French Steam users have the right to resell games, a Paris court has ruled in a case brought by a consumer group. The years-long case isn’t fully settled because Valve can yet appeal, and why would they not? This is still a big decision. The official line so far has been that games bought in a downloadable form, without a physical form like a disc backing them, cannot be resold. The court also ruled against several other clauses of Steam’s terms, like keeping your Steam Wallet funds if you shut down your account.
Update:“We disagree with the decision of the Paris Court of First Instance and will appeal it,” Valve told Kotaku.
UFC Que Choisir (officially the Union fédérale des consommateurs/Federal Union of Consumers) have been going after Steam since 2015 over a number of clauses in the Steam Subscriber Agreement. Chief among these is that Steam users must agree they don’t actually buy products on Steam, they just get subscriptions to access and use content and services.
This week’s ruling in the District Court of Paris, according to UFC Que Choisir, says this should change. While folks have the right to resell games on discs, so far this hasn’t applied to “dematerialised” products beamed down your datapipe without a physical object supporting them. Next Inpact further report that the court decided Steam doesn’t sell subscriptions, it sells licenses.
The court agreed with UFC Que Choisir, they say, that Steam’s terms claim a number of other rights Valve legally could not have. Valve should not keep Steam Wallet funds when users leave the platform, and should reimburse them if requested. Valve should accept responsibility when users are harmed by Steam or something from it, even if it’s marked as beta. Valve cannot claim so many rights to exploit mods and other content uploaded by users. And the ways players can lose access for poor conduct are not sufficiently clear, Next Inpact add.
UFC Que Choisir say they plan to take this consumer rights fight to more platforms and products. If they can actually secure the decision against a store as big as Steam, that’d be a mighty strong precedent. Given that UFC Que Choisir’s case relies on European law, the precedent’s surely helpful for other countries in the union sharing the legal framework.
This case isn’t yet settled, mind. Valve can still appeal and by gum, they surely will. I don’t doubt other large stores and publishers would rally to oppose this too. Steam today, Epic tomorrow.
Some digital game stores have launched with the main draw of allowing users to resell their games, though they’ve not really taken off. For stores which aren’t built upon that ideal, it’s less attractive. Though if Valve were forced to allow reselling, I’m sure they’d be better-equipped than many to capitalise on the opportunity. Even aside from perhaps claiming a transaction/middleman fee, a game gone to another player is a whole new set of trading cards and emoticons and hats entering circulation for Valve to skim pennies off. It might be a far bigger problem for developers, especially those making story-driven games.
First, we’ll have to see how Valve’s nigh-inevitable appeal goes.