Valve has announced changes to its Steam game trading policy, attempting to crack down on resale of illegitimately-acquired keys by preventing trades being made in the first 30 days after purchase.
Valve's Steam digital distribution platform has long supported 'gift' purchases. When a game is bought as a gift, the buyer receives it in his or her inventory but cannot play it; instead, the gifted game can be transferred into the inventory of any other Steam user. It's a neat way to allow gamers to purchase titles for each other, but combined with Steam's trading system creates a loophole exploited by scammers: buy a game with a fake or stolen credit card, or simply request a chargeback with the issuing card provider post-purchase, and you can trade the gift with other Steam users. When the purchase is found to be illegitimate, the final recipient - who has done nothing wrong - sees the game disappear from his or her inventory.
The system is also used to exploit the often inequitable international market for games, purchasing games as gifts in one region to resell via trading in another where - due to publisher decisions or simply currency exchange rates and local tax laws - the game is considerably more expensive.
Valve's new policy, announced late last night, is designed to clamp down on these loopholes. From now on, any game purchased as a gift cannot be traded for 30 days post-purchase. 'The gift may still be gifted at any time. The only change is to trading,
' Valve's Tony Paloma clarified in the announcement
late last night. 'We've made this change to make trading gifts a better experience for those receiving the gifts. We're hoping this lowers the number of people who trade for a game only to have the game revoked later due to issues with the purchaser's payment method.
Reception to the move has not been entirely smooth, with critics claiming it does more to protect Valve and block the market for grey imports than protect end-users. A petition
was launched in an attempt to convince Valve to change its mind, but at the time of writing has attracted just 403 signatures.