How Would Digital Resale Work?

The question came to mind yesterday morning. I was just reading through my usual morning list of sites, and PC gamer had produced an article talking about how Valve is being sued in Germany over the inability to resell used games on their service. Now I’m sure a lot of you just scoffed at the very idea, and in fact that was my first impression as well. I mean, digital download means the only thing you own for good is the CD-key, and who’s to say that you don’t copy it someplace and use it later? Isn’t that why PC games in general can not be sold used and haven’t been able to since sometime around 2004?

But with a little thought, I came to the conclusion that this may not be so impossible to do, and in fact it may well be Valve who, once again, could lead the way! Curious? Step inside….

The reason Valve could well do this actually started around their now F2P game, Team Fortress 2. Around the time it went F2P, Valve released something called Mann Co. This new feature basically allowed you not only to buy ingame items (albeit for way too much cash), but it opened the door for users to make their own items (most infamously, hats) and sell them for real-world cash, actually making their own profit on the game.

We have also seen the ability to trade these items, not while in the game, but just in Steam. I myself have given away a lot of in-game items from this game because I don’t play and my friends would get a lot more out of it then I would. But while in there, I have noticed other things… like pre-order bonuses that I already owned being available to do the same with, including full-blown games. And this is where I think we can make a step towards resale in the digital world.

What if you got tired of a game in your collection, or just plain didn’t like it? What if you could click a button and remove it and it’s key from your main collection, adding it to this inventory screen instead? How about (eventually when it leaves beta, maybe) putting it on the market? I know a few titles in my own I would do this with, given the chance, and Im sure you do too! And really, with Steam, it could be as easy as making it inventory instead of an active game.

Now obviously, there is some work to be done for this, since some games require you to tie them to a 3rd party account, like anything from EA or Ubisoft. But two publishers, one of which doesn’t sell anything new anymore on Steam due to conflicts between the companies, are far from the entire spectrum of games on this system. With a little work, this may well become very possible…. and the publishers/Valve can still gain a profit via skimming off the top like they do when people sell their hats!

Of course, if you would rather trade said games, they would not, but at that point, all games/items involved are not leaving the active market… and you can only do it when you find someone willing to trade for the game you have and have the game/item you want for it…. so it’s not as sure a thing.

But either way, this could well be an answer to the lawsuit. After all, it does not require Valve to buy-back the games, but would let the gamers resell them…. and maybe even let everyone get a little profit out of it.

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