Newell discusses whether Steam will ever allow used game trade-ins

Saturday, 27th August 2011 15:44 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Valve’s Gabe Newell has discussed with Eurogamer whether or not digital trade-ins will eventually be possible with Steam – something which has been a topic of discussion on the internet since the beta for Steam Trading launched.

Speaking in a wide-ranging interview on the site, Newell feels Valve needs to become well-versed in the matter first, but his response seemed to suggest the option was being looked into.

“We need to hire an economist, because we keep bumping up into these issues,” he said. “You’re starting to look at weird issues like currency and inflation and productivity and asset values and liquidity of asset categories. We just wish we were smarter about this stuff. We’re reading frantically. We’re brushing up, and all we’re doing is convincing ourselves that we’re more stupid. Half the time people are saying, oh, well, illiquid assets inherently have a penalty, so this argues for trade-ability, that we’re essentially becoming a Russian currency model in the 1970s. Everybody races off to try to read papers on the implications of that.

“We think we want to move in the direction where everything is an item of exchange. We just aren’t totally sure how to do that right. We’re sure there are economists out there who understand this really well. We feel like we’re this third-world developing country. We’ve discovered rocks! And we’ve discovered sticks! And there’s this other thing out there and we should move our economy in that direction. There must be somebody at the World Bank who can tell us what we ought to be doing. We just don’t know what that is yet.”

Newell went on to say that hiring an economist for the firm would be the “smart thing to do,” because Valve feels “very naive,” on the matter.

You can read the full interview through the link.



  1. The_Deleted

    How do you trade 0′s & 1′s. Surely the idea of a game bought through Steam et al is that there is no physical product to trade or swap. You get a code to use said item and that’s it. Would you be trading in your account for someone else to use. Surely a non-point given you can delete and start again. I’m confused!

    #1 3 years ago
  2. freedoms_stain

    @1, consider that on steam what you are buying is essentially a license or privilege to play the game on steam. Steam is required to play games purchased through steam, if you copy files to a computer without steam installed the game won’t run, and if you attempt to add files from one steam account to another similarly the game won’t run because the second account doesn’t have the appropriate license.

    Consider next that that licence may have a value and be transferrable, valve need only remove license/privilege from your account and move them to another. The problem for Valve would be coming yup with a system which would satisfy consumers, publishers, developers and themselves at the same time – not easy, which is why they’re talking about hiring an economist to work it out fire them.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. The_Deleted

    Thanks for the explanation, but it really doesn’t make any sense. Why would you buy second hand when you won’t ever own the game as you would a hard copy and the license is just that. A license… which, again, to all intents and purposes doesn’t exist and cannot lose value or be worth more than an unused license which also doesn’t exist.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. DSB

    It also represents an expense to the people providing it though. They’re providing the servers every time you download a game, and that isn’t free. I don’t think it’s feasible to let people throw licences between eachother, simply raking up the expenses, without some kind of model that ensures that the provider is covered.

    That’s ultimately why the brick and mortar have been exclusive in offering trade-ins so far, it costs them nothing. Of course that’s likely to change if chains like Gamestop start bundling each game with an Impulse licence.

    “Online pass”-time I guess.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. freedoms_stain

    @3, technically speaking you never own software, you only ever purchase a license to use it, this is true whether you download files or if they come on a disc. You’d understand the system a bit better if you’d ever had to license software in a professional environment as opposed to the slightly more lenient world of games software. I remember having to jump through hoops to transfer a license from a previous employee to myself in a previous job. But the point is I was able to transfer the license rather than the company having to purchase a new one.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. Bringit

    Green Man Gaming already does trade-ins. Newell is behind the times.

    #6 3 years ago

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