It’s easy to be cynical these days. Everyone is trying to squeeze money out of consumers. At first glance, it seems like the Steam Trading Cards program that’s being heavily promoted by Valve during their Summer Sale, is exactly that. Buy a game, then play it for a while to earn some cards. But you won’t earn all the cards, you’ll have to buy (or trade) to get those! Once you get all the cards, you’ll be able to “craft” a badge for your profile. Instead of being done at that point, you can do it again, but this time without the free cards from the game. Jerkface Valve!
But lets look at this a little closer. When the Trading Card beta started, there were only a handful of games that supported these cards. Valve published games like Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life 2, and, for some reason, Klei Entertainment’s Don’t Starve. I went into that and grabbed all the cards for each game and didn’t complete any badges. I was on the side of “this is pretty worthless,” but others had really bought into it and crafted multiple badges for each game.
Now that it’s being widely supported, it makes much more sense.
I already owned FTL through another service, but when seeing it was now supporting Steam Trading Cards, I spent the ridiculous low price of $2.50 to purchase it again. I still think it was stupid, but hey, more money for those guys at Subset Games. Additionally, I’ve been focusing on games that DO support the cards for reasons we’ll talk about in the buying/selling section.
Who benefits: EVERYONE! Developers and Publishers get money. Valve gets money. You get a game.
Sure you can idle while letting the game run to get your free cards, which drop about every twenty minutes, but why not play those games? I’ve had Trine 2 since it released and never played it, but with the small carrot provided with Trading Cards, I fired it up and was amazed at its visuals – though not necessarily with the gameplay. Still, I had never experienced this incredibly beautiful and colorful world.
I’d be willing to wager this is more of a problem than you’d think. With the way Steam Sales work, it’s not unheard of for people to have large libraries of games and never have played a bunch of them. This time around, I watched Twitter and saw multiple people ‘complain’ that they went to buy a copy of Saints Row: The Third but already owned it.
Who benefits: EVERYONE! You get to play a game that you may not have before. Word of mouth could help sell more copies in which case, see “Buy Games”.
There are plenty of games that will require 10 or more cards to craft even the first badge. Instead of focusing on those, unless I really like the game and want the badge, I use their inventory of free cards to sell on the Community Marketplace. With these sales, I fund the purchase of other cards required for badges to games that are more reasonable. But there’s nothing to say that you can’t use this cash to buy additional games (in which case, see “Buy Games” again).
What you may not realize though is that a portion of every transaction related to the sale of cards is kicked back to the creator. Aside from the initial game purchase, I have put no money into Trading Cards, yet still am helping support the game developers. How freakin’ cool is that? If you love a game and are of the benevolent mindset of wanting to “give more back” to the people who made it, cards are a great way to do that. It’s a small amount, but if everyone is doing it, that turns into a large amount.
Who benefits: EVERYONE! You get the Badge rewards and look faux-super cool. Publishers and Developers get a cut of every card sale. Valve gets a cut too.
The thing you can do that only benefits yourself is trading for cards. Doing this takes out any sort of monetary transaction, therefore there’s no money heading back to anyone. You get your stupid badge and selfishly help yourself. That’s cool, I guess.
While this meta-game is something that people may be opposed to morally and the ultimate badge rewards seem to be just digital penis lengtheners, there’s really no downside to Steam Trading Cards. They benefit everyone involved.