Games For Hats: Valve Trials Steam Trades

Can I trade stuff for beer? That'd be incredibly useful.

Valve’s in-game TF2 item store is about to become an out-of-game item store. They’re trialling something called Steam Trading, which primarily involves swapping your TF2 unlocks (i.e. those damnable hats, mostly) for other games.

It’s an old-fashioned barter system in new-fangled clothes. What happens is you invite someone on your Steam friends list or who you’re in a group chat with to trade, and can offer up your various TF2 items to the other guy. In return, he or she can offer you other TF2 items – or to gift a game to you. You can’t do this with any old game in your Steam library – only games you’ve purchased from the store as a gift, or received as an Extra Copy.

To support all this, your Steam Community page will include a new inventory screen – similar to that in TF2, but available out of game and, eventually, for multiple games. There’s also a new option to store games for trading when you buy them, instead of activating them on the spot.

So, short-term, this potentially solves the problem of what to do with your various spare copies of older titles from promotions or pre-orders. You’re able to trade gift-designated games for other gift-designated games, by the way, so it could be a way to stock up your games library without spending too much.

Long-term, it could be a way to get hold of rare in-game items possibly for a knock-down price (if you’re canny about buying games during sales and whatnot), and without giving money directly to a stranger.

Not sure how I feel about it yet. I suspect it’s going to most come into its own when more games get added to the pan-Steam item trading – so, for instance, trading a TF2 hat for a Portal 2 hat. Says Valve, “Portal 2 should be [added] reasonably soon and we hope to have several third-party games in the next few months.” Which is a fascinating prospect – and further increasing Steam’s status as almost a platform unto itself rather than just a launcher/store. It almost makes it a metagame, even.

It’s an appealing idea in principle – offloading crap I don’t want for stuff in another game that I do, though that rather depends on certain items not being perceived as overly common and valueless. And the idea of so many people in so many games being even more fixated than they already are on collecting frippery is a mite fearsome and in-game chatter trying to organise trades could be hugely disruptive. At the same time, it seems like a natural next-step for Valve’s hat-centric masterplan.

Steam Trading is currently being trialled in beta, which you can opt into via Steam’s settings right now. More details about how it works and what’s planned for later are in this official FAQ.


  1. The Sombrero Kid says:

    From my twitter – “I bet you a million pounds Steam Trading is the new terms and conditions EA wont sign up to.”

  2. RiptoR says:

    This alone will prevent me from ever starting up TF2 again. As said in the newspost, I fear that most public games will be full of people trying to collect “hats” to trade.

    • Dzamir says:

      TF2 is already full of people trying to collect “hats” to trade :D

    • Keymonk says:

      Really? I only really see people like that very rarely. Most of them are clever enough to stick to trade servers.

    • skinlo says:

      Hyperbole much?

    • Tomm says:

      Yeah, I play almost every night on various servers, and haven’t seen trading speak in weeks.

    • Zogtee says:

      Bollocks. I play TF2 a couple of times a week and I very rarely see trade speak in-game.

    • Scatterbrainpaul says:

      I came across a server last night playing 2fort, and out of about 20 players only 2 or 3 including me were actually going for the case. Everybody else was just spamming chat or talking on team speak about trading and setting up deals with each other

      Other than that, if you stick to the right servers, people play to play not to trade

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      If you’re on a server where no one is actually playing the game & everyone is just spamming trades you could join one of the other thousands of servers with people on it instead.

      There’s a favourites list in the server browser for a reason.

      Hatters gonna hat.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Also, you can block all trade requests, or just reqs from non-friends. I figured it out after the two millionth “please give me your Max Head hat” request.

    • zeroskill says:

      Just go on a different server if you dont like the ones that spam trades. God can you be possibly more whiny. There are only thousands of active servers in Team fortress 2. Its generally advised, and not only since trading is a thing that exists in Team Fortress, that you find yourself a selection of favorite servers to frequent regularly which will enhance your gaming experience when you get to know other regulars. You people really have to be new at this kind of thing.

    • goldrunout says:

      Come on, many people talk about trading while playing, only during the real trading session they are idle. And anyway 9 people out of 20 just play without caring about trading. Little trading chat is tolerable

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      “Hatters gonna hat.”


      (Not seen much evidence of trading meself, but then I’m not a big tee eff too player)

    • Barnaby says:


      Just go on a different gaming blog if you have a problem with people’s complaints. Jesus can you be any more whiny? (see what I did there?)

      The last few times I’ve played there have been people spamming about hats. GD hats.

  3. DeliriumWartner says:

    They can also be traded for other games. I think that’s a bigger deal for me.

    • Gnoupi says:

      Yes, that’s the main interest of the news, in my opinion. It offers a “safe” trading place to exchange extra games with someone you don’t fully know.

      This way you can avoid the “I gifted to him and then he disconnected” kind of situation.

    • zeroskill says:

      You can pick up popular games that are on 75% deal and later trade it in for games you want if you are clever enough.

    • Froibo says:

      Like some sort of steam stock market.. it sure makes buying those 2 or 4 player packs more practical if you don’t have quite enough people. Such as Frozen Synapse which only has a 2 player pack but your friends aren’t really into it.

  4. BooleanBob says:

    I guess it’s only a matter of time before the Source Engine Hat (SEH) gets floated on the global markets as an independent currency. I guess we’d better get to work on a symbol (there’s this ⌂ in the unicode which is a good start).

    • bear912 says:

      I approve. Perhaps we need to establish a website that lists the current exchange rate to widely recognized currencies…

    • Aninhumer says:

      There is a unicode value for “TOP HAT” U+1F3A9

      EDIT: but it got swallowed by the comment form. :(

  5. mihor_fego says:

    Am I a weirdo for being sickened by this?

    • Gnoupi says:

      What is sickening in including giftable games that people could just gift away, in a bigger trade system?

      People were already doing that (at least trying to do). People proposing to exchange hats for an extra copy of L4D, in a game of TF2. It was leading of course to gullible people being scammed, since there was no system to enforce that both parties will effectively fulfill their parts.

    • skinlo says:

      Yes. Theres nothing to be sick about.

    • aiusepsi says:

      A little, yeh.

      Here’s the way I see it: I’ve got an extra copy of Audiosurf sitting in my Steam account that I acquired when I bought the Potato Sack. All my friends pretty much already have Audiosurf, because it’s ace. One of them is much better at it than me, and the automated emails I get telling me he’s crushed my score are soul-destroying.

      Anyway, rather than letting this languish, I can now trade it for a hat or two, or a game I don’t have, perhaps. A game goes to a loving new Steam account, my Engy’s head gets a shiny new hat, or my Heavy gets an awesome little Medic pocket doll, or something, everyone’s happy.

    • mihor_fego says:

      Make game free to play and give the option for people to trade games we sell for in-game cosmetic items. Also this being out of game, in the future supporting more f2p titles. Isn’t this really implemented for Dota2? I dunno… perhaps some people enjoy all this trade meta-game. I think that all it does is really distract developers and publishers from actually making games and finding alternative means for profit.

    • Gnoupi says:

      @minor – and what is the difference from buying the in-game cosmetic item with your real money?

      You can be against that kind of f2p approach, but this particular addition doesn’t really have anything to do with it.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I have a few gifts sitting in my list that I literally can’t give to any of my friends because they already have all of them. Now they are a commodity that I can trade for games that I don’t already have or even for something I want to gift to a friend.

      It’s a win / win / win situation.

    • zeroskill says:

      ^this. Still have a copy of Half-life 2 Ep1, Portal and a few other games sittng around, now I finally can trade it in for something useful, be it ingame items or other games. I cant see how anybody can dislike this addition to Steam, unless they are EA fans, which becomes harder every minute, IMO.

    • JackShandy says:

      But what about the losers, MadTinkerer? Who’s helping them out, huh?

  6. Tei says:

    I can imagine one day Valve will be forced to explain this bussines model to non-gamers. I would pay money to see the face of these non-gamers.

    • sinister agent says:

      This is clearly all an elaborate attempt to make their tax inspectors cry.

    • Rinox says:

      “So you see, we got these virtual hats…” *CEO loses thread*

  7. Dawngreeter says:

    I can’t for the life of me figure out what the deal with hats is. I mean, sure, if you’re playing a game you want some extra bling to spice up your manshooting style. But at which point did a hat become worth anything to anyone? Maybe they should rename the game to Team Hatting 2 and advertize it as a hat collecting game which has the ability to shoot people as a side show?

    I am dumbfounded. I also realize this is something I was supposed to comment, like, over 9000 years ago when the hat craze started.

    • Keymonk says:

      It only matters if it’s a deal to you. You don’t have to use hats. You don’t have to do anything other than play the game. Others just like blinging themselves up, and others yet get obsessed. Personally, I’m in the second category, but not nearly in the third. I still play the game more than deal with hats, though.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      I realize they are immaterial to gameplay. They are not wicked in my sight for ruining the game (although I haven’t actually played TF2… but I bought it like two years ago!). I just can’t comprehend what’s been going on with all the hats.

      Obviously, if it means free updates for people who play on account of people who buy hats, then that’s fucking awesome. But news like this still invokes a knee-jerk reaction and a mild stomach sickness. It is ludicrous. It is absurd. It undermines my desire for a better world inhabited by reasonable people. I don’t know why.

    • Jimmeh says:

      Unfortunately that is not the case. As hinted above, the amount of trade related chatter in any given server negatively impacts my experience. Maybe it doesn’t bother you that all anyone talks about is sodding hats, in which case I am envious of your position.

      When I fire up team fortress I want to play team fortress, and not be bombarded by people trading, talking about trading and a shop trying to sell me things. Unfortunately it appears that ship sailed long ago.

      I can’t blame Valve for exploiting it, the genius of the system is in realising people are actually willing to play for virtual cosmetic items (whoda thunk?). I just wish they would keep it out of the actual game. Maybe this steam based trading will provide that, but I doubt it.

    • aiusepsi says:

      You can now do trading without having to be in TF2 at all, so all the serious trading and wheeler-dealing can stick to forums where it belongs without having to clutter up a server.

      I honestly don’t know why people get so pent up about hats and items and do-dads, as if they’re the sky falling in or something, or they’re overshadowing the game. Most of this stuff you just pick up off the floor, and now it’s easier to swap the ones you want with your mates.

    • bear912 says:

      It undermines my desire for a better world inhabited by reasonable people people with hats.

      Did I fix it? Did I fix it? :D

    • Optimaximal says:

      The hats thing is just a meme that has grown to become a core portion of the game. I don’t think even Valve expected it to hit the heights it did…

      It’s just TF2’s ‘cake’.

    • Wulf says:

      No, bear912, I believe you just created a planet of hats.


    • moondog548 says:

      In fact they do advertise it at the #1 war-themed hat simultor.

  8. Memphis-Ahn says:

    In my country, we use hats as currency too.

  9. Kdansky says:

    It isn’t less silly than people spending thousands of hours in WoW to farm some random purple dragon. At least I know now what to do with all my hats. Sell them for games, hurray! I do take pride in the fact that I am determined to never ever pay real money for online bling items, and if I can, I will always exchange them for real money.

  10. JYzer says:

    Er, has anyone checked in on the Valve offices lately? I get the creeping suspicion that they’ve collectively lost their marbles or something. Developers huddling in corners crafting hats. New hats, bigger hats, always, always more hats, there must be more hats. A HATLESS WORLD IS A SINFUL WORLD.

    Mr. Newell in his luxury suite, designing hats with one hand, eating a pie with the other. A single tear rolls down his cheek.

  11. DSR says:

    This is downright disgusting!

    Not only its counter productive to building a proper friendly community which Valve once hoped to create, but also Its flawed, to say the least.

    What about CD Key based games? (Crysis 2, BF3, oh my… What a coincidence… Or not?)
    The games which are tied to a single account(EA, Gamespy or whatever) as that specific CD key.
    Basically, giving out my Crysis 2 to someone, I’m still left with my valid account and cd key(Which I can use to install it from Origin and play it online) while my “friend” is there crying tears with “broken” game which is “already in use”.

    What about games with Games(Pardon the pun) for Windows Live? And DLCs I’ve bought there(Hello, Bulletstorm and GTA4!)

    And then there are games with DRM which NEEDS you to have a valid CDkey and account to even launch the game. All of recent Ubisoft games like Assassins Creed 2.
    Funny thing, Sacred 2 was removed from Steam not so long ago. And it was using account authentication for playing too.

    ActiveBlizzard vs Valve Hatware…

    Who will win in this epic battle for being the dumbest corporation of the year?

    Oh never mind me! Keep bashing EA, people! They ARE the bad guys.

    • googoogjoob says:

      because somehow it is valve’s fault that these games have super-restrictive drm

      you can’t trade games that you have already assigned to your own account anyway, just extra gift copies you have

      i can’t actually tell what you are upset about and i’m afraid you may in fact be a troll

    • poop says:

      read the FAQ. what this does is just give you a special gifting copy that you have in a steam inventory and can trade later. you dont open the game at all and it technically Isn’t part of your greater steam account
      this is actually going to be pretty good for consumers. look forward to being able to get several games at near sale prices all year round because there will be some people who stock up on games whenever they are discounted a little.

      also the FAQ mentions that trading does not discriminate based on region. this is also basically valve introducing a way for people with horrible regional pricing to circumvent it in a way that isnt grey market and unprofitable for valve

    • jon_hill987 says:

      I am quite sure you will only be able to trade “unopened” gifts rather than games you have played therefore seeing the CD key will not be an issue.

    • skinlo says:

      Please do some research before QQing next time.

    • Tomm says:

      It’s almost as if he didn’t read the article before posting. Fancy that…

    • poop says:

      this is actually pretty genius, previously people would trade game gifts/hats by paypalling somebody the value of the item. now with this new system that will probably replace most paypal payments valve is basically doubling their profits by having somebody buy something on each side

    • deadsexy says:

      Oh my.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      DSR Uses “don’t read”.

      It’s not very effective.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      This is downright disgusting!

      Seriously? Disgusting? Really?

      Even if what followed this statement wasn’t incoherent babble based on misunderstanding, would it really constitute disgusting? Britains richest man being allowed to declare himself non-resident to avoid paying tax (and getting away with it ’cause he’s buddies with the PM) is disgusting. Parents finding out that their son has been shot dead by the police from watching the news (rather than, you know, the police telling them personally) is digusting. Even the smell of my cats’ litter tray in the morning could be desribed as disgusting.

      But this…?

  12. Glow says:

    I only care if this eventually leads to all out trading of games between friends

    • JFS says:

      This. The hat thing is so strange. I have the suspicion that this Valve move marks the advent of a new human species, Homo Nerdens. I’m not sure I want to be around. Real trading, however, would be great.

  13. Teddy Leach says:

    I’ve got a sexy Aperture Science hat. You can have it in return for all your games.

  14. MonkeyMonster says:

    Good god DSR get to spec savers and also learn to read. Swapping hats for unused extra games that all your steam friends already have – nice. It will lead to swappage of unused games for unused games eventually I’d guess. Single swappage limit atm I am presuming for the moment…

  15. The Dark One says:

    People like pretty things. If it takes a certain amount of time for you to get the pretty thing for free, but significantly less if you pay, you might be willing to go for it (especially if you haven’t paid any money to play the game in the first place), They like rare things, too. TF2 has ‘unique’, ‘genuine’, ‘vintage’, ‘strange’ and ‘unusual’ versions of the different weapons, miscellaneous items and hats you can find in-game.

    Some items, like the hats that came with pre-orders for L4D2 or Sam & Max Season 3, have been in such high demand that people have been trading major amounts of money for them, or brokering some kind of deal to hand over the goods and get a gifted game over Steam later. That’s probably why they’re putting in this official trading system. It makes it harder for scammers and easier for people who don’t have any hats of their own to barter with to offer something up.

  16. Anarki says:

    Interesting that in the new Inventory page every item has a link to an external tf2wiki because no one has any idea what anything does anymore…….

  17. Kollega says:

    I hate hats.

    • Gnoupi says:

      I hats hate.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      I hat hates

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Hats hate I.

    • Chris D says:

      But not fezzes. Fezzes are cool.

    • Anthile says:

      Huddah huddah huh.

    • Tams80 says:

      Also not stetsons. Stetsons are cool.

    • Mattressi says:

      I hate games.

      I’m only here because I’m a virtual hat collector. I come to gaming sites in the hopes of finding hat news. Hopefully one day the hivemind will create Rock, Paper, Hat for me and my kind.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      I dunno, man. I got the Fez and it does kind of almost feel like a cheat mode. None of the other set bonuses are that great, but the Saharan Spy, brrr.

    • zeroskill says:

      If you hate hats you are a bad person.

    • Kollega says:

      @zeroskill: Or one referencing Francis of Left4Dead fame :-P

    • BeamSplashX says:

      You need to add a few more “I hate x” statements to sound like Francis.

      I hate trades.
      I hate gifts.
      I hate games.
      I hate mountains.

    • Kollega says:

      Oh, alright. That’s a miss then. I’ll try to remember this the next time hat-related news appear.

  18. airtekh says:

    No one will take my hat collection. You hear me?


    • honolululu says:

      You know. They’re not really your hats. You’re just renting them from Steam, for free.

      Maybe tomorrow Steam pulls the plug, and now who has all the hats?


      That’s why I only buy boxed hats.

  19. Zogtee says:

    I was going to post something along the lines of “How long until the first nerd rage post”, but you lot beat me to it. All this bollocks about how playing TF2 is like wading waist-deep through hats is getting so ridiculous.

  20. marginwalker says:

    Does this mean that effectively when you want to buy a game – just get someone to gift it to you, or set up another account and gift it to yourself, and then it will become trade-able?


    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Simpler than that: when you buy it, just choose to buy it as a gift and send it to your email address. It’ll appear in your Steam account’s “Gifts and guest passes” list, and you can trade it, or re-send it to someone else’s email address or Steam account to give it away, or just redeem it yourself to add it to your own account.

  21. cytokindness says:

    Textmode idling for fun and profit!

  22. mbp says:

    I’m wondering if there is an arbitrage opportunity of sorts in here even if you don’t really play TF2:

    For example – I spot a popular game on sale in Steam that doesn’t really interest me. I snap up multiple copies anyway at the discount price as “gifts”. Then I wait a while till the game is back up at full price again and try to swap them through the medium of hats for other games that I really do want.

    • MDevonB says:

      Essentially making Hats the Microsoft/Wii points of Steam?

      Left 4 Dead 3 out 2012 for the low, low price of two ball caps and a beret? (Doesn’t play TF2)

    • Kollega says:

      You can just swap gifts directly, you know. But it would be totally hilarious if hats indeed became a currency on Steam.

    • Dave Mongoose says:

      The problem then comes in finding someone who wants that game, and is willing/able to trade it for a game you want.

      For them to be willing to trade, the game you want would have to be cheaper than the normal price of the game you bought on sale (otherwise there’s no point in them trading) but higher than the sale price (otherwise there’s no point in you trading). That could be quite restrictive considering how most games are set at standard prices, unless it’s one of the big discounts like 75% or 50% off. A 10% pre-order discount, for example, isn’t likely to be a profitable investment.

      It’s going to be most useful for games that have ‘multipack’ discounts like Terraria, Left 4 Dead or Magicka, when you have gift passes left over. Having said that, there are probably going to be a lot of people wanting to offload multipack copies so that they can take advantage of the discount…

  23. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    So monies all of a sudden holds no value?

  24. NaturalDre says:

    This is fine, as some others pointed out this is already going, but now gullible people won’t come flooding Valve’s customer service ’cause they got scammed. Also, a lot of you forget TF2 is Valve’s testing grounds. This is so they can test their new technology and refine it for use in other games both made and not made by them.

  25. Ergates_Antius says:

    Don’t really care about hats, but I have a few gifted copies of games (from pre-orders etc) that I have no need for – being able to exchange these for things I don’t already have can only be a good thing.

  26. bluebomberman says:

    I’m trying to get excited about this, but I have zero games to trade, a barren friends list (I don’t do a lot of multi), and exactly one TF2 tradable item: a Level 10 Bust of Hippocrates. Sadly, all my achievement items from Poker Night at the Inventory are *not* tradable.

  27. Moleman says:

    There’s kind of an unintended consequence of this, though- Steam sales are going to get a bit less generous, I imagine (the possibility for arbitrage with TF2 items would be open for abuse).

    Plus, while it got laughed off a page back, this seriously could be a contributing reason why EA is abandoning steam. The addition of a back channel market can’t be attractive to big publishers, especially with PC games (and you can’t blame any publisher for not believing “Don’t worry, we won’t implement this for non-gift copies”- as nice as Valve usually is, any business that starts using “don’t worry, they gave us their word” as part of their profit projections deserves what it gets). The secondary market is what made PC games vanish in bricks and mortar stores- the secondary market is pure profit for the portal.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      I don’t see at all how any 3rd party would object to this. Whether the person who owns the game bought it himself or traded it for hats with someone else, the 3rd party will still see the corresponding money from it. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this results in MORE sales from people buying up multiple copies of one game for the sole purpose of trading.

      I’m sorry to say, but I have absolutely no idea how you came to the conclusion that this is the same “secondary market” that cause a dip in PC sales before Steam. In fact, there’s an entirely different reason why brick and mortar stores stopped selling PC games, and it’s not because of the “secondary market” either. There’s absolutely nothing in this update that would lead me to believe that the secondary market would be detrimental to the sales of 3rd parties. You do realize you can only trade games that you haven’t added to your library, right? You’re not trading games you already have. Valve isn’t turning this into a hat-based GameStop/GAME.

  28. wazups2x says:

    Dang, I wish this update came sooner! I just gave away a game because I had a free copy that I had no use for, I could have probably got something for it.

  29. Squishpoke says:

    More people will buy keys to get better hats.

    More people will buy sales to get extra games.

    More people will trade for better things they want. As a general rule, both parties benefit in a trade.

    Valve wins. Game devs win. Players win.


    • shoptroll says:

      Indeed. No doubt one of the bean counters noticed that enough people had extensive libraries and were now immune to the siren’s call of the Steam Sale*. This is definitely an attempt to keep the “whales” in the pool and buying games to trade for in-game items. Ingeniously sublime.

      * I’m pretty certain this is why the Treasure Hunt and Summer Steam sale were packed to the gills with achievement based contests featuring games that were on sale.

  30. shoptroll says:

    Intriguing. Surprising they don’t have the option for people to trade items for money via the Steam Wallet, but I’m guessing they don’t want to provide a way around the Mann Co. store.

    On a side note imagine with me, if you will, a world where Vivendi Universal openly embraced Valve’s Steam project back when it was still a skunkworks thing and merged it with Imagine trading Diablo III loot for TF2 hats. Now realize that world doesn’t exist.

  31. Joof says:

    So now I can pay Valve to bid on other people’s virtual items? And it requires an internet connection and a login to play? Way to Blizzard up TF2 Valve.

  32. thepavementview says:

    I hate to say this, but this system of trading items for games already existed in Steam. It’s been around for a while, and plenty of people were being scammed for TF2 items. Steam knew about this, but there were so many game-for-item trades going on that they really couldn’t moderate everything. Really, I’m surprised to see this, but I understand one of the reasons Valve is doing this – to limit pointless “bawwwwwww, I was scammed out of TF2 crap” reports to Steam Support.
    I got fed up with TF2 recently, the glorified hat simulator that it is, and decided to trade my useless in game items for some games. I was successfully able to trade most of my backpack (I’m not a hat collector, so I didn’t have too many valuables) for about $25 worth in games. I later found out that I was pretty much lowballed, but hey at least I got something I use out of the deal while some poor sod is left with a pretend hat. I’m going to laugh my ass off if the hat economy ever collapses.

  33. Big Murray says:

    Valve have done an extraordinary job in cultivating my disinterest in TF2 over the years.

  34. Robin_G says:

    Now that its backed by something of value and people could theoretically fund their gaming through TF2, I fear the old joke about TF2 being more about trading hats than shooting people is a depressing reality. I just hope everyone I trade with from now on is not trying to rip me off as much as possible because these items have a very tangible value now, even more so than when the store was introduced, because now they have “resale value” in terms of having an easy and secure way of trading them for a game.

  35. Veracity says:

    Good. People were doing this, anyway, despite game trading being (I think) a TOS violation. This just adds oversight and makes it less attractive to would-be scammers. And I can’t see an ethical objection along “auction house legitimizes gold farming sweatshops” lines.

  36. Araxiel says:

    Steam aka the Mad Hatter