Home Steam closes refund policy loophole to stop Advanced Access gamers taking huge advantage

Steam closes refund policy loophole to stop Advanced Access gamers taking huge advantage

While not exactly a new phenomenon, some games did it almost a decade ago, the increase in the number of games offering gamers the chance to play the game up to three days early in exchange for paying a premium fee certainly seems more prevalent than ever before.

Steam’s Refund Policy, while not overly generous but still useful, allows you to play up to two hours of a game to see if you like it, or even if it runs well on your setup.

Until now there has been one slight caveat in that the two hours only start kicking in once a game is “released” properly, any advance access paid for as part of a premium edition has not counted.

This has led to enough people gaming the system, ie buying a premium edition, playing it solidly for the three-day access period ranking up in some cases 30-50 hours of gameplay, and then refunding it on launch day.

Well no more. Valve has moved to update its refund policy to now include any advance access saying in a statement:

“Today we have updated a portion of our Refund Policy regarding pre-purchased titles. This change covers titles that are in pre-purchase and offer “Advanced Access”. Playtime acquired during the Advanced Access period will now count towards the Steam refund period. You can find out more information regarding Steam Refunds here.”

Pay more to play early

TopSpin 2K25 is the next game to offer Advanced Access before its release.

The sudden surge in publishers offering this kind of benefit to those willing to shell out extra cash to get a game early seems to have encouraged some people to take advantage.

A Reddit thread highlighted the issue after the change was made with comments such as:

“I first heard of it when there was Starfield available in “Early Access” (their term, not Steam’s EA) and a few people just bought the deluxe edition then refunded the game before the launch. Some with 40 hours of playtime.”

“Absolutely. I know a couple (of) people who did this and told me I was dumb for not doing it. Was obvious to me that it was an exploit and figured it was just a matter of time before Steam did something about it.

“They probably didn’t care when it was just a couple (of) games a year but this is happening with more and more games so might as well make a stop to it now.”

Many people dislike the tactic of advanced access. The same thread is littered with the likes of, “Pay Extra To Play Early just sucks, it’s exploitative FOMO nonsense and there should be more things discouraging it, but yeah the rule as it existed before also just wasn’t a good rule. It was clear that how it was functioning wasn’t intended behavior or in line with the spirit of the policy.”

Valve’s move to shut down the practice will not affect legitimate gaming in any way, but if the number of gamers refunding using the tactic was high, it could have served as a deterrent to publishers charging such high prices to play a game “early” – a practice which is only ever beneficial to one party. Most major releases now offer a short period of “exclusive” access in exchange for paying a higher price.

TopSpin 2K25, due to be released tomorrow can be purchased for £49.99 but also has two other versions, priced at £89.99 and £104.99 that you can buy now and start playing immediately. These editions are marked with an Advanced Access badge and contain gameplay extras such as cosmetics, alongside the Advanced Access perk.

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Paul McNally
Gaming Editor

Paul McNally has been around consoles and computers since his parents bought him a Mattel Intellivision in 1980. He has been a prominent games journalist since the 1990s, spending over a decade as editor of popular print-based video games and computer magazines, including a market-leading PlayStation title published by IDG Media. Having spent time as Head of Communications at a professional sports club and working for high-profile charities such as the National Literacy Trust, he returned as Managing Editor in charge of large US-based technology websites in 2020. Paul has written high-end gaming content for GamePro, Official Australian PlayStation Magazine,…

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