For a long time, digital videogame purchases lacked one of the basic expectations of physical copies: the ability to get a refund if you change your mind about a purchase.
Thankfully, that's slowly changing. First Valve began offering full refunds through its PC game storefront Steam, and Microsoft has followed suit by announcing refunds for digital copies of Xbox One and Windows 10 games and apps purchased through the Microsoft Store.
For the moment, the feature is still in alpha testing as part of the Xbox One Preview Programme, but here's how it will work when it goes live to all users.
Which games are eligible for refunds?
Microsoft's refund system applies to games and apps for Xbox One or Windows 10, but only if they're purchased through the digital Microsoft Store - you can't buy a game from another retailer and try and get a refund from Microsoft, unsurprisingly.
But even if you do buy your game from the Microsoft Store, it's worth noting that you can't just get a refund for any purchase you make - there are a few requirements you have to meet.
Games and apps are only eligible for a refund within 14 days of purchase, and only if you've played less than 2 hours across all accounts - you can't sink 40 hours into a massive RPG and then try and get your money back!
Downloadable content, season passes, and add-ons aren't eligible for refunds either, just the base games.
Finally, you'll have to wait at least one day after the game's release date before you request a refund, and you have to have downloaded and launched the game at least once - they want to make sure you've actually tried it out first.
Most of those restrictions are in place to help stop abuse of the system, and Microsoft notes that it "reserves the right to block access for users who abuse self-service refunds." That probably means it's best not to treat this as an easy way to get two-hour demos of any game you'd like to try.
Oh, and after all that, Microsoft still says that "certain Windows 10 apps may not be eligible for self-service refunds," though doesn't clarify which ones or why - so sometimes a refund might not be possible even if you follow all the rules.
How do you claim a refund from the Microsoft Store?
Thankfully, the process itself is pretty simple - though be aware it isn't available yet. Right now refunds are only in alpha testing, so if you can't see the option, don't worry. Microsoft will likely roll it out to all users soon enough, and we'll update this when they do.
In any case, once it's going, the steps to claim a refund are pretty simple.
- Sign in to your Microsoft Account.
- From the top menu bar, select Payment & billing > Order history.
- Navigate to the game or app you want to be refunded, and select 'Request a refund'.
And that should be it. You should get an instant refund, without any need to fill in a form or talk to a customer service representative.