feeling hits us just right. But the majority of the time, if you’re anything like me that means you likely keep a very close watch on where your dollars go. But as careful as we may try to be, there will always be purchases that we flat-out regret, particularly with video games. This is why refunds are so important.
You may see a game that looks cool in promotional material, but having discriminating taste, you take advantage of modern conveniences like video playthroughs and online reviews from professionals and other users. Everything checks out; most people are pleased. So, you make the purchase. After eagerly booting up your new title, and after the initial buzz wears off, you start to notice something. While it looked fun and the reviews gave it a thumbs up, for whatever reason you’re just not feeling it. So, now you want your hard-earned cash returned to you. But — a twist! This is a Nintendo Switch game you bought on the eShop. That means, well, you’re stuck.
All that glitters…
There are very few items that I’ve bought that I wasn’t happy with. But the few times that has happened, I’ve had hit-and-miss experiences when it comes to refunds. In a handful of cases, I’ve bought from stores that consider all sales to be final. But in more fortunate cases, such as with Amazon, eBay, and Google Express, I’ve managed to get my money back from products that were either defective or just unsatisfactory.
When it comes to Nintendo Switch in particular though, this entire “no eShop refunds” controversy came to a head a few weeks ago when a court case between Nintendo and two European countries ended in favor of Nintendo. Those countries were trying to strong-arm Nintendo into allowing refunds for canceled eShop preorders. Yet, the court found Nintendo’s policy to be fine, and it can continue to be enforced.
While preordering a digital game doesn’t really have any advantages, some people just get really excited. They’re the ones that literally want to play the game the minute it becomes available. Thus, digital preorders and pre-loading became a thing. But for whatever reason, things change sometimes. Perhaps the buyer just loses interest, or maybe they need their money for a new emergency. Considering the fact they haven’t even received the item in question yet, a refund should be a non-issue. Yet Nintendo sees any purchase on the eShop as a commitment.
Switch eShop vs. other policies
Compare this to other digital storefronts. Steam, for example, has a two-hour “trial” policy. In most cases, if a Steam customer has clocked less than two hours of total playtime with a game, they can request a refund and it is likely to be honored. Microsoft is a tad stricter with its Xbox digital purchase policy. It admits that, similar to Nintendo, it considers these types of purchases to be final, but it is willing to “consider a variety of factors” and “understand there may be extenuating circumstances.” Thus, a refund system is available. Sony is the closest to Nintendo when it comes to the severity of its policy. PlayStation digital purchases are eligible for a refund for up to 14 days after the initial date if the item has not been downloaded or streamed. If it has been used, however, the refund eligibility is nullified “unless the content is faulty.” Requests for preorders, however, will be accepted at any time before launch, and up to 14 days after.
So, between the four platforms, Valve is definitely the leader when it comes down to trying to appease its customers. Microsoft is a tad lesser so but is willing to listen to everyone’s case. Nintendo and Sony are neck and neck when it comes down to saying “Nope.” So, while Nintendo isn’t totally alone, it would still be nice if all of these platform holders would have an honor system.
It’s totally different if you have someone who just keeps buying games to try and turn them in after an hour or so. In cases like that, Microsoft, for example, explicitly states that it will exercise its right to stop offering them to such a person unless “legally required.” But if you have someone who, for instance, has made 20 purchases and isn’t happy with only two of them, then the circumstances are now different.
The downside of digital
Really, when it comes to games, you don’t know for sure if you truly like something until you get to try it out for yourself. That’s why game demos were so awesome back in the day. They do still exist, but not always. In fact, many games don’t offer public demos. And of course, not every potential customer can get to a big event like E3, PAX, or Gamescom where demos are on the show floor.
To be honest, my real inspiration for writing this is because I recently picked up Moto Racer 4 on sale from the Nintendo Switch eShop, but due to poor frame rate and fuzzy resolution, among other factors, it wasn’t satisfying. I would request a refund if I could, but Nintendo is not going to listen to my case.
In an ideal world, every store ever would offer refunds for non-consumable items. But companies are still very much interested in the idea of maximizing their profits. On top of that, digital products play by a unique set of rules. If a physical item is returned, while it can no longer be priced as “Brand New,” it can still be resold at a lesser price. So, while the seller may not make as much money, they still get some of it. On the other hand, once a digital product is sold — that’s it. There is no used market in the digital realm. Thus, sellers are far more rigid to keep whatever money they make.
The moral of the story is, if you weren’t already, to try to be wise with your spending. While none of us can get it right all the time, we can still try to only shoot our shot when we have a pretty good idea it’s going to land right. All that being said, it would still be nice if Nintendo and Sony learned from Valve and Microsoft. If two can do it, why not all? Customer satisfaction plays a major role in ensuring recurring sales after all. By instead strong-arming consumers into following a strict set of policies, that instead pushes them to buy from other sources instead—namely physical retailers. Nintendo likely sees more profit from consumers buying from the eShop, so if it intends to attract more business, a revision to the no-refund policy would certainly help.