Steam's operators, Valve, have announced a few changes to their platform's game gifting system. Broadly, gift-giving will become a direct interaction between two parties, rather than one based on digital tokens that can sit in inventories. Crucially, Valve will block exchanges across territories with big price differences.
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Valve say "Steam Gifting will now be a system of direct exchange from gift buyer to gift receiver, and we will be retiring the Gift to Email and Gift to Inventory options."
Specific changes include:
- Gift scheduling: you can buy a gift months in advance and have it delivered to a friend on time.
- Gift recipients can click ‘decline’ on a gift and the purchase will be refunded directly to the giver, rather than the game being returned to their inventory and the charges remaining on their bill.
- You’ll no longer be able to gift games to people living in countries where there is a large difference in the game’s price. This means that gifts sent through the new system will always work on the recipient’s account: "no more worrying if a Gift to Email or Gift to Inventory is going to work," say Valve.
Valve claim their goal is to remove "friction" from the process, making it easier to share your favourite games with friends, but it hasn't been received that way in the comments. Most are overwhelmingly negative, highlighting the ways in which the changes could be said to be anti-consumer. Seesthroughwalls says:
"I really dislike the removal of the options to store games for later and send games through email. The added features are quite cool, but if the cost of their addition is removing my gift inventory, then I cannot accept them."
You can see what others have to say beneath the announcement here. Some have assumed that the changes are an attempt to frustrate game key markets, such as G2A. However, the announcement doesn't mention any change to the system under which game keys issued by developers can be used to activate products on Steam, which is the core of G2A's business.
Valve say the changes "are now available".
It’s been a busy week for Steam. The other day Valve announced a new stats page for Steam support, which revealed the demand for support requests and - fortuitously - how Valve's performance in that area has improved since February.