Sunday, 14 July 2013

Steam Trading Cards - Valve's greatest money making scheme to date


Many people in the world are slaves to them, paying thousands a year in their currency just to own a complete set or obtain that ultra rare.  The phenomenal success of trading cards can be traced back many decades now and the urge to collect is within us all and now Valve have tapped into this little part of our brains with their own trading card system recently launched this month.

It's an ingenious little system really.  You simply play the games that have the cards and you are randomly given around half the set simply for playing, but that is it, you can never unlock more through play.  The only way to gain more cards is to trade with other users on Steam to complete your set.  But simply completing the set isn't the main attraction in fact completing the set is tertiary to main goal.

Once you obtain all of the cards for a particular game which can be anywhere between 6 and 10 cards you can them "craft" them into a badge.  Why do this?  Well because it gives you stuff.  You can get profile wallpapers, emoticons, vouchers and even games for completing these sets.  And after you craft your badge you can collect them again to make a better badge and receive more rewards.  Of course you don't need to do any of this if collecting cards aren't your thing, that's where the next layer comes in.

All cards are marketable meaning you can sell them on the steam store for real money on your account.  Cards average around 20 pence here in the UK so if you collect enough you can make a little money for literally nothing.  In fact it's not just the cards but the profiles and emotes that are marketable so if you get that rare item from crafting you can make even more money.  Cards can also come in foil varieties which make a rarer badge again.  Foil cards are also worth more individually so owning these can mean several pounds worth of sales if you don't want them.

Valve have effectively created a new incentive for people to buy games on their system.  You get the cards for playing and being a hardcore collector means you can always strive to unlock those better badges and show off to your friends or strangers via your profile.  People will simply buy some games just because there are cards to be earned and this means more sales.  It's a cynical way of looking at it but many players are obsessives when it comes to things like achievements, trophies or even game completion.  Owning every badge is another layer here of completeness for your games, at least on steam anyway.

But what about those of us who aren't interested in trading?  Well once you earn all of your card drops from a game you become eligible for a booster pack which contains cards from random sets.  I am unsure how often these packs are distributed but I would imagine they are weekly at least, the only catch is that you have to log in to steam at least once a week to maintain your eligibility.

We are in the midst of the latest steam summer sale and the cards are being pushed hard with each new day of sales bringing more games into the list that have cards.  Eventually every game will have them since it will become a mandatory part of the steam submittal process.  For many I imagine these cards are a new minor annoyance, another facet of steam they didn't ask for but for a majority this is the beginning of a trading card stock market.

Being able to buy and sell cards on the marketplace allows you to turn a tidy profit if you time your sales and purchases right.  It's an interesting system as players who aren't that into collecting and crafting badges can at least play the market and earn some money by simply playing their games.  Given time you could probably amass enough money through the sale of cards to outright purchase new games, a rather novel idea really.

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