Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
September 20, 2014
arrowPress Releases
September 20, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


Consumer group targets Valve's digital resale policies
Consumer group targets Valve's digital resale policies
January 31, 2013 | By Mike Rose

January 31, 2013 | By Mike Rose
Comments
    20 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



The Federation of German Consumer Association, a German consumer advocacy group that took issue with Steam's end-user license agreement last year, has now filed an official complaint against Valve.

The VZBV, as the organization is known, takes issue with the fact that Steam does not allow users to resell digital content, which goes against a recent European court ruling -- and as such has now taken an official dispute to a German court.

Speaking to Cinema Blend, VZBV representative Eva Hoffschulte stated, "We have submitted complaint against the company to the district court Berlin."

The company says that Valve has been working to modify its terms to grant more leniency, but that what has been done up to this point simply isn't enough.

Consumers should be able to resell any product they buy from the Steam Store, states the complaint, just like with any other game product. The current system is not in the interest of consumers, says the VZBV, and will harm sustained growth of digital distribution in the long-term, as users realize more fully the implications of having their content tied down to a single digital platform.

At the moment, no online game distributors allow users to resell digital content, but the latest ruling says that companies cannot put any systems in place that would block their European users from doing so. Companies like GameStop have already expressed interest in used digital game sales, and the Federation wants to verify that Valve isn't doing anything to preemptively block used game sales on Steam.

[Update: Valve's Doug Lombardi has stated to Gamasutra, "We are aware of the press release about the lawsuit filed by the VZBV, but we have not yet seen the actual complaint."

"That said, we understand the complaint is somehow regarding the transferability of Steam accounts, despite the fact that this issue has already been ruled upon favorably to Valve in a prior case between Valve and the VZBV by the German supreme court. For now, we are continuing to extend the Steam services to gamers in Germany and around the world."]


Related Jobs

Infinity Ward / Activision
Infinity Ward / Activision — Woodland Hills, California, United States
[09.20.14]

Producer - Infinity Ward
Infinity Ward / Activision
Infinity Ward / Activision — Woodland Hills, California, United States
[09.20.14]

Senior AI Engineer
Infinity Ward / Activision
Infinity Ward / Activision — Woodland Hills, California, United States
[09.20.14]

Lead Tools Engineer - Infinity Ward
Infinity Ward / Activision
Infinity Ward / Activision — Woodland Hills, California, United States
[09.20.14]

Senior Tools Engineer - Infinity Ward










Comments


Jan Zheng
profile image
This is interesting- I've always kind of viewed games bought on Steam more like "licenses" to play, rather than ownership. I think the same thought can be applied to many newer games on the market, like all the EA Origin games like BF3, or Diablo 3.

I think not having the physical disc and having to "Activate" a game online marks a big difference between current games and games from the past, as we don't have that physical product in our hands anymore- we're essentially out of control of whether we hold the product or not.

But if we do consider it "licensing" a game - should someone be able to resell a license to someone else? What about any other service or license?

Brian Tsukerman
profile image
It's a conundrum all right. Publishers argue that since they only sell us the license to the game, we no longer actually have any real ownership over the product, but rather that we've paid to access a service. Personally, I find this to be underhanded and anti-consumer, even if I do understand how it mitigates profit loss due to used game sales. If I have paid an individual or a company in exchange for a good or service, I consider it to be owned by me and that I should be free to resell it according to the First Sale Doctrine.

However, I doubt that this law in the EU will have an effect on the US, even though that would be the best case scenario. Rather, I anticipate Valve will adjust their TOS to make the EU an exception to this particular policy. That way, they would retain a presence in the EU market and have an opportunity to test the effects of digital resales on their profit and customer retention.

Nejc Eber
profile image
There are lots of problems with reselling digital licences, because there are 1000 of upsides for consumers and no downsides and 1000 of downsides for publishers and no upsides.
Licenses don't wear off. If you buy a car, get a haircut, buy a piece of clothing it gets old, hair grows and things broke, but digital games don't get old. If anything a lot of them get better with updates.
There are a lot of problems for consumers to resell different things. You have to make an ad, you have to pay for postage or meet with the buyer in person etc. With digital media you could sell your license to anyone in the world in seconds.
You could just buy a game with your friends and then trade it between. While you can do this now with physical copies, it's a lot easier with digital copies and having friends all around the world. It wouldn't be much different to torrents.
With singleplayer games the market would be full of "used" copies in weeks and it would be a lot harder to make profit in the long run and companies would have to relay an pre-order initiatives and hype.
I really see companies going for the streaming technology in the future or relying more on ads, because than people really wouldn't own games and you don't see people complaining for not being able to sell their recorded tv shows and tickets from past concerts and shows.

Matt Cratty
profile image
I could care less about reselling, but just for sake of example, let's say Gabe has a massive (insert physical calamity here) tomorrow and Valve gets dissolved instead of purchased.

What happens to my games? It's not clear. I own a TON that are digital only.

The reality is, we all know what happens to our games. They're gone.

This is why I really dislike the digital movement and I'm disgusted every time I walk into a best buy to look at the PC Gaming section and find, there essentially isn't one.

Cale Bradbury
profile image
I believe I heard a few years ago that they would let you download DRM free versions of games you own for an amount of time before killing the servers for good. I also know some games can be opened without steam by just heading to the .exe located somewhere in the steamapps folder. I specifically remember playing The Binding Of Issac this way when steam wasn't opening for some reason.

William Barnes
profile image
@Cale

I've heard that too about some titles, but there is no guarantee that a publisher or developer would go through with it, especially if they were in dire straights and were shutting down. Fortunately, Steam does have an "offline" mode for playing games, but that don't help if a company goes under, then you have a hard disk crash. You'd have no way to reinstall your favorite game on a new hard drive, or even if you did, phoning home for activation would kill the experience dead in its tracks.

Ed Macauley
profile image
If I were Valve, I'd change my TOS to match what the Germans want and just leave it at that. Sure, you're not prohibited from reselling your Steam games, but they don't have to provide you a mechanism to do so.

Kujel Selsuru
profile image
Reselling game licenses should be allowed by valve's TOS, we paid for something we should be able to resell it. I was quite disgusted when I heard valve forbids selling your steam account, what if I don't want it anymore or I need the money?

Jesse Tucker
profile image
When I buy something from Steam, I know full well that I can't resell my game. I do, however, know that I will always have those games in the future regardless of computer catastrophes or whatever else. It's a tradeoff that I'm happy to make. If there's a real demand for digital resale, another digital distribution company that provides it will pop up, and we'll see how well it does. No one is making you buy games through Steam.

Disallowing game and account resale avoids complications with developers/publishers, money laundering and gray market issues, international trade and tax issues, and a ton of other stuff that I probably am not considering.

Kaitlyn Kincaid
profile image
"I do, however, know that I will always have those games in the future regardless of computer catastrophes or whatever else."

On your end anyway... they can pull the plug at any point and then you are left holding so much digital nothing.

Jesse Tucker
profile image
While possible, that event seems incredibly unlikely and would be suicide for the company.

Michiel Hendriks
profile image
Physical retailers also sell steam-locked games from their store. You have a physical medium which has 0 value once used.

james sadler
profile image
I look at it like this. When buying a digital product it is a license, not an act of ownership. There is no physical item that can be destroyed or tangible value increased or lowered. As such the idea of re-selling a "used" license doesn't make sense. One isn't providing a tangible copy that may or may not have wear and tear, but a digital license file. Even then the end user must re-download or transfer the main executable file(s) as a new product and then attach the "used" license. All it really is doing is making the original buyer a reseller. A person could go onto steam and buy 20 licenses for X game on a sale day and sell them at a higher price when the sale is over as "used". Granted a person can do this with a standard retail product. I guess my point is that a digital product generally isn't ever "used" since it only takes a re-transfer of the data to become "new" again.

William Barnes
profile image
They can still do as you say.... go into a store and buy 20 licenses for X game on a sale day and resell them.... As long as the licenses were never activated, NOBODY, not even Steam would be the wiser whether sold as new or used.

Torben Jorba
profile image
The question is: how much of the price structure of the digital goods "on media" has a 'resell loss' already included? And do digital offers need to differentiate between that? I think: yes. Absolutely.

The only reason people want "to sell" in the first place, because the price of the good is - in their view - expensive in relationship to the usage/time spend with it.

I know people who have to read all the new shiny books and pay $15 for the hardcover. And then they resell it to buy the next one. Maybe the "lose" $3 on that, but thats the price they think its worth. And so goes the circle. But if they get a book for $3 on their Kindle they never talk about "reselling it". A low amount of money seems to be price point where "licensing" or "using the content" is accepted.

The same goes for a movie I pay $3 to see with friends via HD stream. Thats the price a rental would cost. But sometimes, they ask for $7,99 or even more. Thats the "cinema experience" or "ownership" price. I simply refuse to pay that and wait for a reasonable offer.

Steam sells games for $2 and games for $50. If someone has lots of $50 games in his account, he might argue that this are "resell" prices. I'm quite sure that many people think like that.

Brian Anderson
profile image
Courts / consumer groups never seem to understand that there is a fundamental difference between digital goods and physical goods.

To resell a digital good technical changes are required in the system to be able to transfer the license. No such changes are required for physical goods. A book publisher does not need to change the printing process for a person to be able to resell a book.

Why would a digital store put money into allowing an end user to resell a digital item? They donít get any more money out of the sale, it is a waste of money for the store.

Michiel Hendriks
profile image
There are no physical videogames. They are all digital. The 1s and 0s on a DVD are also digital.

Brian Anderson
profile image
@Michiel Thanks for the info, very useful

William Barnes
profile image
Courts seem to not understand a lot of things, politicians even less. (although the politician thing can be a very crafty ruse to hide their real motives.)

14-38 years ago before DRM got its dirty hooks into software (DRM is a money pit that DRM developers are laughing about all the way to the bank as it never really prevents what its supposed to: piracy.) Your media, whether an optical disk or magnetic floppy (punch cards or punch tape near and older for that 38 year mark) was exactly like that book: A "printed" form of your software ready to be read and understood by your computer. It's only since DRM has been around (with phone-home to activate, or constant connection required) that it has differentiated itself from a book. Just like IE was a separate entity from Windows before MS decided to hog-tie the two together and keep netscape from selling Navigator en masse.

Rob B
profile image
'They donít get any more money out of the sale, it is a waste of money for the store.'

Following the law is not dependant on how much profit you stand to lose...


none
 
Comment: