For those that don't know, in order to get your money refunded on Steam, players have to select a category from a dropdown (‘Performance issues’, ‘Not fun’, ‘Other issues’, etc) and make a written comment. And it’s not completely clear to me that players understand that devs can read their comments - but they certainly can.
Many refund comments are legitimate, and definitely worth reading to give you an idea of sentiments around the game or technical issues. But a lot are very ‘the dog ate my homework’-esque, lol.
So, my GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter (free to subscribe!) recently asked devs to go digging around in their Steam user refund comments, to see what amusing things turned up. This was inspired by this Jake Birkett Tweet which surfaced the following refund reason for RPG card battler Ancient Enemy:
Well, thanks to everyone who replied to the GameDiscoverCo Tweet on the topic - here’s some of the best replies. Probably the randomest was this one from Jens Bahr for a player of Awake, cos, uhh, yeah:
And here’s the final, basically default Steam refund reason from Daniel Gubala:
Now we’ve done the silly, here’s the sensible part of this section. Yes, a lot of Steam refund messages are ‘something I thought I had to type in order to get my money back’. A lot of people go through the motions, and don’t really contribute anything that you might usefully use to improve your game.
But there are a few things I would look at. Firstly, just check your overall Steam refund rate, which can vary from 4% to over 20%, in my experience (and averages 8-9%, I believe.)
If yours is above average, are there any themes that stand out? There’s additional (slight) color you can glean on overall gameplay frustrations, if you trudge through enough of these dispiriting messages.
Secondly, ‘casual’ player technical support issues sometimes come out more strongly via refund requests than in reviews or via Discord bug report channels.
For example, one of the games I can see requests for has issues with game controller support. We see those weakly via official channels, but more strongly via refund requests. YMMV, but it’s worth poking around in there.
(A dev reminder if you don't know how to access it: refund data is on Steamworks Sales & Activations site, click on ‘Steam packages’ - the game’s ‘home’ page - go to ‘Refund Data’ link on the right.)