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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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monyarm 20 September 2019 at 1:47 pm UTC
What if people could only resell their games once, and only games purchased on steam, so games you activated from a dvd, or you got from a giveaway wouldn't count. And you wouldn't be able to circulate the same copy of the game over half the world. Maybe also give both valve and devs a cut from these sales. I think that would solve most of the problems people here have with this.
Mal 20 September 2019 at 1:52 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. 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.

Pricing of digital videogames follows different rules than pricing a piece of physical videogames. All the fixed costs are virtually just for producing the first copy. All the others are free. No box to print, no cd to burn, no transportation or stocking costs. For this reason publishers have all the interests to sell the highest amount of copies as possible (well, before Epic paid them to sell less but that's an edge case that can't last forever) at the highest price. Even if this price is crazy low. So you have day 1 price. First discount after a few months. Then another price reduction after a year. And so on. Publishers control prices with care. The idea is that when nobody else buys the game at a given price you can only maximize profits by reducing the price in order to match the expectation of a fair price of more people. And so on. Imho it's a good enough model for us. Maybe you won't get a game on day 1, but even if you're super poor eventually if you're patient enough you'll get the game you want at an affordable price. It's not perfect, but I'd say that it's more positive than negative. At least we can agree that it helped a lot to the success of PC gaming.

So being able to resell a copy changes the equation. Just hypothetically suppose you buy the game at 60$. Now you know that you can sell it for around 50$ after a month when you finish it. This has several implications. After a month the game for you effectively costed you 10$, plus the negligible interests on the 50$ you had invested in the transaction for a month to be precise. But let's ignore that since for a single copy it really is negligible. It also means that after a month because of you and other day 1 buyers there is a copy on sell for 50$. The publisher won't be able to sell new first hand copies for 60$ anymore. These are digital goods second hand markets sells copies that are exactly the same as first hand. The 10$ would become unreasonable. So having lost the control of the prices publisher will now have to at least match the 50$ price tag to sell additional first hand copies and make more profit. If you were the publisher how would you try to improve the situation? Well, for instance I could sell the game on day 1 at 120$. Ouch that's a lot of money. But hei! Whoever buys a copy knows that he can sell it later. Let's say 100$ a month later. The effective cost after you sell it would be around 20$, still much less than the 60$ people consider fair now. So why not? Now the publisher not only gets 120$ instead of 60$ on day one, but after a month it will be able to sell additional copies for 100$ instead of 50$. The benefits are clear: the sell copies slower, controlling how many licenses they print to not inflate the market. But as opposed to now where scarcity is just detrimental the scarcity actually help them maintain the value higher for longer, resulting in more profits in the long run.

Anyway these are just speculations. Who knows what will really happen. Maybe they will sell you copies that you can sell back for guaranteed 90% of the value a month layer if you want. That would control price fluctuations and empower grant them interest free month long loans. Maybe reasonably priced legit copy scarcity will just drive people en mass to piracy and everything will blow up. Maybe they will abandon the single license model entirely and do only streaming or subscription like other people suggested. And maybe we'll never find out because the rule implications are different than this like somebody pointed out already.
Geppeto35 20 September 2019 at 1:54 pm UTC
this judgment doesn't introduce new troubles. It just went back backward when all games were physically distributed (we, all olds, yet sold finished game on cd or disk)... did it avoid game developers and industry to develop? I don't think so.
Remember also that you will need markets to sell those used keys (and internet connexion to activate game and survey their uses but that's yet the case on steam, galaxy, epic launcher, etc.), meaning fees. With low cost games due to sales, buying used keys may remain anecdotal excepted for those who exploited their game as long-term annuities (ie keeping the price of their games high even after years).

Company that will keep alive their games, taking into account for users will have few impact from such decision. Those that will endure it will be bullshit companies or games: they will be immediately sanctioned by a massive resale and therefore a net stop of their sale. I think it will also clean the presale promises like linux announcement.

We do that with books, comics, bluray, ... so game market benefited from few years of a monopoly created with their owned developed tools (individual keys) which has guaranteed to many actors rents, even well after the true works were finished and profitable. It is simply getting this market back into the perimeter of the law.
Indeed, this unilaterally established monopoly allowed more incomes that created a niche from which also benefited some indies. Indies collateral damages can't serve as excuse for the rest of the industry.
ThreeEightySix 20 September 2019 at 1:54 pm UTC
They can just charge a transfer fee and still make money off of games coming and going in their customer's libraries.
x_wing 20 September 2019 at 3:00 pm UTC
KyrottimusValve 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*

They will have to think on what to do with games trading cards too. Is very fun to think all the consequences of this change for the business model of Steam (and probably every Store... imagine Origin allowing games reselling ROFL!)


Last edited by x_wing at 20 September 2019 at 3:01 pm UTC
tonR 20 September 2019 at 3:14 pm UTC
IMO, two posibilities outcome for future game stores/clients:

1. Return to sort of new style ownership ala physical copies era. (kinda Great)
2. End of software copy and "game streaming" and every new bullshit-ness. (Seriously, I'll quit gaming, in legit way)

Indeed. Interesting times.
Purple Library Guy 20 September 2019 at 3:43 pm UTC
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.
This is partly just one more sign that the whole "product" model for digital goods is pretty broken, that paying by the unit for infinitely replicatable things doesn't really work. It's the model we have, it's the model that (for better or worse) our economic system depends on, and it makes a certain sense for material, non-replicatable goods in situations of scarcity. So we naturally try to extend it to this new domain. But it's showing plenty of cracks; this is just one more.
(Subscription models are broken in a different way)
Purple Library Guy 20 September 2019 at 3:53 pm UTC
subAlso, the argument that you can trivially copy a digital "good" and therefore must be cheaper sounds like complete non-sense to me.
As if a dev/publisher puts a price tag on the binary...
Ofc, they want to get paid for the experience (per person).

It's like arguing with the ticket man to let me into the cinema for free as there are still spare seats left and the show runs anyway.
I have never faced someone complaining to pay for the "experience".
Ofc, I came across plenty that complained about cinema prices here. Fair enough.
Still, it's not the only way to do things. In ancient Rome, the theatre was free. You're a Roman citizen in a decent-sized Roman town, the empire lays on an amphitheatre of some sort and it's your right to go and take in a show. Bread and circuses, man. Of course, there was a statue of the emperor and some stuff before the show about how awesome the emperor and the empire was. Pay for your entertainment by accepting a bit of propaganda. Sort of like the ad-supported model of the internet . . .
So obviously I'm not saying we should do it like the Romans. Just saying, there could be other approaches.
Purple Library Guy 20 September 2019 at 4:06 pm UTC
Arehandoro
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.

Not entirely true.

When 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).

One might decide to pay less for the state of that format but ultimately the importance here is what you do with that content. Therefore, Valve's case isn't different to existing consumer rights and market laws. Besides, let's not forget that more often that not 2nd hand books are equally, if not more, expensive that new ones in many situations AND that 2nd hand market is completely out of companies revenues. In a platform like Steam, if 2nd hand were to be enabled, they could, and they will, still control how it works getting a chunk of every sale for them as platform and for the dev. Which I believe, it should create another topic in itself.
On Steam (and perhaps the devs) getting a chunk of resale, that's still probably less than the overhead for resales of physical goods. Consider used bookstores--people who actually have gone to used bookstores to sell them your old books* will realize that they pay diddly for them, and only partly because the thing itself is used. They pay diddly because they have to pay rent on a store and utilities and some money for themselves so they don't starve, out of the markup. Similar things are true for used clothes and other things; lots of used goods stores don't pay for the stuff at all, people just donate whatever to get it out of their way. So if Steam or whoever takes a cut of resale, that's hardly unprecedented; they're providing the infrastructure just like a used bookstore.

* I very rarely do this but I have occasionally ended up with duplicates of the same book. Of course where I live, there hardly are any used bookstores any more. Rent got too high, Amazon took over, they all died except a couple legendary ones.
DarthJarjar 20 September 2019 at 4:12 pm UTC
Assuming the ruling holds and Valve is doing something about it,

a plausible scenario would be:
* People keep the same budget for buying video games.
* Depending on how the resell price is distributed, publishers and valve end up with the same split of that pie.
* In the end, people pay the same thing to end up with a smaller library of games.

An other possible scenario would be:
* People reduce their gaming budget.
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