"You should never preorder a PC game that's also coming to consoles."
That was my first thought when I heard that Batman: Arkham Knight was experiencing serious issues, and that they were serious enough that the developer itself issued a statement. This sort of thing is sadly common for fans of PC gaming, and we should learn by now that buying any PC version of a big-name console game at launch is a high-risk way to spend money.
Then I remembered that Steam is now offering refunds to players if they've played for less than two hours or within two weeks of a game's purchase. That gives you plenty of time to test the game's performance on your system, see if it's satisfactory and then make the decision to either keep or return the game.
Now, heck. If you like those preorder bonuses go ahead and pick the game up. You have nothing to lose if it doesn't work. Outside of the 30 seconds it takes to ask for a refund.
Steam's refund system is built for situations like this. In the past you would have no recourse if you bought a game that didn't work. The player would be stuck hoping that the developer or the community would fix these issues.
Today you need only hit a few buttons on Steam and your money is returned. Developers and publishers can no longer hold your money hostage behind opaque or non-existent refund systems; if they don't hold up their end of the bargain, they lose your cash.
It's important to remember that EA's Origin system already offers a similar system for refunds.
You may return EA full game downloads (PC or Mac) and participating third party titles purchased on Origin for a full refund. Refund requests can be made within 24 hours after you first launch the game, within seven days from your date of purchase, or within seven days from the game’s release date if you preordered, whichever comes first. And if you purchase a new EA game within the first 30 days of its release date and can’t play it due to technical reasons within EA’s control, you can request a refund within 72 hours after you first launch the game instead of 24.
Worried about the newest Battlefield not working? You have recourse if it doesn't.
This system is actually more welcoming for preorders: In the past I would never, ever give anyone money for a PC release ahead of time. Why risk it when so many releases are broken at launch? I'd rather hang back, wait until we have word that ws and then hand over my money.
Now that there is zero risk that you'll be stuck with a dud game if it doesn't work, I'm much more likely to lay out money for preorder incentives and preloads. You can buy with confidence. It's not your risk anymore, it's theirs. If they mess up they don't get to keep your money.
You have nothing to lose if it doesn't work
Steam's refund policy allows us to buy much more comfortably, and even preorder to get the game downloaded and ready before launch. The risk to developers is they don't get to keep our money if the game is a buggy mess, but I'm fine with the idea that they finally have to deal with that risk in a meaningful way now; my money doesn't enter their balance sheet until they deliver a game that works and they know I'm going to keep.
Offering refunds on the platform level is a powerful motivator to release working games at launch. They're not playing with our money anymore, they're messing with their own profits when they release a buggy game.
If you want to keep all that sweet, sweet preorder money? Better deliver the goods. If not, we get to take it back.