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Sega gets me Steamed

Customer Support | Friday, February 2nd, 2007 | 10 years, 10 months ago

Sorry in advance for a pretty lazy account of an otherwise interesting series of correspondences between Steam, Sega, and I. Crazy busy workweek.

~~~

What’s a Torontonian to do in the throes of snow storms? Walk for 10 minutes to the 2 game stores around the corner? Hell no! The tropical screenshots tickled my vacation bone so I purchased Sega‘s Outrun 2006 Coast 2 Coast from Steam for $19.99 US. Oops.

The purchase procedure was as easy as ever, and the game began downloading immediately at full speed (about 600KB/s on my connection). I downloaded the 1.5GB game in less than an hour and eagerly double-clicked the icon. I cranked the quality settings, picked a car, chose a song (Magical Sound Shower, of course) and let ‘er rip.

I got about 3 minutes into my first race (which looked like a PS1 game with antialiasing, by the way) when the video froze and the speakers let out a high-pitched whine. The computer froze real good – no alt-tabbing, no alt-F4ing, no Num Lock LED response, nada.

I suspected the buzzing sound might be indicative that it was finally time to replace my onboard AC97 sound chip with my problematic but beloved Audigy 2 so I opened up my machine, slapped in the card, installed the latest drivers, and was good to go. A few media players and games worked great (and much louder) with the new card so I gave Outrun another attempt. Buzzzz. Reboot.

Frustrated, I checked for help on Steam’s forums which, surprisingly, considering its inconceivably active userbase, served no useful information about my predicament, nor could I find anything useful elsewhere on Steam’s page. (nuff commas, Brian!) The only useful tidbit was a page stating that third-party software issues should be addressed directly to the developer. Steam kindly provided a direct link to Sega Support.

I concisely described my situation to Sega as follows:

I recently purchased Outrun 2006 Coast To Coast for PC from Steam (www.steampowered.com). I try to play the game but after several seconds I hear a high-pitched whine (from the speakers) and my computer crashes and cannot be recovered without rebooting.

I play many games on my PC without trouble. I have a fairly modern and powerful computer in good working order. Can you please assist me in fixing this problem?

Thanks

A week after contacting Sega I’d received no response. I wrote a quick letter to Steam asking for some kind of intervention, solution, or a refund. 4 days went by and I received no reply from either company, so I emailed Steam once more requesting some human contact. Less than an hour later Steam replied, stating that my credit card would be credited with a refund within the week and that the game had been disabled in my account. Great! Except for the last line in Steam’s email:

Please note in the future that Steam purchases, per the Steam Subscriber Agreement, are not refundable – this refund was issued as a one-time customer service gesture.

This really didn’t sit well with me. Being the self-righteous sort I replied, stating, in part:

I’m disappointed to hear your claim that this is a one-time courtesy. I feel that, as a retailer, Steam is obligated to stand behind the products it sells. I’d have hoped that this would entail requiring a set of standards regarding technical support for third-party publishers like Sega (who still hasn’t replied to my support request) since I’m disappointed that I won’t get to play Outrun. However, since the game did not work for me and there was no one available to offer support, I expect Steam to ensure my satisfaction one way or another.

To which Steam replied shortly thereafter:

That’s really a “Standard Response” issue. Our subscriber agreement specifically notes that there are no refunds through Steam, but in such events as a complete inability to play the game and a response within days of purchase, it is evaluated by a support person such as myself. If a similar problem arises in the future, you may feel comfortable that such a request will certainly be viewed by human eyes and the circumstances evaluated before rendering a judgement on whether we should offer a refund.

The “No refunds” policy is there simply to protect us from abuse by gamers who can finish a game quickly and then attempt to get a refund. It’s a peril of electronic payment and distribution.

Thank you for detailing your concerns.

In the end Steam had provided me a refund, a quick reply to my comment, and even an explanation about why the customer is right even though this ever-waning adage is risky for electronic retailers. Except for the 4 day lapse between my initial support submission and their response I am completely satisfied with the way Steam handled this situation. Except for when I challenged Sierra to make good on a satisfaction-guaranteed promise for King’s Quest 7 this was the only time I’d ever been issued a refund for a piece of software in my 20+ years of computing. Highly impressive.

As for Sega, I doubt I’ll be buying their products again. A full 2 weeks after submitting my support request I received the following automated response: (this is an excerpt)

Thank you for your interest in Sega. In our attempt to assist you as quickly as possible, we have sent this automatic reply to you based on the most common sets of questions we receive from our customers.

If the following text (or links) does not answer your question(s) or address your concern(s), please reply and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Thank you,
Sega Customer Support
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
How do I setup my Dreamcast?
http://www.sega.com/support/supportsys.php?item=support_systems_dreamcast#setup

How do I clean/care for my Dreamcast (i.e. lens, batteries)?
http://www.sega.com/support/supportsys.php?item=support_systems_dreamcast#care

Please use lens cleaner made for “plastic” lenses, which will generally be fluid based.

Where do I send my Dreamcast for repair?
http://www.sega.com/support/supportsys.php?item=support_systems_dreamcast#repairs

Where can I find information on older Sega products?
http://www.sega.com/support/supportsys.php?item=support_systems

Thanks, Sega. Right on target. I leave you today, fair readers, with my response to Sega. I doubt I’ll hear back.

Thank you for sending me numerous links on how to repair my Dreamcast. Unfortunately, this does not assist me in repairing the PC game for which I contacted your technical support department. I appreciate this 2-week-old response from Sega’s top engineering minds.

I’ve already been issued a refund from Steam, quoting Sega’s absence of responsibility along with my displeasure of your product. Steam was very prompt and empathetic in their response and did not delay in ensuring my satisfaction. Rest assured I will happily continue purchasing products via Steam, but will smartly avoid Sega products to avoid a second demonstration of ineptitude from your super team of rocket scientists.

Thank you for your utterly useless reply to my half-month-old plea for product support. I look forward to your response, random though it will surely be. Perhaps you’ll send me travel brochures to Bermuda or mail me a banana? I can’t wait to find out!

>> ATH0 -- NO CARRIER <<



7 Comments

  1. lol a banana hahaha

    did they ever get back to you?

    yeah sega have sure lost the plot.

    Comment by mick — April 13, 2007 @ 12:47 pm

  2. haha “lost the plot”. That’s probably my favourite British idiom since I love the accidental double-entendre of a novel and a graveyard. :)

    Anyhoo, no, Sega never did get back to me – probably because I told them I’d already gotten a refund. They’ve recently stopped support for the Dreamcast so I wonder what they’ll populate their useless generic customer support emails with now!

    Thanks for writing, Mick! Please say hi to Keith and the rest of the Stones for me!

    Comment by brian — April 13, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

  3. lol yeah
    back in the 90s i tried to get a warranty fulfilled for my sega game gear, which had died out after many hours spent playing outrun under the covers in my bed, well, they reckoned i had broken it myself or something the warranty didn’t cover, and wanted to charge me to have it repaired, more than the price it was worth, i declined, then they wanted to charge me another fortune to send the dead thing back!
    the whole process took about 6 months.
    terrible eh?

    Comment by mick — April 14, 2007 @ 6:19 am

  4. When I was younger I used to take my Walkman with me wherever I went. I wore big bulky coats that always had 3 or 4 cassettes and 6 or 8 spare rechargeable batteries in my pockets. One of my Walkmen (Walkmans?) broke 6 times in 2 years. Luckily the Sony repair depot was a 10 minute drive from my house. We were fortunate that they let us deliver it right to them, as other companies that were equally close required us to mail the product for repairs regardless of proximity.

    But 6 times in 2 years? I felt so naked without my Walkman. I’ve never had a favourable opinion of Sony products until I got my PS2 last year. Despite how excellently crafted the PS2 is, I figure it’s an exception to the norm. I go out of my way not to buy Sony these days, just like I’ll now go out of my way not to buy Sega despite the excellently crafted Dreamcast.

    Comment by brian — April 14, 2007 @ 7:44 am

  5. haha walkmen (or walkperson if you wanted to be politically correct lol)
    yep i love my ps2 too, it’s awesome, specially considering how small the slimline model is, next to my xbox which it makes look primative,
    but yeah most of the time now sony products are just a generic taiwan/china made part, (isn’t everything?) with a sony badge slapped on and price adjusted.
    ah well, nothin lasts forever (except my big TV which was made in 1986 lol)

    Comment by mick — April 14, 2007 @ 8:27 am

  6. a note: To play this game without hangs (freeze and reboot) make sure your pc is running with “sound acceleration” turned off. (Start/ Run: DXdiag.exe, then “sound” and move the slider to the left (off)
    Now you can run the game without stupid hangs

    Comment by pepe — January 13, 2008 @ 12:56 pm

  7. Apologies, but I am disabling comments for this post. It’s a real spam magnet for some reason.

    Email me at brian@demodulated.com if you’d like me to add a comment on your behalf for this post.

    Comment by brian — July 2, 2008 @ 10:48 am

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