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Steam changes cross-country gifting and gift trading

Steam has implemented several changes to how giving games as gifts works, some which are helpful and others less so. Helpful: if you send someone a gift and they decline it, you’ll receive a refund rather than a copy of the game. Less helpful: gift now must be bought for someone specific, and not as nebulous ‘gift copies’ you can sit on. There’s more too. Some changes seem intended to combat people who hoard, trade, and sell games in that weird grey market, though Valve’s explanation is simply that “we want to make it easier for you to share the games you love with friends.”

Let’s go over what Valve said in the blog post put up overnight:

Scheduling Gifts Is Even More Straightforward
Go ahead and buy a gift months in advance and have it delivered to a friend on time, every time.

Scheduling is handy. Less handy — and less clear — is that Valve have removed the ability to buy generic ‘gift’ copies of games. Now, if you want to buy a gift, it has to be for someone specific. Before, Steamers could stockpile games — typically bought cheap in sales — then gift ’em as and when they please.

Sure, some folks used this to buy games on sale then trade ’em around at higher value later, undercutting Steam a bit. But others did simply like to stock up on cheap gifts for the future. I know for a fact that my mum has a cupboard full of stockpiled generic Christmas and birthday presents bought in the January sales (in the shops, not on Steam) without any particular recipient in mind.

And if you’ve been sitting on a stash of gifts, don’t worry: existing gift copies haven’t been removed. But now those Bad Rats might not circulate endlessly.

Declined Gifts Resolve The Way They Should
In the old system, a declined gift would sneak back into the giver’s inventory and remain on their bill. Now, if a recipient already has the title, or just doesn’t want it, they can click decline and the purchase is refunded directly to the gift giver.

This is also quite handy. Though really you should know not to give gifts that won’t be accepted.

Safe Cross-Country Gifting
No more worrying if a Gift to E-mail or Gift to Inventory is going to work for a friend, gifts sent through the new system will always work on the receiver’s account. When there is a large difference in pricing between countries, gifting won’t be available and you’ll know before purchase.

Again, it’s handy that Steam will tell you if a gift would be forbidden by the existing cross-region gifting restrictions. For years, publishers have had the option to block people from buying copies in regions with low prices then gifting them into pricier regions – a cheeky way to get games on the cheap. However, Valve’s changes have also expand that system. Now it’s universal and decided on a country-by-country basis by price.

This would be fine if prices for everything on Steam were carefully calibrated for every country, making sure everyone pays a relative fair price. They are not carefully calibrated. Some countries pay, relative to their economy, far more than others. This inequality doesn’t seem malicious, simply neglectful of publishers. This has been a problem on Steam for years. Sure, some cadgers have used VPNs and gift copies and other tricks to get games on the cheap, but other folks use them to not pay a relative fortune for their games. It’s so strange that Steam still has this problem.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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