Valve Restrict Steam Trading Again To Combat Cheaters

Valve will soon introduce yet more restrictions on what items you can trade in an effort to chase dirty, rotten cheaters out of their digital shop, according to a new entry on its support pages. You will no longer be able to add certain multiplayer games to your inventory for gifting or trading later, it says. This applies to over 400 hundred games on Steam, including Ark: Survival Evolved, DayZ, Garry’s Mod and many others. If you want to gift any of these, you have to do it there and then. It’s all part of a crackdown on cheaters who would stockpile games and gift them to their own clone accounts whenever they got banned, using the loophole to continue playing. But wait, there’s more.

Valve have also introduced a kind of gifting ban, albeit one that is specific to individual games.

“If you directly gift a game to someone who gets permanently banned,” they say, “you won’t be able to gift that game again.”

The post explains the whole thing.

“When a user is caught cheating, their Steam account is banned from playing multi-player on secured servers. This creates an incentive for people who cheat to stockpile copies of games on one account and to gift them to low value accounts where they can continue cheating. In response to this problem, Steam no longer allows users to purchase copies of VAC or Game Ban enabled games to their inventory. Additionally, if an account has directly gifted a game to other players who have been VAC or permanently Game Banned, then that account will lose the ability to gift that game.”

For instance, if you gift a copy of Ark: Survival Evolved to your mate and they get banned for cheating because they are a scoundrel without honour or humility, you won’t be able to gift that particular game again, to anyone. Your friend has sullied your reputation. The knave.

The restrictions haven’t been fully enacted yet. We just successfully bought a copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops III and added it to our inventory without a problem (apart from the problem of now owning it). But judging by the support page, it looks like the restrictions will be rolled out soon.

The measure against stockpiling games in your inventory applies only to games that have the Valve Anti-Cheat system enabled (VAC), and to games by developers which have an agreement with Valve to slap permabans on players found to be using dirty tricks. These ‘Game Bans’ are slightly different from a ban through VAC and put a literal mark on your Steam profile. This is to let you know you’ve been caught red-handed, but also to let everyone else know you are pondlife.

This is not the first time Valve have increased security measures. They previously introduced “hold periods” for items and trading cards being put on sale, encouraging users to activate a two-step verification system with their mobile phones.

“We’ve taken these steps to ensure the integrity of the multi-player experience for those participating in online gaming communities,” said Valve. “We understand that the restrictions on buying to inventory may be inconvenient for some legitimate users, but we believe that these steps will reduce the number of cheaters you’ll play against. And that’s important in having an online gaming experience that’s fair and enjoyable for everyone.”

What does everyone think? It looks to me like the method is focused enough to work, and it’s hard to imagine an innocent reason anyone would stockpile a dozen copies of Gas Guzzlers Extreme. What’s more is that Valve appear to have a scheduling feature (see above) for gifting games by email, which makes it easier for folks who genuinely want to gift but want it to arrive at a later date. That’s something I don’t remember seeing before but maybe I am just out of touch. The other restrictions may affect those close to known cheatbags, however. What do you think? Do you have a dodgy friend you’ll be avoiding gifting to from now on?


  1. BarneyL says:

    Isn’t this only the banned players who can’t gift these games anymore? It would be a bit odd for Killing Floor to be selling in a six pack if you can’t gift the five spare copies.

    • Jalan says:

      Not according to Valve’s wording. If you’re an otherwise in-good standing user and gift someone a copy of a (VAC enabled) game that they decide to cheat in and are subsequently busted for doing so, then you no longer have the ability to gift that game again.

      • Cerulean Shaman says:

        Logic would say that you would be warned before making the trade. Honestly, if you don’t constantly get banned or if you are a good ‘ol average and kind gamer just completely disregard this entire post.

  2. Chiron says:

    Its already unusable for me, I’m not giving them my bloody phone number.

    15 day wait per trade is just ridiculous.

    • Stargazer86 says:

      Yup. During the last Steam sale I couldn’t even toss any of those trading cards you get onto the market because of the holds. And I’m not going to go through 2-Step authentication just to make 5 cents. So I just didn’t bother. So stupid.

      • Andrew says:

        #firstworldproblems, anyone?

      • Holderist says:

        You could sacrifice them into gems, and sell those whenever.

      • PenguinJim says:

        “And I’m not going to go through 2-Step authentication just to make 5 cents.”

        You’re allowed to sell more than one trading card per account.

    • Andrew says:

      Cheater detected.

      But, seriously, is your paranoia more important than security of your account?

      • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

        I’m in the same boat as him/her; I don’t want to give out my phone number particularly (not like there have never been database breaches at Valve…) but more to the point I don’t own a smartphone, which automatically excludes me from being able to install a smartphone app. So no more trading or marketeering for me, I guess.

        • Jalan says:

          How do you buy ANYTHING through Steam then, when it requires a phone number for the checkout process?

          • Aitrus says:

            I don’t recall ever putting in a phone number in order to make a purchase.

          • Jalan says:

            I do, quite frequently no less.

          • Assirra says:

            It doesn’t require it at all. You can opt for it for extra security but it is by no means a requirement.

          • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

            I have a phone, just not a smartphone capable of running the steam authenticator.

        • Andrew says:

          You don’t need smartphone.

          But, again, seriously, do you think that Valve doing something “ridiculous”? Steam client runs for months without interruption, I put this code into a browser once, maybe twice a week (I prefer using Chrome with Enhanced Steam, rather than built-in browser), and occasionally I run Idle Master and tap couple of times in the app, to sell cards for free money. And my account is safe(er).

          I don’t know, I get the concern about safety, I really do (I registered once for a MMO and they send me my password back in plain text email – never played it since), but… Do you buy Steam gift cards for cash, so Valve wouldn’t know your credit card, too?

      • ThePuzzler says:

        My convenience is more important to me than the security of my account. If a hacker wants to sell all my silly trading cards, probably causing my account to contain upwards of £1.34 of credit, and they’ve found some clever way to steal that £1.34 for themselves, good luck to them. I’d sell the cards myself and put it towards a game, but their system has crossed the “more trouble than it’s worth” barrier.

        • Andrew says:

          They can steal the whole account, actually. You, probably, gonna take it back, but maybe not – they not losing anything for trying.

          Ok, sure, what is important to you is for you to decide. But Valve have a lot of people who got their account stolen, got scammed out of some items, or got their experience ruined by cheaters. Serious problems on one hand, slight inconvenience on the other. No competition, would you agree?

          Going back to post’s topic. For example, Twitter in very peculiar situation. They want to squash harassment, but they want people who fight corrupt governments to be safe, too. And this Steam situation looks like one of those serious topics. But it’s not. It’s just store clerk asking for your ID.

    • Ghostwise says:

      I use WinAuth.

      Works fine.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      If it “helps”, if anyone you even remotely know is running Whatsapp, they have already uploaded your phone number without your consent to a central server outside of EU legislation, i.e. done something completely illegal and against EU data protection laws.

      Whatsapp has been operating like this illegally for years now, and nobody cares.

      But at least it means your number has already been in the wild whether you like it or not for forever as well, is what I am saying, Steam or no Steam.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        Not to mention that if anyone who has your phone number has clicked the “Why yes, have a copy of all my contacts” button on a social media site, then Facebook or whoever already know all of your contact details that you’ve given to that person, even if you’ve never set up a Facebook account (and your friends might be tagging you in photos too, so they know what you look like, and where you’ve been, and with who).

        If it bothers you that much though, just pick up a burner phone and use that number with a throwaway email and Steam gift cards.

  3. Xiyng says:

    Uh huh. I guess I won’t be gifting anything on Steam in the future. I haven’t really given that many gifts anyway, but I certainly won’t be giving any from now on. I don’t think I know any cheaters, but just in case…

    • yusefsmith says:

      So you won’t be gifting games anymore, because if you gift a game to a cheater, you won’t be able to gift games anymore.


      • Xiyng says:

        Yeah, I was kind of expecting answers like this and I guess I can only blame myself for not explaining myself better. See my answer to someone else below for a better explanation. And yeah, I’m being too sensitive, I’m sure.

    • Rindan says:

      “I’m going to chop off my arm so that you can’t chop my arm off and make me a cripple!”

      The punishment for one of your mates cheating with a game you gifted them is that you stop being able to gift that one particular game to other folks. So you are not going to gift games on the slight chance that one of your mates will cheat and you will lose your ability to gift that game?


      • Xiyng says:

        It’s a bit odd, but I consider my account somehow ‘dirty’ if I get a restriction like that on it. I don’t want it to feel ‘dirty’. In Valve’s eyes, I’ve essentially been helping a cheater.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      Wow, two people just attacked a poster for saying he wanted to exercise his free will to not use Steam’s gifting feature.

      RPS sure has gotten a lot nastier over the years.

      • thedosbox says:

        It’s more like two people pointing out how flimsy his logic is.

        • Xiyng says:

          Nah, there’s no flimsy logic. Just me being too sensitive about keeping my account as ‘clean’ as possible (see my response to someone else above).

      • yusefsmith says:

        If you think that’s an attack you haven’t been on the interwebs long. I was just playing.

      • LionsPhil says:

        RPS has always had a consumer-blaming problem, because society has a consumer-blaming problem when it comes to businesses lucky enough to be considered The Good Guys.

        This is shitty and persecutes people for the actions of others. Cheat detection is not perfect; those others may not even actually be guilty, but there is no appeals process.

  4. Slow Dog says:

    “This creates an incentive for people who cheat to stockpile copies of games on one account and to gift them to low value accounts where they can continue cheating.”

    I’m missing something here. Why do cheaters ‘stockpile and gift to a low value account’? Why not create a zero value account and buy the one game?

    • Andrew says:

      They buy those games during a sale, I guess.

    • Michael Anson says:

      The idea was apparently to keep Valve from banning accounts with valid purchasing information.

  5. JonClaw says:

    Bad people do bad things and good people are inconvenienced for it.

    • Shadow says:

      Question is, how does this remotely inconvenience good people?

      • pmh says:

        It certainly affects the good people on SteamGifts, the Kindness Club thread here, subreddits like /r/PlayItForward, or really anyone who wants to share a multiplayer game they enjoy with others.

  6. yusefsmith says:

    Love the shoutout to Gas Guzzlers Extreme. Heck of a fun game.

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      It is! Highly recommended.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Thirded. I wish they’d open it up a little more to custom race (pick track/type/etc.) creation. It’s not far from being able to grow into Flatout-with-guns.

        …still haven’t actually tried the zombie horde mode.

  7. NukeWithG says:

    Because creating those accounts on the spot is more inconvenient than buying fifteen copies of the game and then gifting them to the zero-value accounts at your convenience when you want to or need to create them.

  8. PancakeWizard says:

    Valve are just going to keep doing heavy-handed automated stuff like this purely to avoid having actual staff.

  9. melnificent says:

    So in this situation you are punished for what your steam friends do. This is going to get bad isn’t it?

    • jomurph86 says:

      Only if you have poor taser in friends :)

      • jomurph86 says:

        Taser… Ha.

        Was going for “taste” obviously

      • Duoae says:

        That’s a sort of asinine response, though. I mean I used to gift a lot of games during the steam sales of yore to people who I ‘knew’ on a forum I frequented. They’re not really friends per se, I was just doing something nice for people who wanted to play games on their wishlist.

        I really think that this is quite heavy handed in that a single bad person could possibly result in many people not being able to gift whichever game they gifted to them*.

        *I’m clarifying here because apparently people write before they think – the way it’s written, let’s say I gift Game 1 that is on VAC and three other people have gifted Games 2, 5 and 6 (all using VAC or this permaban agreement) to the same person. This person then gets perma banned from official servers and all four people are unable to gift any more copies of those games.

        It’s like if you lend your lawnmower to your neighbour and they happen to commit a gardening vandalism crime with it you are forever after unable to provide your lawnmower to anyone else in your entire life… Maybe not the end of the world but the punishment is a ridiculous one. You get punished for being nice.

        It makes me not want to gift games to people any longer. I mean, I can’t even guarantee that my young cousins would not install a hack or bot so why would I expect a stranger or internet friend to be trustworthy either?

        • LionsPhil says:

          Yes, this.

        • Michael Anson says:

          The question is, should you be mad at Valve for trying to make it harder to cheat in games, increasing their playability, or should you be mad at the person you don’t know who scammed you out of a game and the ability to trade that game so he could make people miserable in that game for a few hours more?

        • jrodman says:

          Yeah, this is just going to be a large net reduction in income for Valve, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve probably bought as many games for others as for myself in recent years. I like games, and talking about them but have lots of disposable income now and not a lot of time. So I give game-time to a lot of others.

      • Cederic says:

        Well, it totally fucks my friends’ kids. I can’t trust them not to be stupid, they’re not even teenagers. That hasn’t until now stopped me from buying them games as gifts.

        It may now.

  10. BradleyUffner says:

    Well this sucks…. I used to buy several copies of games when they were on sale and keep them around waiting for new friends who wanted to start playing.

    I bought 10 copies of Terraria way back when it was on sale for $2.50, and just gave away the last one.

    • Jalan says:

      In practice, this behavior won’t change much. At worst, it just means being more choosy as to who gets what, especially when it comes to VAC enabled titles.

  11. C0llic says:

    One thing I think should be said is this could make it harder for streamers and other websites to run game giveaways. Only for certain titles granted, but it’s a shame Valve feels the need to do it. People are shits.

  12. LionsPhil says:

    That’s something I don’t remember seeing before but maybe I am just out of touch.

    I don’t remember it being there last time I was throwing gifts around either, no. Thank goodness they’ve finally done that. Shame you can’t do it in the direct-through-Steam case, though.

  13. Zmobie says:

    I actually have a legitimate reason to stockpile games. I use (used I suppose) to buy a couple of copies of left 4 dead 2 everytime it goes on sale, so that I can gift them to friends who are not keen on buing it themselves (at lan-parties for instance). It seriously cuts alot of the hassle to have everyone use a legitimate copy instead of getting some shady cracked version to work.

    • hpoonis says:

      You gift games to ‘friends’ who don’t care to purchase it for themselves? Not sure what kind of friends you have but if you are giving away free stuff count me in. I, for one, would not entertain anyone who is too tight-fisted or too apathetic to buy their own amusements.

  14. trjp says:

    I can’t decide if it’s depressing or just pathetic, watching them fuck-over legit customers/players whilst they fail to address those intent on exploiting-the-system.

    I stopped using Trading entirely after the bullshit decision to demand we use the authenticator – that made zero sense and punished people who were actually using the system ‘as intended’ more than those exploiting it.

    I realise most people are dumber than cheese but I do wonder how said people keep getting into positions where their shit-stupid decisions turn into actual policies?

    Oh yeah – it’s because they work for a company who’s wealth is such that they no-longer give a rats ass about their customers

    Fuck them

  15. Dragonzeanse says:

    Wait, if I gift ARK to someone who gets VAC banned, I can’t gift that game anymore? What the hell kind of guilt by association is that? Talk about overreach. Not to mention that Valve is one of the last companies I would expect to be fair in any regard to “cheating.” Just look up all the examples of (provably) false VAC bans on people who aren’t even cheating.

    Now, the idea of this measure is not terrible, but punishing the gifter is going too far. Maybe if they gift the same game to multiple accounts that get VAC banned, then yes, take the ability away. But Valve won’t do that because they’ve automated Steam to the point that they need as little human oversight as possible.

    Of course, people will still defend Valve. People will still regurgitate the same tired “anyone who is VAC banned is a cheater” argument, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary.

  16. alms says:

    Likening this change to the trade hold was poor judgment.

    You’d still have many of the same serious /shakesfist comments – but probably less of them, because it would be clear to those who read the post, that the rationale behind the two changes is entirely different.

    Anyway, Valve’s intentions are laudable, the implementation – not so sure.

  17. Yglorba says:

    Additionally, if an account has directly gifted a game to other players who have been VAC or permanently Game Banned, then that account will lose the ability to gift that game.”

    That doesn’t seem like it will work. Cheaters will just know to ‘launder’ their copies by giving it to a second throwaway account, then using that to give it to the one they want to cheat on – the “storage” account where they keep their copies will never give directly to a cheating account and won’t get blocked from gifting the game.

    • hpoonis says:

      “…Cheaters will just know to ‘launder’ their copies by giving it to a second throwaway account, then using that to give it to the one they want to cheat on…”

      It would not be difficult to trace gifts of a particular title from initial purchase to final recipient and thus determine if an account existed as a bulk storage account. Connecting an account to any ‘cheat-banned’ accounts would reveal enough of a pattern to ascertain whether or not the original account was setup for this specific purpose or whether it was just the result of a normal gift. There would likely be some kind of appeal process in which one could plead their case if they felt they were restricted un-necessarily.