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Steam introduces digital gift cards and a lot of hassle


Can’t think of a decent birthday present for that sort-of-but-not-really friend or distant family member? Don’t worry: Steam has your back. Instead of just giving them some cash that they’ll probably spend on a game anyway, why not show that you care — but not too much — by picking up a digital gift card from Steam? They’re available now, if you’re willing to jump through some hoops.

Essentially, this is just a way to top up a pal’s Steam wallet. You can purchase a digital gift card through Steam, select an amount and the friend you want to send it to, and Steam will deliver it with a personalised message. Accepting the gift will add the funds to their Steam wallet.

There are some restrictions, however. Restrictions that John and I unfortunately had to wrestle with when we tried to test the system.

I asked John to send me a fiver (you can send between £5 and £100) because freelancers need to make their money whatever way they can. Unfortunately, we weren’t already friends, which meant we had to go through the whole rigmarole of finding each other, which didn’t work because both of our profiles were private. Apparently you can’t have privacy and new friendships. Eventually, after jumping through too many hoops, we were pals, but we weren’t done.

It turns out that all this effort was worthless because I wasn’t eligible for the gift in the first place. Steam didn’t offer an immediate explanation of why I wasn’t eligible, and we had to find it elsewhere by searching through Steam’s support page. Great. It turns out that digital gift cards can’t even be sent to friends unless they’ve been your friend for three days. This is obviously to stop fraud, but it’s not remotely clear and, ultimately, means that we couldn’t test the feature properly.

Given that gift cards are pretty lazy gifts, and you’d expect digital versions to require even less effort, this is all incredibly silly. I would never consider putting up with this nonsense when there are still physical Steam gift cards available.

So there you have it: lots of faff. You might as well get someone a thoughtful gift instead.

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Fraser Brown


Premature Evaluation caretaker. Likes strategy games almost as much as he likes labradoodles.

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