Steam Users Are Concerned About Valve's New Gift Policy

As part of a recent round of tweaks to Steam, Valve made some subtle quality-of-life changes to Steam's gifting system. Users, however, pointed out that the consequences are farther-reaching than they initially seem.

What the change is: First and foremost, gifting is now more straightforward. Instead of gifting games to a friend's email address or Steam inventory, the exchange is direct. If somebody declines your gift, the game does not wind up in your inventory, as it would before. Instead, you get a refund. Also, cross-country gifting — which is gifting between regions, not gifting while running 5km and wishing you had friends in high school — has been simplified. The game either goes straight into a friend's account or, if there's too much of a price disparity between regions, gifting it to them simply isn't an option.

What people are saying about it: Users have pointed out some downsides. For one, it won't be possible to stockpile gifts and hand them out to whoever, you know, whenever — for instance, during a holiday. You can schedule gifts in advance, but you've gotta have a specific individual in mind. Users from regions that traditionally over-charge for games are especially worried, given that these changes collectively take away their main means of acquiring games at reasonable prices.

Other users, however, note that this will also probably strike a heavy blow to sketchy grey market sites like G2A, seeing as there are now fewer ways for people to acquire Steam keys. Moreover, the way it worked previously was, resellers would sometimes buy a gift, keep it in their inventory, sell a copy of a game on G2A, and then friend whoever they'd sold the game to and give them the game as a gift. Now that's no longer possible. This, when paired with upcoming changes that will allow developers to directly hand out keys to reviewers within Steam (rather than distribute them as exploitable keys), will likely turn that scene on its head.


    Really, this changes nothing in terms of trying to drive more sales via Steam itself. It's still cheaper to buy keys from legit sites for many AAA games than from the Steam store. The contempt publishers have shown to regions like Australia will keep people relying on big sales or key sites. Valve can shoulder some of that blame for charging us in USD too.

      The issue is if those sites will still actually work. Are they operating on the fact you are buying a US key but activating in a different region. Maybe that is only the dodgy ones

        They're targeting gifts at this stage, not keys. You can't get someone to buy a game on Steam from a significantly cheaper territory (like former USSR states) and have that user gift it to you in the US/AU or whatever. Sites like OZGS will keep operating.

        Instead we're likely to see regional keys implemented at some point - they already did something similar with Civ6. When that happens then yeah, we're screwed and the era of cheap PC AAA games will fall. Or we'll go back to buying retail since it's almost cheaper than Steam now!

      Valve should shoulder it just as much. They are interested in their bottom dollar, not or best intrests which is why they never stood up to publishers in the first place (and now with real competition on the digital front, what incentive do they have?).

      Been out of PC gaming for a while and only just coming back now - while I missed the cheaper prices, I sure as hell do not miss that buggy mess Steam or Valves practices.

        I went to console gaming for a bit and came back for various reasons. One thing that struck me was that digital distribution is only cheap from key sites and Steam is horrible value for big titles. Buying Prey on PC on Steam is way more expensive than a PS4 version from JB - it's only cheap to buy from a third party.

        The fact that Valve charge us in USD and tried to weasel their way out of our consumer laws, and then permit absurd regional pricing on top of that has really put me off the platform. Unfortunately Steam now rules the digital roost.

    I was interested in reading the chap from Vietnam's perspective in one of those links but thought it would also affect Australian users as well, surely?

    A bit of a local explainer might not go astray, as it stands this article reads too much like an American speaking directly to Americans, it may as well be written in Swahili.

    I for one did not know about the practice of getting games gifted to me to evade the local price hike that shows no signs of abating, but it's still something I'd like to see elaborated on.

    Will consumer-focused champions of the internet Jim Sterling and Totalbiscuit go into bat for us poor Aussies?

      Authored by Grayson, so it IS by Americans for Americans. With the exception of Plunkett I'd be surprised if the US staff knew we existed.

    Really sucks for things like buying a 4-player multiplayer pack for a game. I often do that on special in the expectation that I'll eventually find people to play it with, not that I have three people plus myself lined up right at that moment.

    Also makes it impossible to gift to people that don't already have Steam, which cuts of surprise gifting and stuff.

    What happens to games in my inventory? Do I get a refund? What do I get for the refund if they've been in there for ages, do I get what I paid or what the game is selling for? Steam credit or sent back to my card?

      The games currently in your inventory stay there and work as before. This only affects new purchases.

        I hope you're right. I buy the odd 2 or 4 pack of games to gift copies to friends and family. I've still got a few sitting in inventory. I'd be pretty annoyed if they became ungiftable :(

        There needs to be some way of gifting cross billing region too. I have family overseas, why shouldn't they be able to gift a game to me or vice versa? I know it's about them trying to stop people saving money buying keys (and to some extent potentially getting ripped off) but they need to realise not every cross-region gift is that scenario.

      My guess is games in your inventory will stay there and work the same way, but new gift purchases will use the new system.

      I agree that it's a little less flexible than the old system, but it's also less clunky. I've still got a Payday 2 beta gift in my inventory that I can't get rid of because the beta is long gone, so I can't gift it or use it. It just sits there.

      I suppose I'm good with the changes, overall.

      That's what I was just thinking... if I buy a 4 pack of something, I don't always have 3 other people in mind to give them all to at the time of purchase. Usually I'll give one to my friend in melb, then ask around to see who wants one. Does this mean I'm gonna have to nominate 3 others at the time of purchase now?

    I'm wondering how this will affect humble bundles which offer gifting as an option?

      I'd say no change. Their "gifts" are simply a key, not a Steam gift. A HB gift just gives the key to someone else.

    Hmm how does this work with bundles? What if you gift one of the games in the bundle to a friend and ask him not to accept it... will you get a refund of the full value of the game?

      No - like half the digital packs on Steam, if you own the game already you just simply don't get another copy or refund.

      Its always listed at the bottom of the bundle - it details if you get a spare copy or get nothing at all if you own one of those titles.

    gg humblebundle

      Why would this affect HB? They give out keys that you can do what you want with, and those keys are sourced from the devs.

    This seems like the best way to fight the grey market with the downsides being understandable. The whole not being able to gift if the price difference is too great is disappointing, but it could have been worse, they could have blocked cross-country gifting all together. I'll be interested to see how much discrepancy is considered "too much".

    @negativezero really pointed out the biggest issue, which is that it'll really drive down incentive to purchase multi-packs. Something I've never done, but can see the appeal of.

      The discrepancy? One cent. Currently, Aussie dollar is worth .99 Canadian cents. I can gift to my boyfriend in Canada, but he cannot gift to me.

        It'll be comparing the CAD to the USD here though, won't it? Regardless, unless there's significant regional pricing differences, that's stupid.

    Well, may as well unsubscribe from /r/SteamGameSwap/ then

    Regional restrictions (which a lot of this boils down to) are really anti consumer.
    It's ugly face appears when buying movies and music too.
    There has been more than one occasion where I've been unable to legally buy a song or remix for months after USA gets it. I've been forced to pirate in order to obtain the songs. It's madness. It just fractures the consumer base when the whole point of the internet is to break down those barriers.
    Imagine if Facebook suddenly only let you talk to someone in your region because the targeted advertising was region specific.
    This needs to stop.

      Some region locks do exist because of differing classification laws between countries.

    So with the issue of gifting being not allowed if there is a big price disparity..... Does that mean no country outside of Australia can gift to Australia?

    What's next, are Valve and other devs/publishers going to take advantage of Australias new content blocking legislation, currently in place to try to hamper movie piracy, to get the key resellers that are far, far cheaper than the greedy steam store blocked in Australia?

    What's next after that, are Valve going to realise Aussies circumvent these blocks by changing their DNS settings, and update the Steam platform to block the activation of game keys (except those from Aussie retail stores) to Australian IP addresses/Australian Credit Cards/Australian Account info?

    What's next after that? after destroying so much of the competition are Valve going to add even more OzTax(tm) to every title on the Steam Store, and collude with the publisers to increase the price of all games for Aussie Retailers so even the local retail copy costs $200.00AUD for the standard edition?

    I have been a steam gift reseller for a few years and I don't think what I was doing is wrong.

    First, the gift I sell is only for the person in my region, for example SEA. Moreover, region locked have been introduced by Steam long time ago. I use my own money to buy that game at a cheaper price during sales and resell it after sales over.

    You guys see this policy is about Valve stopping the usage of stolen credit card? Just how many percent of the seller in the grey market like G2A are using stolen credit card? Too small. In fact, this policy will hurt the developer even more. For example:

    At normal day, game ABC cost 20 USD and during sales it cost 8 USD. Developer estimated that they can cover the cost of making the games at 5 USD. Most of us will wait for Steam Sales especially for non AAA games. During sales is the time for reseller to buy more copy of the games to be resell later after the sales. After this policy, small developer will facing decrements of sale as there is no point for us, reseller to buy more copy.

    The only problem is that I buy games at a discount/sale time and save them in my inventory and then later do giveaways for my steam group. So this will make me stop buying games as much.

    Is it banned to gift games during all the sales or just the summer sale? e.g halloween,winter autumn...

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