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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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Mal 20 September 2019 at 12:00 pm UTC
EhvisI think people are making far more fuss about this than what is really going on. It appears to me that the ruling is about the passages in the licence agreement that forbid users from reselling their games. I suspect that all that is needed for Valve (and other stores) is to remove those passages and inform the users that this is in fact legal. However, nowhere does it really say that Valve needs to implement a system for people to resell individual games to other users. Which means that all that the net effect maybe that you will be allowed to resell your entire account. How many users will that benefit?

This reminds me of the good old wow times, when you had to go to the chinese to illegally buy a lv 60 Tauren druid. Now we could just all go to the cow market parisienne.
Kyrottimus 20 September 2019 at 12:07 pm UTC
Valve could benefit from this if they're allowed to get a % of the resale (as Steam would likely still act as the market for these transactions). Even maybe a cut for the developers/publishers. I dunno, maybe like 5% or 10% each.

Whenever someone sells something on eBay, that marketplace gets a cut because they facilitate the whole framework and infrastructure for the sale, and Steam should be no different.

Yeah, you could sell the key to someone else manually, but a game purchased with Steam Key is still "delivered" through Valve's infrastructure (Steam) so they should get a cut, and the game's upkeep (patches, updates so they don't "wear out") are maintained by the developer/publisher so they should too.

Just an idea, I'm not saying this is the way to fix this situation for Valve or French Gamers. I just thought it's an interesting tangent to consider.

*shrugs*
einherjar 20 September 2019 at 12:09 pm UTC
ZeroPointEnergy
einherjarBut all this does not happen to a digital copy of a game. The pre users were smoking or played it a lot, or they had dirty fingers while playing... DOESN'T MATTER. The used copy is always as good as an unused one.
I'm not sure why you all get worked up about such minor details. It's pretty obvious that digital and physical products are not the same.

Yes, so the reselling can not be treated the same. It is not a minor detail. If you can sell something millions of times, without it getting worn down, it is not a minor detail.
The developer must get the money for his job with a significantly lower amount of sales.

ZeroPointEnergyIt is an illusion that those markets will regulate themselves. They themselves are pushing for laws as much as they can to cement their full control, like for example the law that prevents you from tampering with DRM even if they shutdown the online service and the product you purchased becomes useless.

But regulating them in the same way as physical goods (that can only be sold a limited time) is also not the best idea.
Of course a lot of things can be made better - but in a smart way. And this seems not to be a smart way.
It leeds us to even more "software as a service" and monopolism.
StoneDancer 20 September 2019 at 12:21 pm UTC
Why do some people think that returning to the old way will mean higher prices. We always used to trade in, sell or give away our disc (or even ROM cartridges if you remember them?) media. When most games went to downloadable the costs for the distribution plummeted but instead of seeing that cost saving the consumer is charged even higher prices for games. I for one have been asking for this ability for a long time. I want to give my game to a friend when I'm done. I bought the rights to use it, I should be able to sell those rights just like the lease on my apartment.
Nanobang 20 September 2019 at 12:26 pm UTC
Maybe someone else has mentioned this (I'm not going to read 14 pages of comments here to find out) but this I can easily imagine this sort of precedent extending to other digital media like books, music, and videos.
sub 20 September 2019 at 12:33 pm UTC
StoneDancerWhy do some people think that returning to the old way will mean higher prices. We always used to trade in, sell or give away our disc (or even ROM cartridges if you remember them?) media. When most games went to downloadable the costs for the distribution plummeted but instead of seeing that cost saving the consumer is charged even higher prices for games.

But you do realize that while the costs (media, box, manual) went south, you still have ongoing service?
You can still download your game on Steam (, etc...) that you purchased 15 years ago.
That's cost of infrastructure that has not been there in those old times.

QuoteI for one have been asking for this ability for a long time. I want to give my game to a friend when I'm done. I bought the rights to use it, I should be able to sell those rights just like the lease on my apartment.

I don't get that example.
ZeroPointEnergy 20 September 2019 at 12:40 pm UTC
einherjarYes, so the reselling can not be treated the same. It is not a minor detail. If you can sell something millions of times, without it getting worn down, it is not a minor detail.
The developer must get the money for his job with a significantly lower amount of sales.
They can also create those copies at zero cost while the physical game has the biggest part of the money you pay in the actual distribution. And yet they still sell those AAA titles for 60 bucks like back then.

I'm not particularly concerned about a billion dollar industry so much that I think it ok for them to break the law and ignore consumer rights. We wouldn't accept that in any other industry either.

einherjarBut regulating them in the same way as physical goods (that can only be sold a limited time) is also not the best idea.
Of course a lot of things can be made better - but in a smart way. And this seems not to be a smart way.
It leeds us to even more "software as a service" and monopolism.

The law already exists there is nothing really new here. You are allowed to resell a license even if you got it via digital download in the EU. Stores like Steam and all the others probably too just ignore it because they think they will get away with it. And sorry, but do you really think if we just look the other way and let them break the law they will stop pushing the other way and abandon their plans for even more control via streaming and "software as a service" they are already implementing anyway? They will do that anyway!

In the end people will not have more or less money to spend on games and if they can sell one and instead buy something else that money is right back in the system and benefits another game developer.
ObsidianBlk 20 September 2019 at 1:11 pm UTC
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ShmerlWhy would you want to go back to physical distribution? It's surely step backwards.

The ability to actually physically have in your hands the product you pay for? Sure, they take up physical space, but that could be mitagated by using smaller distribution media (SD cards, instead of CDs). Then again, even digital content has its own issues in that, if you want to track all of the games yourself, you use a lot of storage space.

Also... Maybe not a concern for the younger generation, or casual players, but I still have a lot of my games from a decade or more ago, and I still go back a play a large number of them. It's nice to know they're still accessible.

Someone else mentioned how DVDs may become obsolete (and it's possible), but then the distribution media will change. Regardless, enthusiasts will always keep games alive. I'm still able to load and play old 8bit games (nes, c64, etc, etc), so the games will always be around if they are in user hands.

Again, I highly doubt any of this will really happen... But, call me old if you'd like, but I do like physically owning my games.
Arehandoro 20 September 2019 at 1:11 pm UTC
einherjar
ArehandoroWhen one buys a 2nd hand book, film, album or game, does the content differ? Is the content less enjoyable because the medium it comes in isn't in mint condition? In my case, I know the answer to both questions (NO).

For me, the content of a book is less enjoyable, if the book is crumbled, stinks because the pre owner was smoker or has stains for example from dirty fingers. The binding of a book also breaks down through use.

But all this does not happen to a digital copy of a game. The pre users were smoking or played it a lot, or they had dirty fingers while playing... DOESN'T MATTER. The used copy is always as good as an unused one.

Those are "if" statements that you might, or might not, experience, depending on the quality of the book, that should be reflected in the 2nd hand price for the quality of the format and that might not affect equally to everyone.

The used copy isn't as good of an unused one for one very simple reason: TIME.

While I'm playing it, you can't play it. While the 2nd person I sell it too is playing, you can't play it and so on. By the time you, or other person, plays the game at a reasonable price (for that particular person) it might have passed a lot of time with community dying off, etc.

People should not take this like everyone is going to sell their games nor they are going to be able to sell the same copy to another 100 different people.


Last edited by Arehandoro at 20 September 2019 at 1:18 pm UTC
Nevertheless 20 September 2019 at 1:13 pm UTC
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constThis may well go up to European court level and then it might effect the whole European Union. And there is no reason this will only affect games. I'd assume this would hit digital movie distribution even harder then games. And I assume it would hit AAA much harder then indie games.
Still, I hope this will happen. There will surely be chaos at first, but it will be a much fairer market in the end.

It would hit AAA harder in measure of money, but it will still kill lots of indies, and it will make AAA evade the problem alltogether.
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