Back in the day, if a video game didn’t work or you just didn’t like it, you could take it back to the store and have the person behind the register laugh in your face when you asked for your money back. These days, getting a refund is a labyrinthine of web forms, logins, and annoying capchas. You can still get your money back, though. Here’s how.
Maybe you bought a digital game by mistake, downloaded something only to find it was broken, unplayable, or wouldn’t even run on your PC because of some obscure technical issue (looking at you DirectX)? As digital gaming has proliferated, so have the platforms and the sometimes confusing rules for how to try to get your money back if things don’t pan out.
I love my Switch. I bet you love yours too, assuming you own one, which of course you do because why else would you be reading this section? You know what I don’t love? The fact that the Switch’s eShop has no return policy. All sales on the platform are final. Whether you bought the wrong game by accident or it has too many performance issues, you’re out of luck.
This goes for pre-orders as well, something that became the topic of some discussion recently, after Norway’s Consumer Council claimed that EU law required people to be able to get a refund on pre-ordered digital games prior to their release. In response, Nintendo said the policy was “fully compliant” with European laws. At least overseas, you can still cancel a digital pre-order up to 14 days after forking over your money. In North America that’s not the case: per Nintendo’s website, “All sales (including pre-purchases) are final.” This is the case for the 3DS and Wii U digital stores, as well as the Switch’s.
While it varies from region to region, Sony’s stance regarding refunds is pretty strict. The PS4 Terms of Service repeatedly make reference to there being no refunds on digital content “except where the law requires that they are refundable.”
Unfortunately, the same goes for digital pre-orders. According to the Terms of Service, “Unless otherwise required by law, you may not cancel or obtain a refund for a pre-order or an order for a content bundle once you place your order, and pre-ordered content or content included in a bundle may be changed without notice.” Even if for whatever reason a game isn’t working, there are no guaranteed refunds on the PS4.
Microsoft doesn’t do game refunds. This means no returning digital Xbox One games or anything digital bought from the Microsoft Store. You can cancel pre-orders and get the full value refunded prior to a game’s release, though. For Xbox Games this requires going to the Xbox Support site, selecting “billing” as the problem, and then following the prompts until you’re chatting with an Xbox Support person. Canceling pre-orders on the Microsoft Store is slightly easier. All you have to do is go to your order history, find the pre-order, and select cancel.
Last year, Microsoft began testing “Self-Service Refunds” for select members of the Xbox Insider program. This made it possible to return games that had been owned for less than two weeks and played for less than two hours, no questions asked. Almost a year later, however, the option still hasn’t been rolled out for everyone.
Getting a refund on Steam is straightforward. I once bought the wrong game by mistake (lot of stuff with “Dungeon” in the title these days) and was able to refund it, buy, and download the correct game all within about fifteen minutes.
You can return any Steam game within 14 days as long as you’ve played it for less than two hours by going to the Help page. Once there, you’ll need to scroll down to the “A Purchase” section and click it, and then pick the game you want to return from the list that comes up. You’ll then be prompted to select the problem with the game and then click that you’d like a refund. Add a brief comment explaining why you want the refund and where you want the payment sent to, hit “submit request,” and you’ll be on your way. You should also get an email confirming your request.
If for whatever reason your request gets denied, you can always resend it. Valve says a different employee will review it, meaning you could get a different outcome the next time. In addition, the company leaves the possibility open of getting refunds for games you’ve played more than two hours of or owned longer than 14 days depending on if Valve is feeling generous. Finally, Steam does a lot of sales. It’s always possible that something you recently bought got a severe discount just a few days later, in which case Valve offers refunds based on the above guidelines. “We do not consider it abuse to request a refund on a title that was purchased just before a sale and then immediately rebuying that title for the sale price,” it says in the refund section.
Sorry, Ubisoft doesn’t do refunds for digital games either. Womp, womp.
EA’s digital game client is one of the best when it comes to refunds. You can get your money back on any EA game or participating third-party titles (here’s a list of them) as long as you make the request within 24 hours of starting the game or seven days after purchasing it if you don’t run it at all. If there’s a technical issue keeping you from being able to start the game, you have an entire month to get your money back.
Origin even has a dedicated refund page where, as long as you’re logged in, it will show you any of the games in your library that qualify. Once you’ve logged the request, you can check on the status over in the “My Cases” part of the website, and if it’s not showing up or not getting resolved, contact customer service to get things sorted. The same goes for cancelling pre-orders.
You can request a refund for anything you buy on the App Store, although there’s no clear cut guidelines for if you’ll ultimately get your money back. As long as it’s within 90 days of the purchase, you can report a problem with something you bought and an Apple customer service person will review it and decide whether to give you the refund.
You can do that via the Report a Problem page by signing in with your Apple ID and selecting the app you want to get rid of from the right tab. From there you’ll have to enter a description of the issue and then submit the request.
Google Play Store
Google has a much more transparent process than Apple. Within two hours of purchase you can get a refund by going into the Google Play Store, opening up your order history, and then selecting the app you want the refund on.
After two hours there’s still a window to return a digital good, but you’ll have to act within 48 hours and also fill out an online form. Make sure you have your purchase order number for this part. At some point over the next couple of days (but usually much sooner) a customer service person will review the request and decide if the refund will go through or not.
Itch.io is one of the most open and diverse digital game stores out there, with offerings ranging from critically-acclaimed games like Night in the Woods to random vaporwave experiments. That also means being a buyer there requires having a discerning and savvy eye, and that mistakes can happen.
Itchi.io handles refunds on a case by case basis. There aren’t any strict limits on what can be refunded, but at the same time you’ll be at the mercy of whatever the person reviewing your request decides. The generally valid refund reasons are if a game won’t run or otherwise can’t be accessed, was purchased by accident, or differs greatly from what was advertised. That last one’s a real doozy; have you read some of the game descriptions on the platform? All requests go through Itchi.io’s customer support, where you can email them your account details and reason for the return and then hope for the best.
Humble Bundle Store
Digital returns for Humble Bundle are also completely at the discretion of the company. However, Humble does state that games that have already been played or keys that have been redeemed are “likely ineligible” for refunds (though their vague language indicates it’s not entirely impossible depending on the circumstance). Monthly bundles are also not returnable.
If you do have an issue with something you purchased there, you can go ahead and email Humble Bundle tech support within 60 days with your email address, transaction ID number, the url for the game listing, and a short explanation of why you want the refund. If you bought one game but actually wanted a different one, Humble Bundle suggests making the second purchase before waiting for the refund if the item you really wanted is on sale or otherwise discounted.
Good Old Games, the digital storefront owned by CD Projekt Red, likes to tout its Money Back Guarantee policy. Basically it says that if you’re having problems getting a game to work properly and GOG is unable to resolve them, you’ll get a full refund of your purchase if it’s within 30 days regardless of how much time you’ve spent trying to play it.
At the same time, that leaves a lot of wiggle room, and the site’s refund section mentions in several places that any potential refund is first predicated on them determining your game isn’t working as it should. That means the process involves having to interact with someone and spend time trying to troubleshoot whatever issues you list for why you want to return something. That process, should you decide the headache is worth it, can be initiated by filling out a form over on the Customer Support page. Pre-orders can be cancelled anytime prior to the game’s release, but those requests also have to go through Customer Support.
Requesting refunds for digital games won’t always work. As you can see from the list above, a few storefronts don’t offer them at all, or are still working on updating the process and making it easier to use. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try if you think there’s a legitimate reason for you to get your money back.
If you have any advice of your own for getting refunds or a particular success (or horror) story you’d like to share, be sure to leave a comment!
Correction: an earlier version of this article referenced the European standards for refunds instead of the North American ones.