News: Chinese Gloom

A two hour time limit isn't an issue for games that are worth the money!
Only loser developers feel the need to attack the consumer’s right to the return or resale of games.

Everybody’s Gone for a Refund has never been particularly kindly disposed towards Microsoft and the Xbox brand, but credit where it is due; this week Microsoft looks to have taken a huge step toward supporting consumer rights in relation to Xbox One digital purchases. Xbox One owners will be able to administer a self-service refund for any digital game provided that less than two weeks have passed since its initial purchase, and provided that the customer has not played more than two hours of it. This is a brilliant consumer-oriented policy which brings the Xbox marketplace in line with Steam’s own customer protections – but not everybody is happy.

The Chinese Room, maker of shit walking simulators, is deeply upset by this pro-consumer policy on the grounds that it damages the industry, namely themselves.

It’s REALLY simple. Refunds should operate off a percentage of game completed. Simple, fair, representative. This 2 hour thing is just cock

So refunds should be based on completion percentage, should they? And how precisely would that be determined? How would completion percentage be determined for Overwatch? How would completion percentage be determined for Destiny? How would completion percentage be determined for Final Fantasy XIV? Hell, how would completion percentage even be applied to an absolutely linear experience? When refunds are contingent upon a countdown timer then it is uniform for every game, but if they depended on an arbitrary point of content completion then it would be different for every game. Should Microsoft have to consult with every single publisher about every single game in order to determine the cut off point after which customers may not receive a refund? How can customers even be expected to negotiate a returns system which differs radically between games?

The Chinese Room are butthurt about a thing which pretty much affects only them, on account of the fact that they produce short, shitty games with no replay value. They want to negatively impact everyone else in the Xbox ecosystem for the simple reason that they are not confident in the value proposition of their products. For good reason. Here is the thing: The Chinese Room could fall off the face of the earth tomorrow and nobody would even notice. How is anybody expected to fall for their sob story when their games are shockingly mediocre walking sims which can all be finished in under two hours? In the interests of journalism this author reached out to The Chinese Room on Twitter, yet was instantly blocked for making an impossible suggestion:

How about designing a game that can hold a person’s attention for over two hours? Crazy, I know…

The Chinese Room can choose to block people on Twitter and carry on making an awful fuss, or they can choose to be better. They might like to view themselves as being victims of circumstance, yet they have every opportunity required to improve their craft and better their situation. If they are ultimately too lazy or rigid to produce a product that they can have faith in, then why are they releasing anything at all onto the Xbox storefront?

... Not some chintzy piece of crap!
This is the real NES Classic…

Nintendo Stops Production of NES Classic could never be accused of being enthusiastic cheerleaders for the NES classic. This was a $60 plug-and-play, with cheap build quality, a tiny cord, and admittedly decent emulation. It is absolutely insane that anybody could really want one of these things other than as a diversion for small children who are too young for an expensive console, Yet want it they do – and they still want it.

A combination of scalpers and deliberately conservative shipments of stock has meant that a lot of regular people who wanted one of these things have not been able to get one because they cannot be found in stores. The only way to get an NES Classic is to pay several times what it is worth on Ebay, and thanks to Nintendo that is how it always will be. Nintendo has announced that the latest shipment of NES Classics they have sent out will be the last – so thanks for alerting scalpers to that fact, Nintendo. That was really fucking helpful!

People have suggested that Nintendo of Japan is doing this because the $2 these games are essentially priced at on the NES Classic is under-pricing them in relation to the $5 they could potentially sell for on the Nintendo Switch. Of course Switch owners would not effectively purchase 30 NES Virtual Console titles in a single sitting, which to a rational person may seem like a fair trade-off for the cheaper price, but then Nintendo just pathologically hates the idea that someone is getting something for nothing, or even at a reduced cost. Then again perhaps Nintendo just got buttmad at the literally tens of dozens of people who have modified their NES Classics to play ROMs off an SD card.

Better to just play it on Wii U if you have one gathering dust.
Breath of the Wild’s popularity transcends the Switch.

Breath of the Wild Outsells the Switch

Nintendo has this week revealed the launch month American sales figures for both the Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for March. Given that Breath of the Wild was essentially the only launch game for the Switch it is little surprise that every Switch owner bought a copy, but what is actually a bit surprising is that the Switch version of Breath of the Wild actually sold a small but substantial amount more than the Nintendo Switch console, meaning that there is a greater than 1:1 attach rate.

The Nintendo Switch sold 906,000 units in March, while the Switch version of Breath of the Wild sold 925,000 units – meaning that an additional 19,000 more units of the game sold than did the hardware to play it on! Nintendo is blaming this on the people who bought two copies of the game; a regular version to play and a collector’s edition to gather dust, but one has difficulty imagining 19,000 people doing this. One wonders to what extent this can be blamed on the fact that the game only supports one game save per Switch user account. The Wii U version of Breath of the Wild has sold an additional 460,000 copies, meaning that all up the game has sold 1.36 million copies in the Americas.

906,000 units of Switch hardware sold might be an impressive number for Nintendo, but is this figure really all that impressive for the launch month of a console? One recalls several weeks back when all the Nintendo fanbabies were talking big about how this was the biggest launch ever – but the momentum certainly does not look to have carried through.

Perhaps this drop-off will ultimately be attributable to Nintendo producing too few consoles for launch, but in the absence of any compelling information to the contrary it kind of just looks like the Switch has sold very quickly to a small hard core of Nintendo fanboys, and that being done the sales have subsequently fallen off a cliff.

That said, this interpretation may quickly be debunked if subsequent shipments of the console result in a resumption of substantial sales spikes. To put things into perspective: the PS4 sold a million units during its first 24 hours on sale in America, which is several orders of magnitude greater than what Nintendo has accomplished.


  1. The Chinese Room studio is roughly a 25 minute walk from my front door. I can go and deliver any tweets they choose to block the same day ^_^

  2. LOL, I might even take you up on that offer!!

    Blocking is bitch-tier, especially given that what I said to them was only very mild criticism. It was even constructive criticism – if they fixed their shit then refunds wouldn’t be a problem.

  3. The position adopted by XBox (matching Steam’s own refund policy) is reasonable without being excessively generous either to consumers or developers. Two hours is a pretty solid length of time: more than enough to determine if a game is fundamentally flawed or simply broken, but not so long that a consumer can get a substantial experience and then refund it disingenuously.

    No doubt a lot of shitty developers are going to be upset because that’s going to be a lot of returns from people who bought the game based on shilling from their journo-pro allies, but quickly found out that it was instead a pile of shit!

  4. It is a fair compromise, and it empowers all the right people, while inconveniencing invertebrates and scum.

  5. @SiliconNooB Consider it done. Won’t be today, though I’ll be sure to head there and do it!

  6. I’m looking forward to SN claiming that he flew to Britain exclusively for the purpose of posting his tweet to them directly.

  7. One way that they could base refunds off of completion percentage would be to build it into the achievement system. Once a player gets a particular achievement, they lose the ability to get a refund. Of course, this system would have heaps of issues as Microsoft would need to implement a set of rules for said achievement, each game would need to be tested by Microsoft to ensure it meets the standards, and gamers could simply avoid triggering the achievement.

    As was stated before, the 2 hour time limit is the easiest and most consistent system. It isn’t Microsoft’s fault that Dear Esther costs $9.99 but can almost be beaten twice before the 2 hour time limit expires.

  8. @Gyme/SN: I think the implication of SN’s tweet–that it is not acceptable to charge consumers for a ‘game’ that lasts less than 2 hours–is reasonable. That is a very low bar indeed.

  9. @Gyme: It would be possible to tie returns to completion via achievements, but each game would require a different solution, and then Microsoft would have to check that each of these solutions don’t abuse consumer rights, and then consumers would have to be somehow alerted to where each arbitrary cutoff point is placed…

    It takes a problem that very specifically belongs to The Chinese Room [because they make shit games], and then makes it everybody else’s problem.

    I own several digital games that are significantly shorter than two hours [Metal Slug 3, Sengoku, Double Dragon I&II] and yet it has never occurred to me to want a refund because the content is satisfying and there is a bunch of replay value.

  10. @Lusi: I don’t have any issue with companies charging for games that are shorter than 2 hours. If the price is right and it’s a quality game, people won’t ask for a refund.

    @SN: Exactly. The achievements “solution” would cause many more migraines than any actual solutions. Consumers give up many benefits when purchasing digital games, giving them a clear and consistent way to get a refund should be no issue to any company that is willing to stand behind its product. Considering that Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture have more mixed and negative Metacritic user reviews than positive ones, it’s quite obvious why The Chinese Room isn’t a fan of this policy.

    Also, imagine a refund policy based on completion percentage for their games. If 10% was the threshold, it would amount to a whole 6 – 8 minutes of Dear Esther and a whopping 30 minutes of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.

  11. I’m pretty sure that Lusipurr and another staff member [Adeki?] even covered Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and found it to be as terrible as it looks.

    I also find it hilarious that the way that Chinese Room chooses to make their games longer is by slowing down the walking speed to a crawl – disrespecting the player’s time is always terrible game design.

  12. @SN: I’m pretty sure that Lusipurr and another staff member [Adeki?] even covered Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and found it to be as terrible as it looks.

    That was Blitzmage. And even despite his high tolerance for that sort of game, he thought it was awful too. We have a review on the site–I gave it an F.

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