These days, everyone is a gamer. Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, anyone can easily access some sort of video game, from Candy Crush to the latest version of FIFA. In 2014, consumers spent $22.41 billion on video games and hardware. However, despite the immense success of gaming, many gaming companies struggle with reputation management. Electronic Arts, for example, was named Consumerist’s worst company in 2012 and 2013.
One of the few exceptions in this market is Steam, an online store for computer gamers run by Valve. “I feel like Steam is the best place for anyone who wants to buy games for their PC,” said Eric Larson, an avid gamer. What drew Larson to Steam was their low prices on popular games. “Video games are really expensive for most people and so being able to buy games at such low prices would make anyone want to buy from them,” he said.
Price is incredibly important to gamers. In fact, in 2014 it was named as the second most important factor consumers considered when buying a game. “Unless it’s a game I know I want and will get anyway I’ll never buy a game at the full $60 retail price,” said Larson. “I feel like most games are overpriced so getting them on sale on Steam is the way to go.” Steam’s low-price approach revolutionized distribution models in the gaming industry.
However, Steam lagged behind other distributors in one area: return policies. Once a customer bought a game, there was no way to get a full refund. This was an issue for most gamers. “PC gaming is kind of tricky because you never really know what kind of problems your computer might run into while attempting to run a game until you get it,” said Larson.
That all changed last year when Steam rolled out a brand new, simple refund policy: no questions asked. As long as a customer returned a game within two weeks or two hours’ worth of gameplay, Steam would fully refund their money. “I liked how they listened to feedback and made a no hassle refund policy so if something is wrong with the game you can get your money back.”
Knowing that they can easily return a product makes customers more willing to try new games. This was the hope Steam had when they launched the no-questions-asked policy. Last year, an independent developer released a game titled Undertale. “It didn’t look like a game I’d normally be interested in, and being an indie title didn’t help either, but I decided to buy it with the knowledge that I could just return it if I didn’t like it.” After two hours of gameplay “I ended up keeping the game because it was good.”
Steam’s approach to refunds is revolutionary for gamers, and is just one more example of how it is changing the way the video game industry works. Thanks to its ability to communicate with customers, Steam has become the model for gaming companies today. How can listening to your customers change your place in your industry?
Jacob is a public relations major and a graphic designer for BYU athletics. He loves film, design, good books, and sports. In his spare time he enjoys playing board games and spending time with friends and family.