Valve has gone and done it again. In this past Wednesday’s Steam update, Valve made it possible to trade in-game Team Fortress 2 items for gifted and extra copies of games. The full user agreement can be found here. The TF2 blog post detailing this update suggests other in-game items from other games will be available to trade down the road. Maybe one day we’ll be able to trade TF2 items for Portal 2 items. But for now, we’ll just have to make due with what we got now. This is an ingenious move by Valve; they have effectively turned Steam games into another form of currency, and since their cut of each transaction is substantial, Valve will be pulling in the big bucks. This is kind of similar to World of Warcraft gold farmers, who make money by selling digital gold (which is against Blizzard’s policy, but it is still done anyways, especially in China). Blizzard has already introduced the Diablo III auction house in order to take back control of the gold farming market.
However, buying a sword or shield is entirely different then buying a game for a digital hat. If I buy a $50 game and trade it for a hat, then is the hat worth $50 too? Good question. The TF2 community has already made the in-game item business very lucrative for Valve; I’ve seen people throw down hundreds of dollars for items in that game. No doubt these TF2 fanatics will be willing to pay money for extra games to acquire rare hats. To illustrate my point, during a recent Killing Floor playthrough, a fellow player inquired if any of us had the TF2 Foster mask and tie. I did have the items in question, and he quickly offered a large set of games just for those items. I passed on the opportunity, but this goes to show that players are already taking advantage of this new trading system.