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Valve and game developers have a bit of a fight on their hands here, with a French court ruling that Valve should allow users to re-sell their digital games.

Reported by the French website Next Inpact, the French consumers group UFC Que Choisir had a victory against Valve as French courts have ruled against them on the topic of reselling digital content. From what I've read and tried to understand, the courts have basically said that when you buy something on Steam it is indeed a proper purchase and not a subscription.

Valve has been ordered to pay damages at €20K plus €10K to cover some costs. On top of that, they will also have to publish the judgement on Steam's home page (presumably only for users in France) and for it to remain visible for three months. If they don't, they will get a fine for each day of €3K. To Valve though, that's likely pocket change. The bigger issue though, is how other countries inside and outside the EU could follow it.

Speaking to PC Gamer who got a statement from Valve, they are going to fight it. Of course they will though, they could stand to lose quite a lot here and it would set a pretty huge precedent for other stores like GOG, Epic, Humble, itch and all the rest.

There's a lot to think about with this situation. Valve could end up changing the way they deal with this, just like they did with the nicer refunds option which came about after legal issues too. Imagine being able to sell and transfer a game over to another Steam user. Valve could take a cut of that most likely too.

Something to think on there is how this could affect game developers too, I'm all for consumer rights but I do try to think about all angles. We could end up looking at higher prices overall, no release day discounts, more micro transactions, more games updated as a constant service, games that require an online account as a service so you're not paying for an actual product and so on as developers try to keep more income when many smaller developers are already struggling.

Interesting times.

Hat tip to Nibelheim.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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184 comments
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Jiskin 20 September 2019 at 6:35 am UTC
Nevertheless
Jiskinoh my... I saw so stupid comments I don't know where to start...

QuoteValve and developers will be more profitable to abandon the entire French market
France is like their 7th market, how this could be more profitable?

QuoteI see many devs including Ubisoft leaving France, losing hundreds of jobs just because people want to resell a game they get for 15$ for 5$ bucks.

If a second hand market would crash a business, we will not even have cars... There are many reasons to leave France as a company, like taxes, strong social laws, etc., so just don't say anything you don't know about.

QuoteThis will hurt everyone.
Too many arguments I don't know what to say...

There is a difference between second hand cars and second hand software: Cars tend to catch scratches. Second hand games are indistinguishable from new games.
There is another one: There are no DRM free cars that you can simply keep when you sell them.

Second hand cars do not need servers. Games will have to be detached from accounts, to be able to sell them. So Valve could simply charge a percentage fee for detaching keys. I on their side wouldn't help to sell the keys, just detach and deliver them.
Developers still won't like the idea. They will sell less copies. Lifting prices would make second hand games even more attractive, but would also lift the detachment fee.

So yes, I think one result would definitely be higher prices for games.
Yeah yeah... And when you have issues with your second hand car you can fix it because there are factories that keep constructing pieces, with paid and trained people. It involves money too.

If you have a second hand game on steam, maybe you will not have the steam success, etc.

And as far as I know, the French Court hasn't prevent Steam to lock the resell to their platform only and to add transactions fees.
Purple Library Guy 20 September 2019 at 6:49 am UTC
AnanaceI think that the major issue with this ruling is that the digital goods in question have no degradation - or logistics costs - at all. There will be absolutely no difference between a "brand new" copy of a digital game, or a "second hand" one, unless introduced artificially through some kind of copy degradation mechanic to not support resale again after X times.

With no product degradation between sales, and no logistical cost (in time or money) you - as a developer - would literally have to compete with your own product in the market, as "used" copies would be bit-by-bit identical to the "new" ones which you need to sell in order to recoup development costs.
I can see this ending up much like the piracy argument which drives DRM, where games sales are going to be crucial in the first weeks of the game release, only this time backed by legal rulings. As you - again as a developer - will have to start competing with your own product - sold at a cheaper price at the exact same quality - the moment the first players finishes their copies and wants to get some money back by reselling it.

So really, the only way I could see this not causing a massive impact on game development - especially single-player and other games which are possible to "finish" - would be if artificial degradation or other resale restrictions (logistical cost) were introduced. Something to make "new" copies somehow different from "used" ones, to make sure that there's at least some reason for people to want to pay more for a "new" copy rather than a bit-perfect "used" one.
An interesting point. I do think there is one thing that does degrade games and most digital goods--or rather, degrade their value: Time. Old games go on sale, because people are not willing to pay as much for old games. Novelty wears off.
I've seen someone in the thread mention the idea of a minimum time delay before resale; that might be an acceptable compromise. Of course, most people aren't going to want to resell instantly in the first place, because they want to play their game; they didn't buy the thing just to immediately not have it any more.
Skiski 20 September 2019 at 7:12 am UTC
I just hope that it doesn't end in Valve stopping to sell games in France...

And I agree that comparing digital products with real products is just dumb. It's like when they told us that downloading thing is like stealing things. I'm not saying that it is a good thing, but it's not like a theft in real life.

But maybe, if a part of the sell goes to the developer, it can be a correct way to do it.

Either way, I don't sell my game discs and I don't intend to sell my digital games either.
einherjar 20 September 2019 at 7:24 am UTC
This kills small and medium dev studios and leads to more monopoly by the big ones.

The big ones will then hardly go to force you to things like stadia. There every thing is fine. You just pay for the service of game streaming.

Google Managers will be very pleased by this decision.

I think one can not treat a digital copy exactly the same, like a physical good. The digital one will never "wear up". It stays in the same quality.
So the devs have to go for higher entry prices or just make the game "free" and get on our nerves with micro transactions.

And we will get less titles like the Witcher series, if this is adopted in more countries. You can only develop those titles when they sell for a long time. But with a "used" Games market, this will just not happen.

Digitization at Europes best...


Last edited by einherjar at 20 September 2019 at 7:36 am UTC
Nevertheless 20 September 2019 at 7:35 am UTC
View PC info
  • Supporter
Jiskin
Nevertheless
Jiskinoh my... I saw so stupid comments I don't know where to start...

QuoteValve and developers will be more profitable to abandon the entire French market
France is like their 7th market, how this could be more profitable?

QuoteI see many devs including Ubisoft leaving France, losing hundreds of jobs just because people want to resell a game they get for 15$ for 5$ bucks.

If a second hand market would crash a business, we will not even have cars... There are many reasons to leave France as a company, like taxes, strong social laws, etc., so just don't say anything you don't know about.

QuoteThis will hurt everyone.
Too many arguments I don't know what to say...

There is a difference between second hand cars and second hand software: Cars tend to catch scratches. Second hand games are indistinguishable from new games.
There is another one: There are no DRM free cars that you can simply keep when you sell them.

Second hand cars do not need servers. Games will have to be detached from accounts, to be able to sell them. So Valve could simply charge a percentage fee for detaching keys. I on their side wouldn't help to sell the keys, just detach and deliver them.
Developers still won't like the idea. They will sell less copies. Lifting prices would make second hand games even more attractive, but would also lift the detachment fee.

So yes, I think one result would definitely be higher prices for games.
Yeah yeah... And when you have issues with your second hand car you can fix it because there are factories that keep constructing pieces, with paid and trained people. It involves money too.

If you have a second hand game on steam, maybe you will not have the steam success, etc.

And as far as I know, the French Court hasn't prevent Steam to lock the resell to their platform only and to add transactions fees.

The problem is to compare games to "real" goods, like cars or pants, for the obvious reasons..
Valve sells games on the Steam platform. If Europe law forces them to make their products resellable, then of course those products will still be Steam games, which are, and most probably will, be handled by Steam keys.
All that Valve had to do to make the games movable is to unattach the Steam keys from their owners accounts. This is a service they can charge a fee for. I don't know how high the fee could legally be, but maybe developers could get their share from this too...
If there are legal limits, Valve had to decide if it's better to have s used key section on Steam, or if they want to get resellers involved, which at least will add their own share on used gamss prices.
DMG 20 September 2019 at 7:36 am UTC
Interesting, how this will end. I can understand all sides, because everyone wants to earn some money. But compare games to real products is not very correct. Especially, if we see, how game after purchase can still be changed over some time. For example, if you buy an early release game. You won't have uncompleted game forever, right? After some time game will be finished and you will have new content after each update. And even after release some games receive a free update and add new content. So we can't compare game to a real product. No one will come and add new buttons to your monitor or make it bigger. So it is some kind of subscription. I only wish this all not to end as something bad to gamers. For example, specific rule and limitations to each country, so that in end piratical games again would come more attractive, than legal.
Kuduzkehpan 20 September 2019 at 7:47 am UTC
This will affect poor countries in positive way.Also ability to re-sell games will create a big marketing between players and maybe it creates a blackmarket inside the whole gamer community. At least i will be happy to sell my games and get some profit for re-investments and other development purposes.
Also i prefer a renting system which protects both developers and costumers in same time. Just for cases like
"facepunch and rust" as follows pay 10 dolar euro or whatever to rent a game for 3 months. Then decide to buy or not. This is also why DEMO's are up and running.
sub 20 September 2019 at 7:48 am UTC
Salvatos
pbThat's it, I'm telling my son right now to stop dreaming of developing games. This basically legalises keyshops and now even allowing you to sell the games you're already played and finished, if it wasn't bad enough before... Piracy killed Amiga gaming, socialism will kill PC gaming?
Can we maybe not be so dramatic? Some of us are old enough to remember that that’s how it was for the majority of video gaming’s existence. And books, DVDs, cars, etc. Sure it would be a disruptive change, but as long as it doesn’t open the door to duplication (piracy), the market can adapt. It might not be pretty for a while, but it won’t just die like that.

I'm not yet having a position on all this yet, tbh.

Being honest, this pure digital distribution is different to what
we had back then for games or even more for the book example.

If you sell a used book, it's used - no matter how hard you try.
Those old game boxed were usually plastic sealed and you had to open them.
From my experience the cardbox boxes suffered as did the jewel case plus the CD.

All I want to say is this: Usually a used product is not mint anymore.
It shows signs of use that is represented in the price when you resell it.

This is completely gone for digital products.
You sell something that's perfectly the same as you bought it first hand.
There is no price on the consumption of the game anymore, which is what the
developer actually wants to get paid for - and that's fair, isn't it?

It's a dilemma.
Nevertheless 20 September 2019 at 8:04 am UTC
View PC info
  • Supporter
sub
Salvatos
pbThat's it, I'm telling my son right now to stop dreaming of developing games. This basically legalises keyshops and now even allowing you to sell the games you're already played and finished, if it wasn't bad enough before... Piracy killed Amiga gaming, socialism will kill PC gaming?
Can we maybe not be so dramatic? Some of us are old enough to remember that that’s how it was for the majority of video gaming’s existence. And books, DVDs, cars, etc. Sure it would be a disruptive change, but as long as it doesn’t open the door to duplication (piracy), the market can adapt. It might not be pretty for a while, but it won’t just die like that.

I'm not yet having a position on all this yet, tbh.

Being honest, this pure digital distribution is different to what
we had back then for games or even more for the book example.

If you sell a used book, it's used - no matter how hard you try.
Those old game boxed were usually plastic sealed and you had to open them.
From my experience the cardbox boxes suffered as did the jewel case plus the CD.

All I want to say is this: Usually a used product is not mint anymore.
It shows signs of use that is represented in the price when you resell it.

This is completely gone for digital products.
You sell something that's perfectly the same as you bought it first hand.
There is no price on the consumption of the game anymore, which is what the
developer actually wants to get paid for - and that's fair, isn't it?

It's a dilemma.

What I basically want to do is have fun with games that don't interfere with the functions of my computer and that don't spy on me. I most definitely want to give the developers of the games their fair share for development (otherwise I would prefer free software), and I want the games to be distributed in a comfortable, and secure way. For that I also really, really want to give distribution channels like Steam and GOG their fair share too! I really don't need to sell the games after that. I also wouldn't expect a developer to add feature patches (or gameserver services) to any game I purchased as used software.
MayeulC 20 September 2019 at 8:08 am UTC
I guess Valve could argue that as you buy games, you make a "bundle" that's not splittable.

I could see valve allowing to sell one's account after that ruling, though.
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