This is an open letter to payware vendors.
I picked up the flight simulation hobby roughly 25 years ago on FS 5.0 (still have the complete box and many later versions). I’ve always downloaded freeware mods/addons and most of the time I would play around with them briefly and then move on. Every now and then something would really capture my interest and I’d stick with it.
Fast-forward to 2020, the new MSFS re-ignites my interest in aviation to a level where I really want accurate and complete simulations and I enter the market as a buyer of payware addons for the first time. However, the same problem happens as with freeware: some addons just fail to hold my attention. Except this time there’s a significant cost associated with these experiments. I start to realize how quickly one can burn through money buying aircraft which sit in your hangar. Or scenery you never see.
The fundamental problem with acquiring a lot of aircraft/scenery is that we can only fly one aircraft at a time in one place at a time. As a result, it’s important to make informed decisions to spend our hard-earned money on products which provide worthwhile entertainment and value. However, the norm in this industry is no trials, no demos, no refunds, all sales are final. How are we supposed to know whether a product is worth the money without getting our hands on it first? How are we supposed to select the best option from multiple, expensive, well-reviewed products and know which one we’ll actually use?
This practice strikes me as predatory, anti-consumer behavior, and I think it should end. I believe some vendors do this on purpose, forcing us to gamble our money on addons, ultimately buying many in an attempt to find the right one. For some reason we accept this, throw our hands in the air and say, “oh well, I guess I made a poor choice.” However, many of us learn from these mistakes and become extremely reluctant to buy new addons. As a result, I do not believe this leads to a healthy, sustainable business in the long run. On the other hand, treating customers well keeps them coming back knowing they will not get burned.
Please change these practices. You may make excuses about piracy, but these arguments do not hold water. The pirates do not suffer from these practices. They work around your DRM (which only affects the legitimate buyers) and your addons collect dust in their hangars for free. And who knows, maybe sometimes they like an addon so much that they decide to buy it.
A refund policy wont change a thing about piracy. The marketplace has no refund, and thats out of our hands. We at Big Radials are always willing to talk to customers about refunds and such. Thankfully, we make good planes, so that never happens
I believe the best way to judge an addon is to see it, companies such as aerosoft, PMDG or Orbx, among others, extensively show their products in videos and pictures so you can judge before buying.
Content creators also showcase most of the products in youtube.
I do not believe demos are necessary nowadays, it would also make life easier for pirates.
Agreed, and thank you for being open to refunds. Still, many of the best addons out there are quite expensive and while I may be completely satisfied with the quality of these expensive products, I may decide afterward that it’s just not quite what I wanted. Maybe I prefer a spitfire over a corsair, or a 747 over a 777. But maybe I don’t know that until after I try them. I think trial/demo options would be a better solution than refunds which should then only be needed in exceptional cases.
I suspect this might be a generational thing – if I’m looking to buy something, I do a fair amount of research, so I’m not often disappointed. I don’t offer refunds via my online store, as this was something I learnt from my old boss – keep the customer happy, and if they have a problem, come up with a solution. A refund is not a solution!
However there are reasons why I’ve given refunds before, the most common is either because of an incompatibility issue, or sometimes my customers forget they already own something and repurchase…
I’m aware that the MSFS addon market is lacking a good, reliable source of reviews, but that’s a need which will be fulfilled, I hope.
I disagree. How an addon looks on youtube is not necessarily an indicator of how much fun I will have flying it. I think you can get a good idea of quality from information online, but that doesn’t tell you how much fun you will have and you can’t know how the product feels until you try it. Also, many online “reviews” are sponsored or from gifted products if they exist at all.
I have always done extensive research when buying anything. I don’t think this is generational. I know many people of many ages who either do or do not research their purchases.
I understand your point, though I can’t share it.
As a content creator myself I can tell you, as far as I know, content creators of msfs are not sponsored by any addon creator (it showed with Captain Sim, which we branded as a scam despite receiving a review copy for free), though paid reviews are a thing for peripherals, so be wary of those.
I will offer an example:
I watched the videos of Aerosoft (CRJ) and PMDG (dc6) and when I finally got them and could fly them myself it felt like I had already flown them, since the videos allowed me to make myself a really good idea of how the plane behaved and performed.
Now, some might prefer to try them themselves, but I am guessing the investment to create a demo would just be too high for most developers.
Fair enough. I 'm not super concerned about low quality products as it’s usually easy enough to weed those out and make an informed decision. And I agree that content providers help me a ton when trying to decide what to buy. I think where I have the biggest difficulty is with the big, well-respected vendors who have many products and I can’t decide which one to pick from their lineup. Or many similar products from different vendors on the same marketplace.
what is big radials. i’d love to try one.
2 things. First, demos make publishers of add-ons less money. Game publishers don’t make demos any more for the same reason.
Second, with the arrival of the huge Xbox audience I could see some publishers experimenting with the price point reducing cost but increasing sales. The current higher price (well above game DLC) seems to be a relic of a smaller audience.
Steam has a 2hr 2 week no quibble refund policy. I have used it a few times, but I have also bought a lot of stuff from steam.
I would rather like to know why a similar policy is so difficult for flight sim addons. It just makes me suspicious.
Actually I think the no refund policy probably pushes prices down.
Unfortunately no amount of research will tell you how an addon is going to run on your machine. (latest example, the new Bristol Airport addon… very mixed results being reported of performance on similar spec machines)
Secondly, most youtubers pump out their reviews as fast as possible for the hits, usually on the day or the day after release. Enough time to catch major problems but not enough time for the “new toy” effect to wear off and to really start finding many issues. I’ve lost count of the planes I’ve bought that reviewers said were great, only to find loads of issues creep up that nobody mentioned.
Any game i buy on steam i can evaluate for 2 hours and refund no questions asked. Plenty of time to check for performance issues at the least and usually enough time to decide if it’s really going to be something you enjoy.
I’ve got £120 worth of addons recently that will never be fired up again for different reasons, none of which I knew about from reviews and none of which i could get a refund for. It’s putting me off buying stuff now. We’re not all loaded and I feel like I’m just burning money at times.
I dont think piracy can be used as any sort of reason for not doing trials/demos or no questions refunds. In fact to me it seems pretty logical that this consumer unfriendly approach is far more likely to increase piracy.
Great to hear Big Radials are open to talk to customers about refunds. Respect to you guys for that. Devs that are known to be consumer friendly go to the top of my purchasing list.
now to be clear, there has to be a good reason for a refund too. The “i tried the plane, flew for 3 weeks but now i dont want it anymore” is just not gonna work lol. And it obviously only works if it has been purchased direct from our website.
Just be pleased you’re not paying DCS World prices and their “absolutely no refunds” “because of the nature of digital downloaded content”, and imo they have zero excuse for this because they have direct control over who gets to use their products with their strict activation every 3 days system. So they can easily just stop your account from using any particular module - but no, they’d rather have your money and tough luck to you if the product is full of bugs, the 3rd party vendor just walks away, or you find the module a big disappointment or whatever.
But it’s always been his way for digital content - not that I agree with it, but that’s what you have to accept if you are interested in buying it.
Go and look at the train sim guys and their costs etc with TranSim 20xx from Dovetail Games. You can’t run many add-ons without buying half a dozen other add-ons and all costing you and all non-refundable. Soon adds up. People have been complaining about it for years and yet no change - nor will it any time soon for any add-ons for any sim.
You might be lucky to find a dev or publisher who will consider it (Just Flight come to mind - though not always, but I’ve had a couple of refunds from them and a couple more offered which I decided not to take), but they are few and far between.
I now buy nothing unless I am positive it will be used and that I know what I’m getting - as far as possible.
You should be able to refund without any reason. It just shouldn’t be 3 weeks but something like 48h.
Not offering refunds actually saves me a lot of money because i simply buy less stuff. Like when i buy something on steam i sometimes risk and buy something i’m not sure i’ll like and sometimes i like it, sometimes i refund it. Can’t do the same with flight sim addons so i just stay away from most of them.
I know i’ll buy anything made by asobo if the price is right and i have an interest in that aircraft because i know what to expect.
This is especially huge issue for noobs. Providing demos or refunds at least would only increase sales. Obviously it would decrease sales of poorly made addons but hey, that’s how it supposed to work right?
Piracy will exist either way. Paying customers should never suffer because of pirates. Having good service and providing good products will always pay off.
You can refund DCS modules. At least that’s possible on steam, i’ve seen people getting refunds.
Digital products are no different, there are laws and it’s not for the seller to decide refund or not.
It’s a bit different case with dlc’s though.
But in DCS case it’s not a problem anymore since you can try any module any time for free now for 14 days! And it gets even better, you can try them more than once every 6 months.
This system would be easy to implement using marketplace. A bit more complicated for third party stores. Those with their own launchers could do it easily too. Those without it could just revoke the key after some time but that’s quite complicated i assume.
Trouble is the nature of the MSFS downloadable content means there’s nothing to stop the user getting a refund AND keeping the product. Only way round this would be to have an executable that you have to run in parallel - like the Bell 47 had initially - but users hate that sort of thing. So, how do you protect the user and the developer?
You can’t keep the product if the key is revoked. You only keep the files which are useless without a legit key. You pay money for the license.
Example with games/dlc from any store. You buy it, copy the files somewhere else, refund it. You have the files but you can’t use them, they’re not tied to your account anymore and your access has been revoked. The actual files are useless thus no one is doing that. That doesn’t affect piracy in any way because pirates can get access to files easily. That only affects legit users in a positive way.
That obviously would only work with addons which have drm. I love drm free addons and have a huge respect for those devs but at the same time i feel sorry for them sometimes and completely understand those who take drm measures, especially if they manage to implement a drm which doesn’t affect legit customers and ■■■■■■ off pirates. Anyhow if developer puts effort, communicates, answers questions, gives support they will do fine.