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Doing the rounds right now is a post from Valve's Steam support (thanks Ars), when a user asked about what would happen to their Steam account when they died and it's not great news for anyone hoping to pass on your Steam account.

This comes from a post on Resetera, where the user asked if a Steam account could be transferred via a will. The Steam support staff member replied to note very clearly Steam accounts are plain and simply "non-transferable".

It's not exactly something new, or surprising, given that Steam's Subscriber Agreement clearly notes "You may not reveal, share or otherwise allow others to use your password or Account except as otherwise specifically authorized by Valve.". 

Still, nothing actually technically stops you just writing down your details for someone and leaving it in a safe space, it's not like Valve actually go and confirm your identity. You also have the newer Family Sharing system, so someone could quickly go in and share it to your personal account and get most of the games.

It's also another reminder that on Steam, you don't own any games on it at all. Once again, as per the Subscriber Agreement, "Content and Services are licensed, not sold" and your "license confers no title or ownership in the Content and Services". 

This will be the same across nearly all web stores that offer digital products you "buy", they're not yours. Epic Games Store is exactly the same as per their EULA which notes "All rights granted to you under this Agreement are granted by express license only and not by sale". Ubisoft are exactly the same in their terms as well noting "we grant you a non-exclusive, non-transferable, non-sublicensed, non-commercial and personal license". Think GOG are any better? They're not, as per GOG's agreement "Your GOG account and GOG content are personal to you and cannot be shared with, sold, gifted or transferred to anyone else." and they make it clear multiple times you get a license again, not ownership of anything sold.

If you go through most other places, they all use similar language and we're not talking just game stores here but anywhere you digitally purchase movies, TV series and so on. You get the idea. You might be buying the item, but you have no ownernship at all.

Really, the only time this will change is when physical media properly dies off and people cause enough of a fuss that governments and legal bodies around the world put in new laws around digital ownership, which is not likely for a long time.

So, you probably should go and clear that backlog of games you've built up.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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55 comments
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Bogomips May 28
I am pretty sure people are still wondering why piracy will never die as they continue to treat paying customers like criminals (piracy reminders everywhere, DRM, locked platforms, mandatory online connections, etc.)

I still remember using no-cd cracks on my purchased games 25 years ago to avoid putting a CD-ROM into a player that would make as much noise as an airplane during take-off…


Last edited by Bogomips on 28 May 2024 at 12:53 pm UTC
williamjcm May 28
QuoteReally, the only time this will change is when physical media properly dies off and people cause enough of a fuss that governments and legal bodies around the world put in new laws around digital ownership, which is not likely for a long time.
I remember Valve was sued in France by UFC-Que Choisir several years ago on the grounds that digital purchases should be treated the same as physical purchases (aka customers should have ownership over their digital games, and could resell/transfer them just like with physical media), so I guess things could change depending on how the appeal goes (Valve lost the initial trial, for those unaware of the proceedings).


Last edited by williamjcm on 28 May 2024 at 9:26 am UTC
Pyrate May 28
I guess it makes sense for Valve to officially put it out there, have it on record. But from experience, Valve is very lenient on this kind of stuff. I don't do it myself, but my friends share and exchange their steam accounts all the time between themselves, never a warning or a ban or anything like that as far as I know.

Of course, the question of ownership is still a big issue, one where my personal solution if it ever came to (cue the Microsoft acquiring Valve rumour) is to simply participate in questionable software actions to keep my Steam-downloaded games usable. It's what makes me sleep at night, knowing I can still have at it if the Steam store evaporates the next day (tears of multi billion corporation fans and irrelevant regional laws go here)

I've seen the criticism about GoG before, but I never got it. They're selling you the game, and once you download it, it's yours, truly. I don't care what their licensing agreement says, if one doesn't like their service or launcher, they can just acquire the game through alternative sources after making the transaction on their website, and there'd be 0 difference in product quality, since at the end of the day, the games have no DRM. If we want to be unnecessarily specific and explicit: yes, digital is never going to be as good as physical, but with GoG I think we're almost there, it depends on how much you really care about EULAs and whatever other crap designed specifically to fuck you over and protect their bottom line.

Call me old school, but my relationship between myself and game retailers/storefronts will forever be this: a single transactional contract, they get my money, and I get the game. If I get blasted by some stupid enshittification bullshit down the line locking me out of a game I bought, or artificially making the experience worse, too bad for them, I'll sail the damn seas.


Last edited by Pyrate on 28 May 2024 at 10:00 am UTC
soulsource May 28
Quotewhen physical media properly dies off and people cause enough of a fuss that governments and legal bodies around the world put in new laws around digital ownership
I do not expect the death of physical media to have much of an effect on legislation. Technically, physical media also do not grant ownership of the data stored on them. If you bought software on CDs, you owned the CDs, but you still needed a license to legally use the software.

I do see one big difference though, but I doubt it will be enough to cause legislation changes. In the past, when people were mostly offline and relied on physical media for software distribution, it was basically impossible to enforce a non-transferable license.
artixbtw May 28
It may be against the ToS, but it doesn't mean it is impossible. Not at all. In fact, I am very sure nothing would happen if anyone challenged this specific case.

Now, ignoring the reality that this isn't easily enforceable, it does indeed suck that Steam is really just another digital licensing platform. It doesn't mean the goodies can't be archived and preserved, it only means the publishers doing business expect too much control, and Valve doesn't want to challenge that too much.

Everything's fun and games until that boring legal speak bites one's ass, but Valve only appear to be suspending accounts that violate ToS for monetary gain, so I'd say it could be a lot worse. Legal speak doesn't necessarily mean much.


Last edited by artixbtw on 28 May 2024 at 10:08 am UTC
kuhpunkt May 28
QuoteIf you go through most other places, they all use similar language and we're not talking just game stores here but anywhere you digitally purchase movies, TV series and so on. You get the idea. You might be buying the item, but you have no ownernship at all.

It's not even just digital, also physical. You can't buy a Blu-ray and open a cinema and make money by showing the movie to a wider audience and you're also not allowed to build a movie rental store like Blockbuster or Netflix (in its original form).

You need a special license for that.
Eike May 28
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Not unrelated at all...
Does somebody know if and how selling an ESO account would work out? I suddenly have one and I have no use for it...
shnull May 28
Quoting: BogomipsI am pretty sure people are still wondering why piracy will never die as they continue to treat paying customers like criminals (piracy reminders everywhere, DRM, locked platforms, mandatory online connections, etc.)

I still remember using no-cd cracks on my purchased games 25 years ago to avoid putting a CD-ROM into a player that would make as much noise an airplane during take-off…

Hm, sign of the times ... i guess in the end when newell retires it'l end up in the hands of microsoft anyway, just like blizzard versus Kotick, nice retirement bonus. For several reasons i never use cloud services b/c "they own" your data on it and are free to deny you access and frankly , its cheaper to buy rackspace for use at home than having a monthly sub. Afaik EPIC has smallprint that says all your clicks and conduct during play can and will be used to profile you (that might have changed but i doubt it) and it would surprise me valve has that by now.

I keep about all games (since i only have linux anymore so i only buy what runs on linux anymore offline ready-downloaded and as patched as they get and as you say : i still keep all my hard dvds i gathered on a self-tinkered nas made from old parts with mechanical drives b/c i dont wanna scratch them.

Add to all this the mad prices of €100 or close for a single game, its plenty to be very picky . Newel might have been taken over by the triffids from all i see lately. How many original bipeds are still around since 2019 ...
rea987 May 28
That's the matter of whether the local law considers Steam service or good. The Australian court determined that despite Steam's EULA states that it's a subscription servive, it is still a good with perpetual licence. If it's a good, then you should be able to pass it to the inheritors. Though, status of games as a service is still unclear except USA. As Ross Scott recently found out in one of his the shut down of The Crew videos, EULAs reign supreme in US.
Nyx May 28
Wouldn't you just use steam family sharing and pass it down that way.
They can't login to the account but most of your library is still kind of passed on ?
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