"I’d like to think our return rate is so low because we’re very clear about the experience the player should expect."
- Developer on Subsurface Circular Mike Bithell on why the game has a two percent refund rate.
Steam can be a tricky platform for developers looking to market short, narrative-driven games. After all, if players aren't satisfied with their purchase they can request a refund, so long as they've played less than two hours of it.
Bithell Games' recent title, Subsurface Circular, has a fairly short runtime of about one to two hours with only a two percent refund rate. 96 percent of its 718 reviews are positive, and Bithell credits honesty as the reason for 98 percent players not refunding the game after finishing it.
“I think we’ve been very upfront about the short duration of the game, and we’ve done similar with [new title in the franchise] Quarantine Circular,” he explains. “We try to be very clear this is a text adventure and what that entails, but the majority of returns are people who were expecting a very different game than the one described on the store page or in the trailer."
Another factor which may have played into the low refund rate of Subsurface Circular is the non-existent marketing of the game, which seemed to appear out of the blue. “We are terrified of people getting the wrong idea from a screenshot of the game,” Bithell admits.
“What better way to control expectation than to not allow time for it to build? Here’s our game. This is what it is. We put a lot of work into it."