The Rights And Wrongs Of Refunding No Man’s Sky

Digital rights, ownership and refunds are hardly new topics of discussion, but No Man’s Sky has brought the discussion back to the front pages. While it’s bound to only be a small minority of those that bought the game, people have been successfully getting refunds, despite having sunk many, many hours of play time into virtual universe.

Off the back of these refunds, you have to ask yourself when is it right and fair to ask for your money back? It’s clear that there are a lot of people who bought No Man’s Sky and were dissatisfied with their purchase for one reason or another, but after you’ve played the game for 50 hours, surely it’s then taking things too far to get a refund?

The real problem is that there’s no universal system for us, as consumers, to get refunds on digital purchases. After years and years of dragging their feet, there are now refund policies in place for a number of the biggest digital markets. Apple, Google and Steam all introduced ways to request refunds last year, with varying limitations on what and why you can ask to refund and their own windows of opportunity to do so.

Steam’s is pleasingly lenient, with no questions asked if you’ve played less than 2 hours and it’s within 14 days of purchase, but some are taking it far beyond this, submitting requests for refunds after playing for much, much longer and citing technical problems that don’t seem to have affected them.

Sony’s policy is less lenient, and they’ve been criticised in the past for their handling of such requests. No Man’s Sky seems to be an exception, and there are numerous reports of people phoning up or using their customer support text chat and getting refunds, often stated as a one time gesture of good will.

By EU law, you have a 14 day cooling off period for online, phone and mail order purchases for any reason, but there’s no such provision for face to face purchases, which are always at the store’s discretion. The UK’s Consumer Rights Act 2015 takes this a step further to 30 days if goods are not of satisfactory quality, aren’t fit for purpose or don’t match the description. These rules are all well and good and easy to understand if you order a nice new shirt over the internet from Top Shop, but there are exceptions to the rule. CDs, DVDs and games aren’t covered as soon as you break the cellophane seal, and for digital products, the second you click to download is the moment that you waive your right to cancel.

Of course, if the download doesn’t work, if the game simply crashes, if the audio files are corrupted, you can go back to the seller. They can try to fix the issues before you’re allowed to ask for compensation, but these are all focused on ensuring that you get a product and that it works, not that it’s any good.

Take heading to the cinema as an example. If you settled in to watch Batman vs Superman and found that the sound didn’t work or the projector was only showing the film in black and white you’d be frustrated. More importantly, you’d be entitled to a refund. However, if you watched all three hours of the film and decided it hadn’t been for you, would you deserve your money back? I’d argue not, and the same principle applies to No Man’s Sky. Those who have had the game crash repeatedly or suffered from serious frame rate issues on PC do deserve their money back, even as Hello Games push out patch after patch. However, if you’ve played a good chunk of the game and found it not to be your cup of tea, then that’s no fault of Hello Games, and you probably shouldn’t be able to get a refund.

One bone of contention is whether or not No Man’s Sky is “as described by the seller”. Does it match up to the grandeur promised during the three years of hype that led to its release earlier this month? Probably not, but that’s not what needs to be called into question. At the point of sale, you’re getting what’s described on the box or in the blurb on the digital store – this is admittedly muddied by the Steam page having old trailers, an old user interface and some features that were cut during development.

On the subject of the missing multiplayer, regardless of what Sean Murray said or alluded to, regardless of what is hidden beneath the sticker on the back of the box, it now says it’s a single player game. Similarly, there’s no promise of a particular amount of game time, no promise of a deep and involving story, no promise of landing on your hundredth planet being an interesting experience.

So, when people are asking for and getting refunds from Steam and PlayStation with dozens of hours of play time, I personally think that’s taking things much too far. Unless you genuinely suffer from chronic game crashes and cripplingly low frame rates, you’re exploiting a system that wasn’t set up with this in mind. I get that you might be disappointed, but that’s not right. Analogies to this particular situation are invariably a little clumsy, but it’s like buying clothes to wear to a party and then returning them the next day because you’ve “changed your mind”.

You do have to wonder if this would even be a problem is digital games had some kind of parallel to being able to trade in your physical game discs, but that’s a discussion for another time.

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65 Comments

  1. I’m well into double figures now for the game crashing.I’m surprised Sony haven’t suspended me what with all the profanity i’ve used when reporting the game crashing.The game gets so repetitive and boring, i was debating on whether to get a refund.For some reason i keep going back to it and putting the hours in.And yes it still crashes even after the patch the other day.

    • Ah, the old “it’s boring, but I’ll keep playing” thing. As much as I like the game, even I’ll admit to there being a certain amount of that, at least for a while. After a few hours there’s a good chance you’ll find a whole bunch of not very interesting planets and you’re in a period of farming stuff to get upgrades that takes a little bit too long.

      But then you get through that and you work out how everything works, and you start finding lots of new and interesting things. Some of the bad reviews (well, there haven’t been any bad reviews, really – some of the less good reviews) might well have given up at the point instead of playing for a couple of hours more.

      As for the crashes, not a single one for the past couple of weeks here. It’s easy to say it shouldn’t crash for anyone, but that’s never going to happen. I had quite a few the first week or two. I’m probably in a minority though. If you’re still getting them, you’re probably in an even smaller minority.

      But if some small minority of people have problems, they’ll be shouting about it loudly online. If you don’t have problems, you’re probably busy playing the game.

      If it had only sold a few thousand copies, we wouldn’t have heard anything about the crashes. It would have only have affected a handful of people.

      As for why it crashes, who knows? There’s certainly nothing much they could have done to prevent it. You’ve got 18 quintillion planets, narrow that down to possible starting planets and the few you can reach soon after, and you’ve probably got billions. Each planet effectively being a seed for a random number generator. (I know it’s not quite like that, but the result is the same). If some of those can cause problems, how are you going to find them? If just 1% of a billion planets has an issue, that’s 10 million. You’ll never find those in testing. Add a million people playing it, and you might find a handful.

      Or that might not be issue at all. It might be something weird some players do. Never underestimate the ability of people to start doing weird shit you never expected.

      Also, never underestimate the ability of people to blow up some minor issue into something massive.

      • I’m not sure whether CR8ZYH0RSE is telling the truth or not but your reply goes to extremes to piss all over what he’s potentially going through with the game. Wow. :-\

      • Tell me MrYd, do you still sleep with a copy of No Man’s Sky under your pillow? :-p

      • That wasn’t my intention. Not sure how you came to that conclusion.

        My point is, in simple, easy to follow steps…

        1. Software development is hard. Getting rid of all the bugs is even harder.
        2. Actual numbers of players having real issues with the game are probably some tiny percentage. Who understandably shout loudest about the problems.
        3. It sucks if you’re one of the people having problems, but you’re probably in a minority.

        The game is absolutely not completely broken. Most people probably haven’t had a single crash. Some have had a few. Some have found them fixed since release.

        And some are obviously still having issues. I’d say they’re entitled to a refund. Or they may want to keep reporting the issues and wait for them to be fixed. There’s been a lot of progress with the updates since launch.

        Sweary bug reports might make you feel better, but probably won’t help. I’d certainly only send polite bug reports, and believe me, I can swear more than most people you probably know. Unless your somehow friends with fictitious people such as Malcom Tucker.

        So no, I wasn’t trying to piss all over the problems Mr Horse has (mind if I call you that? I guess it could be Mrs or Ms Horse?). I hope they get sorted, or you get offered a refund as you deserve one by now. Even after putting in the hours. You wouldn’t be one of the “I’ve played 50 hours and decided I don’t like it” people.

      • As oppose to it coming across as empathetic or helpful it came across as overzealous with regards to the defence of the game. Not just that but your denunciation about the people reporting the bugs/issues and how they’re getting on with the game felt unnecessary.

        Keep in mind I’ve read every comment on this article and your other replies have felt far more measured. This one, not so. Sure, it’s my opinion but one that I felt like stating as oppose to remaining quiet.

    • Astounding – i’ve only had 4 crashes in over 80 hours playing. Have you tried uninstalling, rebuilding the database and then reinstalling it?

  2. I don’t agree with the refunds.

    What next? Football fans getting refunds because their team didn’t play as well as expected?

    Gamers are an entitled bunch.

    • I think if a game is broken and it is widely acknowledged as being broken and/or not offering features consumers were tricked into believing would be available, then a refund should be considered. But then if a game is widely acknowledged as such – a little research and patience would save people purchasing to only then be let down.
      It needs to be watched carefully. NMS I feel is a case where if you have only played it for a couple of hours then yes a refund or exchange should be offered. But if you are taking the piss (50 hours) then a flat out no to a refund.
      But other cases, where GG were having a lawsuit filed for not having Killzone Shadowfall at 1080p in MP are just petty.

      I don’t know, maybe it is time gamers (consumers) did start kicking up a fuss to make devs and publishers make good on their descriptions and promises, test their games to make sure they are not needing day one patches to fix game-breaking bugs/crashes.

      Then again, shouldn’t it be Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo making sure the game is fit for them to sell on their systems?

      • So how much delay to your games do you want then? Find some bugs, fix them in a day 1 update? Or delay the game while you fix the bugs and manufacture the discs. Then you find some more bugs, and delay it again?

        You can delay it as much as you want, fixing ever more obscure bugs that will affect even smaller numbers of players, and then something will be found once it’s released. To fix all the bugs will basically take forever. Unless you want to throw big piles of money at the problem? But obviously people don’t want to pay £40 or more for a game. Even if that really is a bargain.

        But we’ve got the weird situation where the slightest little problem affecting some small number of people gets picked up on by a whole load of websites and grows into something it isn’t. Some people had crashes and suddenly it’s “The game is broken and everything he said is lies!”, which quite obviously isn’t the case.

        Not helped by “It’s something about ethics! Can we viciously attack it because we don’t like it?”

  3. Price drop and I’ll be balls deep in NMS. Just got a lot to play on the PS4 at the moment…

  4. Everything i posted is true,as for swearing it didn’t start out like that.The more crashes i had the angrier i got,i was polite for the first 5 but i went downhill after that.A couple of “WTF Sean”(as though i knew him,ha),then a good few “ffs sake Sean sort it out”.Game crashes aside i just couldn’t put the game down and that was the reason i never asked for a refund.I’m going to give the uninstall a try like @TSBonyman said,i’ll see what happens.

  5. Angry Joe’s review is 34mins of really interesting points about this game. He enjoys it very much for the first few hours then sh*t goes south, crashes happen and repeated content starts appearing. He quotes and includes clips of the devs talking bollocks about what can and can’t be done and the result is a Molyneux style bullsh*t fest.
    I know people that have enjoyed this game, I know people that hate this game and I know people who defend the crap out of it because they were taken in with the hype and are in denial. Agreed the internet can blow up over something quite small, but in this case – it seems the majority are feeling let down. An indie game made and sold to be a AAA with a pay now play the full game later approach (if they can be arsed to work through the list of talked about features).

    That is the last I’m saying on the matter, as quite frankly – you seem in denial

    • That was a response to MrYd on my last comment, totally fluffed the reply button mechanism ma thingy ma jib

    • That’s exactly the sort of thing we’ve seen over the past weeks since it’s released.

      It’s obviously a terrible game and anyone who likes it is in denial. Couldn’t possibly be that people are enjoying it, could it? Reviews were good, even if a Metacritic score of 71 is apparently “mixed or average” and somehow doesn’t count as “good”, as any sensible system would. User reviews there (for people who bothered to say anything, rather than just click 0 or 10) are mostly good. (Bad reviews are a minority)

      And yes, there’s a point after the first few hours where it’s not as fun, but then it suddenly becomes even more fun. Dozens of hours in and new things still appear.

      But that’s obviously just the majority of people denying the game is crap.

      Could it be all the hype about it pissed some people off? We ended up with what we should have been expecting, but some people are determined it’s not going to live up to the hype and are resorting to all sorts of tactics including blatant lies about it. Seriously, look at any list of things that aren’t in the game used as evidence of Sean Murray being a liar. Turns out most of them actually are there, or weren’t supposed to be in the first place.

  6. From what I’ve seen, the game is broken and clearly not what was promised by Hello Games. If people want refunds, then they should be entitled to them. Sure, there will be some people who take the mick, but there will be plenty of gamers disappointed with what they bought.

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