Steam Trading Cards

A simple idea that’s good for everyone.
A portrait photograph of Gareth Latty.

Steam trading cards are the best thing to happen to the gaming industry in a while.

Why? Game developers are constantly looking at avenues to make more money - large games are getting more expensive, indie titles are expected to have more polish, the markets are getting larger so more money is wanted to invest into new IP and gamers expect to pay less for games.

Some game developers use this all as something to whine about - they complain and try things like stopping resale of their games, cutting game content and making it into day one DLC, or price increases. This, I believe is a bad route that shows no respect for the customer and pushes them away.

With something very simple, Valve have managed to create a system that rewards themselves, gamers, developers and doesn’t hurt anyone.

The trading card system will be familiar to TF2 players - just as one gets item drops playing TF2, steam users get card drops playing any games that have support enabled. These can be used to craft ‘badges’ increasing your steam experience (a largely meaningless score) and getting you a few aesthetic improvements for your profile.

There is a market where you can buy and sell these cards - and most of them seem to trade at around 10-15p, with rare ‘foil’ cards trading at 80p-£1.

So why is it a good thing? Well, firstly it gets gamers used to micro-transactions. It has long been acknowledged that micro-transactions would be great for the internet in general - content that reaches a wide range of people, can cost virtually nothing to each person, and still net a nice profit for the content creator.

It provides an additional meta-game that some people enjoy, and people that don’t care for it can completely ignore it - better than that, they can just sell the cards they get on the market and get a pound or two off their next game. For free.

Valve get a 5% cut and the developer gets a 10% cut. The developer is earning money for providing a few pieces of artwork. It’s a no-brainer that is placing money into developer’s hands, and the people paying for it are the ones who have the money to spare and are happy to spend a few quid here or there for stuff that isn’t game changing.

It’s long been accepted that the hardcore with disposable income can be the centre of a content producers income. Music fans buying merchandise have propped up artists as they start up, and we know some gamers are willing to spend. This is a win for everyone, and shows you don’t have to be bad to your customers to make money.