As the prospect of games going the digital route has been met with a mixture of optimism and fear by gamers, attention is turning to the online markets for selling, trading and giving away digital games over Steam, Valve’s popular all-digital gaming platform. While the potential decline of physical copies will likely result in the decline of the retail markets, the internet appears to be the new frontier for people looking to trade games or acquire them at a deep discount. Could there be a silver-lining to the dark cloud of the declining disc? There very well could be.
In August 2011, Steam beta tested their trading sysem, which allowed gamers to trade or give away any game purchased as a gift or received as an extra copy, as well as in-game items for popular titles such as Team Fortress 2 and Portal 2. This has since become a permanent feature on the Steam system and it has greatly benefited gamers who are looking to acquire games through methods other than purchasing them outright at full price.
Obviously seeing a need in the market, a handful of websites have launched to help connect people to others looking to trade games, as well as to monitor discounts and sales on the Steam service. These sites introduce a networking and community component, which helps people quickly and easily find trades and deals with would have otherwise gone overlooked.
Two sites in particular are designed to give Steam gamers an outlet for trading and gifting their games. The first is SteamTrades.com, an online forum in which you can post details on the game you wish to trade, or ones that you are actively seeking. This in turn allows people to respond and you can then haggle and strike up a deal. Since the site is designed around the Steam community and trading, the risk is mitigated by the fact that no money changes hands. The second site, Steamgifts.com, is a more novel idea. On this site, people can give away everything from in-game items and DLC to full games, with each one being handled as a contest giveaway. A clever points system is in place to prevent people from entering every giveaway on the site, and it also ensures that everyone has a fair chance to win.
If trading is not your thing and you are more of a bargain-hunter, SteamGameSales.com might be more your cup of tea. It is a conduit of sorts that keeps up with all the latest sales on Steam games, as well as other services such as other sites like GOG.com and GamersGate.com. The site contains up-to-date information on the current games on sale, and you can filter the selection by title, discount percentage and other identifiers. The Steam service is well known for offering deep discounts on games, often for limited periods of time, so a site like this is invaluable for those who gobble up these inexpensive games like penny candy.
A lot has been written about what the next generations of gaming technology will bring, and one thing that never seems to be in dispute is that digital technology will become a more prevalent force, if not completely take over one day. In an article I recently published, I discussed the drawbacks of digital distribution as they might apply in the future when games go all digital and publishers drop support for games, thus rendering them unplayable. While this might not help with the latter, these online networks do show some initiative on the part of gamers to keep the spirit of trading and selling discounted games alive. For those who, like myself, are apprehensive about digital media taking over, this is encouraging indeed.