It seems Rockstar Games isn’t the only company making waves in digital retail. Used games are the bane of games publishers, and the primary thing keeping GameStop from going out of business. They’ve remained a fixture in the physical realm, but digital gaming has never had resold CD keys. Many have proposed solutions, such as blockchain-powered games sales. We may see those solutions finally put to the test. If the French consumer group UFC Que Choisir has their way, digital gaming will face several unique challenges. The union wants Steam to let users resell their games, a simple concept with a lot of weight behind it.
Starting back in 2015, the group has won a French court ruling that Steam must allow its users to resell their games. However, Valve intends to appeal this decision, and believe it or not, you may want to root for Valve.
Valve’s in Hot Water with France
Thanks to French gaming site Numerama (translated by Kotaku), we now know the High Court of Paris ruled in UFC-Que Choisir’s favor earlier this week. This ruling applies specifically to France given the legislative approach that’s been taken. Valve’s argument was that Steam is a “subscription service”, an argument that fell flat even in the realm of software licensing.
Additional rulings included that Valve should also compensate users for remaining credit is in their Steam Wallet, should they leave the platform and request reimbursement. As well, Valve’s control over users mod and community would be decreased. Finally, Valve would have to clarify their conditions warranting users being banned from Steam for bad behavior. However, Steam allowing users to resell their games remains the primary sticking point, for good reason.
What this means for Steam
Valve is now appealing the ruling, stating in an e-mail to Kotaku, “We disagree with the decision of the Paris Court of First Instance and will appeal it. The decision will have no effect on Steam while the case is on appeal.” If they fail to appeal the court decision and refuse, they’ll be facing a monthly 3,000 euro penalty for a maximum of six months; which may be a small dent financially, but could lead to future legal ramifications.
However, Valve’s stance on Steam is always flexible to that of lawsuits and outrage. It was due to an Australian case in 2014 that Steam finally implemented a clearer refund policy. The attempt to implement commercial mods on Steam with Skyrim was met with major backlash, all but permanently halting the feature being explored further.
The Community Chimes In
This latest ruling, while still not solidified, is already shaking up conversation in the developer community. Rami Ismail of Vlambeer had several thoughts to share on the matter.
In response, digital entertainment lawyer Jas Purewal of Purewal & Partners assured that not everything’s doom and gloom. What’s more, Steam might not have to worry about letting users resell their games.
All just over the idea of Steam users reselling their games. Why is it so complicated? That’s a subject worthy of its own article, which GameDaily.biz did a marvelous job of explaining in thorough detail. Put simply, any cheap game can be resold, including indie titles, to the detriment of the original creators. This would also impact how aggressively developers might rely on lootboxes and other gambling mechanics, not to mention microtransactions. We’d also see more and more projects rely on such services as Xbox Game Pass and Origin Access, like lifeboats.
We hope that France and Valve can find a happy compromise; one that benefits rather than harms developers.
How do you feel about all this? Should digital games be resold, and if so, how would you make it so developers aren’t hurt in the process? Share your thoughts below.