Last year I talked about how Puppygamer, an indie developer, managed to distance themselves from their consumers by basically calling them worthless, blaming them on their own misfortune and on loss of monetary gain. They even call customers as ants. The post really is an ugly bit of text to read, and while it is true that Valve has managed to drop value in gaming by selling games for a nickel instead of at proper price, it’s also a fact that there are games that are barely worth that nickel. You’d better just save it to use in your favourite arcade machine.
With Steam now allowing refunds, fucking finally if I may say so, the consumers are able to voice their distaste for any low end product that does not deliver as promised and/or advertised. Steam has changed their practices before due to European laws before, as they had to change from costumer purchasing games to subscribing to them. If you were purchasing a game from Steam, you should have every right to resell it or demand refunds.
The only real way to keep customers from demanding a refund is to make a product that they want to keep, a product that delivers as promised. If it does more, then it would be better. Apparently, some indie developers who work with Valve to release their products on Steam seem to have risen against the idea of refunds, like Puppygamer. At the moment, Puppygamer’s twitter seems to be on fire. Qwiboo is another. This applies to some other, but the common thing is that there now exists a group of game developers that are hurting from Steam refunds. There is also another group of developers that are not experiencing any notable decline in sales since refund policy’s implementation, like Running With Scissors.
And that’s how it exactly as it should be.
The customer is a force to be reckoned with. If a customer is an ant, then we’re all living in a colony. You don’t like ants when they’re attacking you, biting and stinging you. You may be able to sit on top of the ant hive and take all the pain, but unless you’re paid for doing that, it’s better just to leave the ants alone. Otherwise you make suddenly find yourself losing million dollar ad revenues.
A market is all about competition. You either make competent product or you will lose. Any and all companies that have been releasing products via Steam have been able to enjoy a free ride of never giving two damns about refunds. Now that customers are able to request their money back for products that essentially have wasted their time and put them into more entertaining pieces, they’re feeling the heat. Either you compete, or you drop out. I would not pay any money for a five minute game, and it seems that Steam is full of small indie titles that offer very low value in entertainment and time.
Customer satisfaction is incredibly important. To strand off from games for a moment, there’s one franchise with a stark contrast how the customers’ opinions were and handled. In both Star Trek Deep Space 9 and ST Voyager there are two side characters that were made more or less to ease the viewer into the world; Quark and Neelix respectively. Both characters were met with criticism and displeasure, as most viewers saw both of them annoying. They didn’t do their job and were hindering both shows’ success. Both series’ writers’ went The audience seems to hate out breakthrough characters, and while the DS9 staff asked what was wrong with their writing and how they could fix it, the Voyager staff asked what the hell was wrong with the audience. Quark was then soon naturally written to become far less annoying and incredibly well balanced support cast member to a point I would directly argue that he was a main character and the show could not have been as well received as it was. Neelix on the other hand stayed as an annoying idiot and practically lost every and all worth as a member of the Voyager crew by fucking things up as the series went on and couldn’t even offer guidance through space he claimed to have knowledge off. Rather than removing him from the show, the writers decided to remove Neelix’s competent and interesting ex-girlfriend. It was a middle finger to the viewers and series overall.
Puppygamers is an example of a developer who is doing the Neelix. Instead of looking at their product and wondering how the hell they could fix this shit, they are looking at everybody else and blaming them for their shortcomings. When you enter the any market as a provider, be prepared to cater to make money. You can make that trophy product you want, the shining example your ideal product, but don’t expect it to be successful. It’s most likely going to be something the consumer doesn’t want. It’s a harsh truth, but unless you are able to cater to the consumer, you shouldn’t expect much gain.
If Puppygamer was any sort of developer that mattered on the larger scale, this would be some sort of PR fiasco right here. As an independent developer, which isn’t the case when they are partnered with Valve Corporation, they have little to no effect on anything. They are just a decent example how any group of people who are hate how a system is enforcing further competition and allows the ants, the consumers, to have ways to voice their displeasure. Consumer reviews are all good and give some idea how games are, but ultimately they don’t offer the thing actually testing the game does. As most developers don’t offers demos anymore because it takes away from the sales, the only thing the consumer on Steam can do is demand refunds when the products ends up being shit after all.
Perhaps the developers should continue to offer demos to consumers. Then they would not need to report loss of sales when consumers decide not to waste their time with the full product.