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GOG didn't tell devs about its new refund policy - and many are worried it could be abused

Bullet Club

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GOG didn't tell devs about its new refund policy - and many are worried it could be abused

"We're powerless, and that's super scary."

A few days ago, GOG announced it was changing its refund policy as part of a "declaration of trust" to consumers. Previously, refunds were given only if the game hadn't been downloaded and played, or if the game literally wouldn't run on a player's hardware: but now players will be able to request a refund at any point during a period of 30 days after purchase, no strings attached.

"Everyone at GOG believes in a 'gamers-first' approach," the blog post said. "The latest update to our voluntary Refund Policy adds another piece to this customer-friendly experience. And it all sums up in one sentence: starting now, you can get a full refund up to 30 days after purchasing a product, even if you downloaded, launched, and played it. That's it."

On the surface, it seems like a big win for consumers: you can test-drive any game, and if you're really not liking it for whatever reason, the refund process is painless and streamlined. The policy change also means GOG has effectively leapfrogged Steam's already-flexible refund policy, which allows players 14 days to request their money back - so long as they've played less than two hours of the game.

But in making it so consumer-friendly, does GOG's new refund policy risk hurting developers?

That's what many have been discussing on Twitter over the last few days, with devs expressing concerns over the extreme flexibility of the refund system, and highlighting it could be easily abused. More than anything, it seems there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding the new refund policy, and many are particularly annoyed that developers and publishers were unaware of the policy before it was publicly announced.



To dig into this in further detail, I got in touch with the devs to ask them about their concerns, and spoke to GOG to find out how it hopes to prevent refund abuse.

At first glance, the policy already seems quite lenient: but there's a further problem with the policy that stems from GOG's DRM-free focus, a major selling point for the storefront which is proving to be something of a double-edged sword. For those who haven't heard of it, DRM stands for digital rights management: a form of access control technology that prevents the sharing of copyrighted works, and video game piracy (although it often gets cracked rather quickly). Unfortunately, DRM systems have been known to hamper performance, or sometimes require players to connect to the internet even for single-player games - making it somewhat unpopular with consumers.

As such, GOG sells DRM-free games to give itself an edge in the market: but this is causing problems with the updated refund policy. A player could feasibly buy a DRM-free game, download and keep it, then request a refund - effectively getting the game for free. This also explains why GOG's refund eligibility previously ended at the point of download, but according to No More Robots founder Mike Rose (who contacted GOG about the policy change), GOG's reason for the new no-strings attached policy was because "users [had] been complaining about their previous policy... which was essentially 'no refunds'".

"It's a tricky one, because I do personally agree that places should have refund policies," Rose told me. "But because GOG is DRM-free (as they love to shout about), it does mean that whatever refund policy they put in place, anyone can abuse it by simply downloading the game, getting a refund, and then keeping the game. So whatever they choose to do, there's always going to be some who abuse that."

The DRM-free aspect could also make things tricky for GOG to find a middle ground akin to Steam's two hour playtime limit, as the lack of DRM means GOG likely "cannot see if a player is playing a game, which means they can't track anything other than downloads", Rose explained.



That's already quite a window for abuse: but developers also feel GOG's new 30-day refund period is excessive, with Rose describing it as "ridiculous".

"Who needs 30 days to decide whether they like a thing?" Rose said. "You could play through an entire game multiple times in 30 days." Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail agreed on this point, saying he didn't believe there's "any game that needs 30 days of evaluation out there".

Yet the most disturbing thing for developers, it seems, is that they were given no warning about the policy change - and only found out when the blog post went live. When I contacted GOG, the storefront did not address my question about why devs were not informed - but Rose said GOG apologised to him for not telling devs in advance, telling him it "was a difficult decision for us to make, but we were prepared to shield our partners from all negative effects this new policy might have". Which is somewhat vague, to say the least.

"Whenever GOG or Steam make changes to their storefronts, we're not consulted", Red Thread Games founder Ragnar Tørnquist told me. "We learn about it shortly before takes effect... but in this particular case, there was no heads-up from GOG. I learned about the new refund policy when the world learned about the new refund policy. Which is scary!"

Ismail noted this was particularly alarming for developers because most game stores aren't exactly "stores" in the traditional sense. "They don't take the risk by taking stock - they're sales platforms on which the game developers run their stores, and thus take the risk of refunds," he explained.

"Some communication with devs before announcing things would've been nice."

So, what does GOG have to say about this? How will it protect devs from customers who abuse the system? According to the refund policy FAQ, GOG is "monitoring the effects of the current update to make sure no one is using this policy to hurt the developers that put their time and heart into making great games", saying it "may refuse refunds in such individual cases". But does that mean automated moderation like Steam, or manual moderation?

To find out, I contacted GOG to ask them some questions about the policy, and received the following statement:

"The updated voluntary Refund Policy applies to all products available on GOG.COM. At the same time, it doesn't affect our existing agreements with partners and how the payments with them work.

"It's essential for us to make sure that all the hard work put into making the amazing games remains safe and the developers are being treated with the respect that they deserve. That's why with this update, we introduced additional measures to protect their games, including manual moderation of every refund request, the option to refuse refunds in individual cases, and more."

This means GOG is manually checking each and every refund request - which, frankly, sounds like a lot of work.

"I question how [much] time and effort that's going to cost them - [it] feels like out of everything, this would end up being the reason why they go back on the policy," Rose said.


With the refund system technically open to abuse, and GOG's refund moderation system as-yet unproven, much of the risk to devs comes down to the likelihood of customers abusing the refund policy.

Thoughts on this appear to be mixed, with Dusk creator David Szymanski explaining on Twitter that the refund policy might not be as bad as expected, based on his past experience with Steam. Despite making narrative-focused walking sims that could be completed in under two hours, "the refund rates for my games [on Steam] have remained pretty low", he wrote. "The thing I've observed since is that a lot of gamers genuinely do want to support games and creators they like, even if the option to cheat the system is available, or even if they've already cheated the system via piracy." Ismail also said Vlambeer expected "the overwhelming part of the audience to support their favourite developers", but that it also expected "many to 'try' a few games by finishing them completely".

"I know when I was younger, I definitely would have," Ismail added.

Others, however, are clearly worried about this - and there have indeed been past cases on Steam where the flexible refund policy ended up hurting indie developers (via DSOGaming). In 2016, Gamasutra consulted a number of indie devs and found one to seven per cent of their total Steam sales went to refunds, which is not an insignificant amount for small studios or indie developers.

"I don't know what the impact of this policy will be," Tørnquist told me. "It might not have a tangible impact on our business, although we make the kinds of games that are most heavily affected by return policies: short single-player games that can be completed in days, and once they're done, there's little reason to return to them.

"When Steam changed its return policy, we saw a huge uptick in refunds: up to three times what we saw before. That's something we have to build into our budgets, and our budgets are tight as it is. This makes it even worse.

"There's no question this policy affects smaller studios more than it does the bigger ones. Our margins are very tight. We make games that can be completed quicker. We don't have the wealth of content that keeps players engaged for months like the Assassin's Creeds of the world. If you played Draugen, our latest game, and finished it in a couple of evenings, and you felt like the game was a bit short or you didn't like the ending, what's stopping you from just asking for a refund? If the marketplaces open up for that, no questions asked, it may benefit the consumers, but it does not benefit the people who make games for a living."

According to Rose, GOG told him it wasn't too concerned about the policy change, informing him it had run internal tests in which the refund rate went up from 0.49 per cent to 0.51 per cent with the new policy. "There's a massive difference between doing a small test, and unleashing a new public policy on an entire storefront," Rose noted. "So that 0.51 per cent number is useless really - the coming weeks will tell whether it actually makes a difference."

So, as ever, we'll have to see how this refund policy pans out. In the meantime, the policy change is certainly causing developers some stress, and GOG's DRM-free pledge leaves the storefront without a middle ground solution for their refund policy.

"Our livelihoods [are] in the hands of two actors: Valve with Steam, and GOG," Tørnquist concluded. "I think it's fair to say at least 90 per cent of our business comes from Steam, which is why we're supportive of alternative marketplaces like GOG. But GOG's move makes it a less attractive storefront for us to work with, which means we're left with just Steam. Which is bad.

"To me the biggest issue is that we don't have a say in this. We don't get to vote. We make the games, we take the risks, and we put the games on these storefronts because we don't have a choice. Whatever happens next, we're in the dark. There's no way for us smaller developers to have a conversation with the marketplaces to discuss how our games are sold, marketed, featured, removed or abused. We're powerless. And that's super scary."

Source: Eurogamer
 

GHG

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This was my worry in the previous thread.

While this is great for those of us who don't abuse systems like this there are always a few fucktards who seek to ruin this for the majority.

Hopefully they crack down hard on people who seek to abuse the system.
 
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What color is the color people refer to when saying "color me shocked"?

Is it purple or white, maybe both?


The issues this was going to cause was obvious by the other thread.
 
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FStubbs

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I mean, the fact that GOG is DRM free means that they're already relying on trusting the customer, since any game bought from GOG could theoretically be easily pirated.

The publishers who are afraid of this policy are the ones who are already not doing business with GOG.
 
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TheCockatrice

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Yeah this will get abused 100% and I'm pretty sure GOG knows this so my big brain thinks this is just a temporary PR stunt for their store and they'll update the policy in the following days. No way anyones going to sell their game on the store when every single jackass can finish it and refund it and upload it to torrents more often than it's already being done. GOG surely have something going on.
 
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GHG

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Yeah this will get abused 100% and I'm pretty sure GOG knows this so my big brain thinks this is just a temporary PR stunt for their store and they'll update the policy in the following days. No way anyones going to sell their game on the store when every single jackass can finish it and refund it and upload it to torrents more often than it's already being done. GOG surely have something going on.

To be honest I doubt the people who are uploading the games to nefarious places are waiting until they finish the games to do so and get a refund.

They can already do that under the old system. Buy game => download => copy files => refund.
 

TheCockatrice

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To be honest I doubt the people who are uploading the games to nefarious places are waiting until they finish the games to do so and get a refund.

They can already do that under the old system. Buy game => download => copy files => refund.

Hm yeah... Maybe they should've made a policy that new/empty accounts can't refund games or something. I don't know what else they can do. They pretty much embraced the fact that people already pirate gog stuff so that's why I'm guessing this is just a move to please the buyers though I don't see why someone who buys from gog would need 30 days to refund a game.
 

Holammer

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I wouldn't worry about refunds.
This is an Early Access title and those have higher than average refunds, so unless your game is absolutely shite, there's nothing to worry about.

 

laser_printer

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I think the big difference is since there's no DRM one could effectively use GOG as an easy delivery method, buy a game and then refund it but backing it up for themselves in the meantime. I wouldn't mind 30 days but cap the playtime HARD to avoid abuse.
 

Darkmakaimura

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Okay that is bad.

This is going to scare off a lot of devs now and sow distrust in GOG. Really dumb move on CPR/GOG and I say that because I love them and do not want to see them hurt.
 

Darkmakaimura

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I think the big difference is since there's no DRM one could effectively use GOG as an easy delivery method, buy a game and then refund it but backing it up for themselves in the meantime. I wouldn't mind 30 days but cap the playtime HARD to avoid abuse.
Well since it is drm free how would you track it?

Maybe keep it under a lock for 30 days? But that would be against everything GOG stands for.
 

Danny Dudekisser

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I had a feeling they didn't consult devs... because this is a pretty big move.

Which probably isn't great, because they have a hard enough time getting interesting games on the store in the first place.
 

laser_printer

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Well since it is drm free how would you track it?

Maybe keep it under a lock for 30 days? But that would be against everything GOG stands for.

True, at-least with Steam you have options for tracking it. I think that maybe having to log in to unlock it but afterwards you have 2 hours from the login to determine if the games for you? Then again, even a one time "activation" is against everything GOG stands for.
 

DunDunDunpachi

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I heard all the same complaints when GOG launched and insisted on DRM-free software

"People will buy one copy and share it with their friends. Aren't they worried about copies of the games being shared? The library will suck since developers won't have any incentive to put their games on it".

Yet GOG is still here, 12 years later.

Companies still haven't learned the lesson from the iTunes success (launched years after music-piracy sites and software were commonplace). Deliver a quality product to your customer and your customer takes care of you.
 

Darkmakaimura

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I heard all the same complaints when GOG launched and insisted on DRM-free software

"People will buy one copy and share it with their friends. Aren't they worried about copies of the games being shared? The library will suck since developers won't have any incentive to put their games on it".

Yet GOG is still here, 12 years later.

Companies still haven't learned the lesson from the iTunes success (launched years after music-piracy sites and software were commonplace). Deliver a quality product to your customer and your customer takes care of you.
CDPR showed people pirated games more with drm compared to those without it.

GOG is doing great things on this Earth.
 
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lukilladog

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You're probably right. But tell the concerned devs that. They can make or break GOG.

I think this is a positive move, with people these days with so many games and so little time, buy it know and play/check it later, instead of forgetting about it.
 

Pejo

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Do they region lock the store? I can't imagine places with high piracy rates like China and Brazil not just ruining this immediately.
 
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Easy solution PC devs.

Sell the game yourself like the old days.

Having 99% of the PC gamers funnel to Steam and GOG, you aren't going to change gamers. But you can change your distribution model. Let gamers buy direct from your website like many game makers do.
 
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kevin_majorca

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Right now I can download any (up to date)GOG-release from almost any tracker in 1-5min, so it's nice to have same perks as the pirates :D. The 30 day time-frame, I think, is just a massive overkill. Just have the same policy as Steam and INFORM YOUR CORPORATE CUSTOMERS about these drastic changes! In advance, dummies.
 

RedVIper

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Do they region lock the store? I can't imagine places with high piracy rates like China and Brazil not just ruining this immediately.

Why would the pirates in any of those places bother to buy and refund the games instead of you know, just pirating it.
 
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As a general rule I usually support whatever Rami is whining about on twitter so I guess we see how GOG plans to monitor people trying to abuse the system.
 

RedVIper

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No worries about modified .exe's and viruses/malware.

This is a non issue nowadays. Especially for gog games that have no DRM. You do get a few more shady releases when it's a game that is hard to crack.
 

Grinchy

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Easy solution PC devs.

Sell the game yourself like the old days.

Having 99% of the PC gamers funnel to Steam and GOG, you aren't going to change gamers. But you can change your distribution model. Let gamers buy direct from your website like many game makers do.
"No, we want the incredible exposure of being on the big storefronts without any of the disadvantages that come along with it!"
 
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This is a non issue nowadays. Especially for gog games that have no DRM. You do get a few more shady releases when it's a game that is hard to crack. [/QUOTE

If you seriously don't understand the appeal of having both an easy to use and safe store to aquire your games and a no questions asked refund at the press of a button, then i dont know what to tell you

Other than its funny you think only pirates would dare take advantage of this
 
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What an asshole.

And if you check his wiki, he's been making games since the 90s when every game maker sold games at stores.

He should be smart enough to know stores do their own thing and you can't really dictate anything. Now, if your company is huge or you are willing to toss some extra money at them the store will bend and listen to your customized suggestions, but most of the time you sell a product to a brick and mortar store or a digital storefront and you wait for sales. The stores will be smart enough to put your loaf of bread in the bakery section and that shooter game in the shooter genre section, but if you have no influence on the rest of it (which most people don't), then you're stuck with the way they do it.

Sounds like he makes a bunch of shitty games and isn't confident, where people will refund it. Pretty sure the majority of people buying the usual Call of Duty or FIFA game won't refund it after a month. Or even an old school gamer who bought Crusader No Regret.

As I said before, you don't like the digital storefront rules, then bail ship. How hard can it be to put up an e-commerce link. Get sales direct and reap in 100% of sales. No more 30% cuts.

No different than Costco and their unlimited return policy, which manufacturers have to accept back, and refund Costco credit money. Unless it's something that can be refurbished and resold to a liquidator (like a toaster), most product returns back to suppliers are tossed in the garbage for a 100% loss.

That's the rule of Costco. You want Costco business where that plastic 2-pack of winter shovels can sell $1,000,000 of sales, you play by the rules. Don't like the rules because you're afraid people will return the shovels when winters over, then don't try to get your products sold there.

Now if this guy hates the refund policy so much, then stand firm and say the company isn't going to credit back GOG for each return.

Or do what some suppliers do with retailers (past experience), you do a deal with the store to cap the amount of returned goods per year. If you have enough pull (which I doubt this guy does with his no-name games), you can restructure a deal to limit credit returns. Costco will tell you to get lost, but smaller retailers may bend. Too bad for him, no electronic storefront would bend since he isn't a mid-sized or bigger company.
 
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DunDunDunpachi

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"No, we want the incredible exposure of being on the big storefronts without any of the disadvantages that come along with it!"
Third-party publishers in a nutshell. Complain about console hardware. Complain about PC hardware. Complain about storefronts. Complain when their games get put on sale. Complain complain complain while shouldering none of the risk involved with launching a gaming platform. At least big publishers like Ubisoft and EA had the stones to attempt their own stores.
 
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RedVIper

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If you seriously don't understand the appeal of having both an easy to use and safe store to aquire your games and a no questions asked refund at the press of a button, then i dont know what to tell you

Other than its funny you think only pirates would dare take advantage of this

Well first of all your reply is broken, you wrote it inside the quote.

Second, pirating games is both extremely easy and extremely safe. So no I don't see the appeal of having to go trough buying the game and refunding it.

The only people who would take advantage of this are the ones who probably don't have any moral qualms about piracy in the first place.

Anyone who is anti piracy isn't sudently going to start abusing the system, because it's the same fucking thing.
 

Ballthyrm

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GOG not telling the dev is kinda of a dick move TBH.
I have no problem with their refund policy but Devs should at least know before their consumers do.

Google is also doing that with youtube, always pulling the rug under the feet of content creators.
It's not really great for trust creation.

They should also be upfront to the Devs on how they are going to remove the people who abuse the system.
 
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Well first of all your reply is broken, you wrote it inside the quote.

Second, pirating games is both extremely easy and extremely safe. So no I don't see the appeal of having to go trough buying the game and refunding it.

The only people who would take advantage of this are the ones who probably don't have any moral qualms about piracy in the first place.

Anyone who is anti piracy isn't sudently going to start abusing the system, because it's the same fucking thing.

Pirating is extreamly easy for some, and difficult for others. It is not, however "extreamly safe" .Calling the act of downloading files from dodgy websites from anonymous users extreamly safe is absolute asinhine.

Most people arent "anti piracy" either lmao. It just so happens those people prefer the much more simple process of using a storefront.
 
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RedVIper

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Pirating is extreamly easy for some, and difficult for others. It is not, however "extreamly safe" .Calling the act of downloading files from dodgy websites from anonymous users extreamly safe is absolute asinhine.

Look, you'd need to be borderline brain dead to have difficulties downloading a game, and this isn't 2000, nobody is downloading files of emule. It is extremely safe, especially for games that don't even have DRM.

Obviously you have no idea what you're talking about. Dodgy websites, lol.

Most people arent "anti piracy" either lmao. It just so happens those people prefer the much more simple process of using a storefront.

I'd say having to go trough buying a game and asking for refund to be a much more difficult process than opening qbitorrent, typing whatever game I'd want to download, and have it start downloading.
 
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Darkmakaimura

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Look, you'd need to be borderline brain dead to have difficulties downloading a game, and this isn't 2000, nobody is downloading files of emule. It is extremely safe, especially for games that don't even have DRM.

Obviously you have no idea what you're talking about. Dodgy websites, lol.



I'd say having to go trough buying a game and asking for refund to be a much more difficult process than opening qbitorrent, typing whatever game I'd want to download, and have it start downloading.
I'm probably one of those borderline braindead because I sure as heck wouldn't know where to go or what to do and knowing my luck, I'd download a virus or whatever.

The average idiot Googling a cracked version of Dawn of War 2 will probably end up on a "dodgy" website I imagine downloading a not-so-nice surprise.
 
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Look, you'd need to be borderline brain dead to have difficulties downloading a game, and this isn't 2000, nobody is downloading files of emule. It is extremely safe, especially for games that don't even have DRM.

Obviously you have no idea what you're talking about. Dodgy websites, lol.



I'd say having to go trough buying a game and asking for refund to be a much more difficult process than opening qbitorrent, typing whatever game I'd want to download, and have it start downloading.

LMAO

You do realise you have to actually find the files before you use the client right?
 
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RedVIper

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I'm probably one of those borderline braindead because I sure as heck wouldn't know where to go or what to do and knowing my luck, I'd download a virus or whatever.

The average idiot Googling a cracked version of Dawn of War 2 will probably end up on a "dodgy" website I imagine downloading a not-so-nice surprise.

Really, you haven't heard of pirate bay?

LMAO

You do realise you have to actually find the files before you use the client right?

I don't. Qbitorrent has a built in search engine for torrents. I don't even have to open a brownser to download wtv I want.






(I'm going to end up banned because of this conversation but wtv)
 
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Really, you haven't heard of pirate bay?



I don't. Qbitorrent has a built in search engine for torrents. I don't even have to open a brownser to download wtv I want.






(I'm going to end up banned because of this conversation but wtv)

So you think

- Downloading Qbittorrent

- Finding out search bar even exists

- Finding out where that search bar is

- Installing addiotional software

- Finding the dodgy websites to install the plugins

- Finally finding a good download source with decent seeds and non dodgy uploader and hope you havent got a crappy torrent

Is a more simple process to just

- downloading the storefront

- installing the game

- clicking refund

Most people will give up just reading a guide on how to do the former
 
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Not gonna read all that but I stopped right after 'declaration of trust'. That's all you need to know.

This could be abused by it's based on trust. You can trust me. If the game runs well I'll keep it.
 
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RedVIper

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So you think

- Downloading Qbittorrent

- Finding out search bar even exists

- Finding out where that search bar is

- Installing addiotional software

- Finding the dodgy websites to install the plugins

- Finally finding a good download source with decent seeds and non dodgy uploader and hope you havent got a crappy torrent

Is a more simple process to just

- downloading the storefront

- installing the game

- clicking refund

Most people will give up just reading a guide on how to do the former

What addiotional software? What "dodgy" websites? Crappy torrents? For a mainstream game? lol.

Look I'm just not gonna bother, downloading a game in 2020 is piss easy and I'd have to go out of my way to even try to get any sort of malware.
 

Ascend

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It's quite easy to identify the ones that abuse the system. After all, you're buying with an account or email address. If you keep refunding games a simple ban will suffice to get rid of the abusers. It seems like this is being blown way out of proportion. Is there a risk? Sure. Is it manageable? Absolutely.
 
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Solarstrike

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Will reduce the companies overall value bottom line as well as investor trust. Without making it public, CDPR probably wants to break away from the distribution aspect and focus 100% on making games. Multi-billion dollar offer from Apple or Google incoming.


edit: BUY, BUY, BUY
 
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DunDunDunpachi

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Will reduce the companies overall value bottom line as well as investor trust. Without making it public, CDPR probably wants to break away from the distribution aspect and focus 100% on making games. Multi-billion dollar offer from Apple or Google incoming.

edit: BUY, BUY, BUY
If an offer is on the way, why would they intentionally devalue their brand by hurting it in this manner?
 

Bboy AJ

My dog was murdered by a 3.5mm audio port and I will not rest until the standard is dead
Dec 17, 2004
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Isn’t it super easy to pirate any GOG game, being that they’re all DRM free? These developers worry about nothing. Do they really think GOG will allow people to buy, pirate, then return over and over? Props to the developers supporting GOG’s decisions. Those are the ones that are confident in their games and still consider themselves part of the gaming community.

Heaven forbid there be a pro-consumer move in the video game industry for once — after all the early access, kickstarter, launching broken games, microtransaction nonsense we’ve been dealt over the years.
 
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Miles708

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Isn’t it super easy to pirate any GOG game, being that they’re all DRM free? These developers worry about nothing. Do they really think GOG will allow people to buy, pirate, then return over and over? Props to the developers supporting GOG’s decisions. Those are the ones that are confident in their games and still consider themselves part of the gaming community.

Heaven forbid there be a pro-consumer move in the video game industry for once — after all the early access, kickstarter, launching broken games, microtransaction nonsense we’ve been dealt over the years.
I agree completely.

I would like to add: CD Projekt have based their entire business model on the perception of "good will", both for The Witcher series and for GOG in general.

As Bboy AJ Bboy AJ says, this move is very intelligent for 2 reasons:
  1. If your intent is to abuse the system, you don't need 30 days anyway, since there are already refund/pirating systems in place. The logic consequence is that:
  2. The 30 day refund policy would be used mostly by legitimate customers.
They're also keeping the right to deny that in case of blatant bad actions.

All this policy will do is give people more time to try the game.
As a nice side-effect, a developer will not be forced to make bombastic intro in their games, in the fear that the game can be perceived as "boring" in its opening segment and be refunded in the first 2 hours.

Coupled with the no-DRM policy, this is one of the very few legitimately-good-things(TM) coming out from the gaming industry in the last months/years.
 
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