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It's time Valve owns up to its part in skin gambling

Posted on 8th Jul 2016 at 16:03 by Jake Tucker with 14 comments

Jake Tucker
This week has been a big one for YouTuber drama, with news breaking that two prominent streamers had been unmasked as the owners of a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive betting site called CSGO Lotto.

I won't try to explain it all, but professional streamers Trevor 'TMarTn' Martin and Tom 'ProSyndicate' Cassell created the site and then pretended to have just discovered it in order to showcase it to their viewers and generate interest. This video below from H3H3 productions, highlights exactly what the pair have been up to, and it's pretty much the shadiest thing I've seen in games for a while. But what people haven't got around to yet is that this boom in shady videogame gambling practices is largely Valve's fault.

You can find out more on the scandal with this great video below.


Both parties insist they've done nothing wrong, with TmarTn insisting he did nothing wrong once or twice a day in video blogs on YouTube before deleting them in short order. It's a mess. But while they've both definitely screwed up (and are being sued for it), this wouldn't have happened if Valve hadn't tried to make a loophole allowing it to create slot machines for teenagers with its crate system. As the H3H3 video points out, when opening the crates in CS:GO, they spin exactly like a slot machine, the difference here being that you can play this particular slot machine from 13 years of age.

Sure, secondary markets to flog in-game items have sprung up since the early days of eBay, and developers have tried to discourage resellers in a variety of different ways with varying success. With CS:GO though, the sites in question require you to log into the site with your Steam account so that you can use your cosmetic items as tokens, Valve could have stopped this at any time, but through trying to make these items cost money - items sold through the Steam marketplace generate a cut for Valve - it has allowed an entire industry of gambling sites to thrive. These sites manage to remain unregulated because officially these skins aren't representative of real money, but when some of these skins can sell for several thousands of dollars, it's about time Valve stepped in and straightened up its act. Because it hasn't publicly intervened so far, Valve has ensured that CS:GO's culture is now intertwined with gambling.

The worst part is that if you're 13, old enough according to Steam's terms and conditions to have an account of your own, then you're old enough to gamble on these sites. How many other gambling setups let you gamble with, potentially, several thousand pounds worth of tokens when you're barely old enough to venture down to a playground by yourself?

Valve's silence on this issue has been a tacit endorsement for too long, but it's time it owned up to its role in creating this industry and started taking steps to shut it down.

14 Comments

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ssj12 9th July 2016, 19:34 Quote
Classic NeoPets back like 15 - 20 years ago had slot machine games and other gambling styled games for their in-game currencies. And that site is meant for children under 13. And you could pay cash for in-game items and trade them as well. Its virtually the same.

Honestly, it doesnt bother me very much at all. Scumbags like those scamming streamers who lied should be decried, but overall this is no better or worse then account selling in WoW, Clash of Clans, DBZ Dokkan Battles, etc.
Gareth Halfacree 9th July 2016, 21:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssj12
Classic NeoPets back like 15 - 20 years ago had slot machine games and other gambling styled games for their in-game currencies. And that site is meant for children under 13. And you could pay cash for in-game items and trade them as well. Its virtually the same.
I once won the jackpot on the Neopeia Lottery. Spent the whole wodge on my own private island. They took the cash, but never unlocked my island. I never played NeoPets again.

It still hurts, even today.
mi1ez 10th July 2016, 23:04 Quote
By the same standard, shouldn't most free games be removed from Play/iTunes?
Bluephoenix 11th July 2016, 04:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mi1ez
By the same standard, shouldn't most free games be removed from Play/iTunes?

if it stops the rampant abuse of player psychology to make players into ATMs instead of using it for making fun games, I don't see the problem.

with great power comes great responsibility, and the games industry is due for a dose of responsibility with how hard some developers are willing to abuse the ability they have to shape the play habits and spending habits of their userbases, especially those with low self-control (there are a few slimy examples of designers explicitly targeting this population segment)
Xir 11th July 2016, 06:02 Quote
I don't quite understand what it is they're doing...but I've never been attracted to any kind of gambling anyway.
NOr to in-game-buys really.
JakeTucker 11th July 2016, 11:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
I once won the jackpot on the Neopeia Lottery. Spent the whole wodge on my own private island. They took the cash, but never unlocked my island. I never played NeoPets again.

It still hurts, even today.

I read this comment at the weekend and i'm still annoyed on your behalf, Gareth.
Main Scratcher 11th July 2016, 12:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
I once won the jackpot on the Neopeia Lottery. Spent the whole wodge on my own private island. They took the cash, but never unlocked my island. I never played NeoPets again.

It still hurts, even today.

May I ask what happened? Did you win in-game currency which you spent, but never received the in-game goods? I apologize if you rather not talk about it. Please ignore if so.

Sorry if this belongs in its own thread but:

I thought I had followed video games for the longest of time, yet I had not heard of NeoPets. I went on Wikipedia to read about it and was surprised to learn about their methods of making money, especially how directed at children they were.

I remember playing Shenmue back in 1999 (Japanese version) and loved how the game incorporated famous brands with their in-game items and environment. In NeoPets they speak of immersive advertising and I wonder if it is slightly similar? The inclusion of online marketing surveys was a little shocking. The US version of Shenmue has a Teen rating, which means that content is generally suited for ages 13 and up.

This is the same as the NeoPets age limit, right? But here you can buy items with real money. Do 13 year olds have credit cards now or are they still using their parents'?

Is the game still alive and kicking using the same in-game economy and marketing methods?
DbD 12th July 2016, 14:23 Quote
Tbh I had never considered the detail of this. As someone who doesn't give a **** what his gun looks like this sort of business had always seemed like a way for people to part with their money funding valve to make games that end up very cheap for people with more sense like me to play.

However yes it is quite clearly gambling, and if I caught my 14 year old doing that I'd come down on them like a ton of bricks.

Oh 13 year old's don't get credit cards but they do get debit cards which can be used to pay for steam games and by extension to gamble on these sites (obviously the money has to be in the account first).
JakeTucker 13th July 2016, 09:09 Quote
You don't even need the debit card, you can sell items on your steam account to get money to spend on skins/ect.
Gareth Halfacree 13th July 2016, 09:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Main Scratcher
May I ask what happened? Did you win in-game currency which you spent, but never received the in-game goods?
Yes. NeoPets had an in-game currency, which you could earn by playing games. One of the games you could play was a lottery, which worked exactly like a real lottery: you paid in-game currency for a ticket (or tickets) and if your numbers were picked, you won. I bought a ticket - my first and only - and my numbers came up, to the tune of some massive amount of in-game currency. With so much cash burning a hole in my pocket, I opted to buy a private island - the most expensive thing you can do in-game. The currency was deducted from my account immediately, but the purchase process warned it could take up to a week for the island to be unlocked (I'm guessing, here, that it's a manual process, likely thanks to the fact that nobody except a rare lottery winner could ever afford to buy one in the first place.)

A week went by. Then two. Then three. Emails to customer services were ignored. So, I stopped playing.

To be honest, I was never a massive NeoPets fan. I just liked the minigames, an itch which could be easily scratched on any Flash site ever. Oh, and no real-world money ever changed hands: the only thing I truly lost was my time.
Main Scratcher 20th July 2016, 12:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree

A week went by. Then two. Then three. Emails to customer services were ignored. So, I stopped playing.

To be honest, I was never a massive NeoPets fan. I just liked the minigames, an itch which could be easily scratched on any Flash site ever. Oh, and no real-world money ever changed hands: the only thing I truly lost was my time.

Thanks for the explanation. I wonder, did they continue offering this lottery type and do you know if anybody else ever won enough in-game currency to afford something similar, and if so, did they end up getting it?
jrs77 20th July 2016, 13:04 Quote
F2P and ingame- or item-shops are the worst. I'd really like to see this business-model being banned alltogether.

I either buy the game and have all content available, or I'll pay a monthly subscription with all the content available. Everything else is a ripoff.
JakeTucker 20th July 2016, 17:58 Quote
Looks like Valve have brought the hammer down. http://imgur.com/a/qCKwk
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