Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Soulbound games

Djinn sent me an e-mail with an interesting thought: Buying a game on Steam is the equivalent of a bind-on-pickup item in a MMORPG. Unlike a game you buy in a box with a disc, a Steam game can not be traded second-hand, it is "soulbound" to your account.

For the price-sensitive, Steam is not a good deal, especially over here in Europe. Steam fixed most games at an exchange rate of 1 Euro = 1 Dollar, so depending on the real exchange rate Europeans pay between one third and one half MORE than US players for exactly the same game and service. Also Steam games in many cases cost the same as the boxed version, so given that a game which you can't resell is obviously worth less than the same game which you can resell, Steam games are overpriced.

Fortunately for Steam I'm not very price sensitive. And I recognize the potential to save some money with Steam: By waiting. In the era where games only came in boxes from stores, finding last year's game was often difficult, so I had a tendency to buy games when they came out, and then keep them unopened in the shelf without playing them. That became significantly worse when I started playing MMORPGs, which tend to eat up a lot of time, so now I have an impressive collection of unplayed games waiting for the next WoW break. So nowadays I don't buy new games any more, unless I want to play them right now. Buying them when I feel like playing them not only saves me from buying games I never end up playing. Quite often Steam sells you last year's games at a considerable discount too. And for games you are sure you will play, you can always look out whether they appear in some weekend deal for half price.

So Steam and similar services have both good and bad sides. In the end everybody needs to judge how important it is for him to be able to sell his games second-hand. Is the added value of convenience enough to balance the effectively higher price for soulbound games? You decide!
A very interesting idea! I only ever had Steam for "Portal," and I ended up taking it off my computer because it seemed so invasive. They may get me back if they ever get around to doing a sequel to "Portal," otherwise I'll stick to WoW. Since I don't play any single-player games, the BoP (Bind on Purchase) angle doesn't really affect me. But still a very interesting take! Kudos to Djinn!
Yes - the ability to "time travel" back into the gaming past via Steam is the thing I like about it.

Their catalogue contains a lot of games that I never quite got around to playing back in the day. Many are still attractive to people who care more about challenge and strategy than the eye-candy.

I picked up Rome Total War for two bucks on Steam and I'm lovin' it. Not sure why I never got around to playing it when it was released but, hey, it's never too late to enjoy a classic game!
I'm more counting on time-traveling back to the present at some point in the future. :) Steam's catalogue of older games isn't really all that extensive. I just had to order the PC version of the board game Diplomacy via Amazon Market, because Steam didn't have it.
Having a buddy in the US is a great way to bypass the exchange rate issue, because they can buy the games for you. That said, I'm not complaining. For example, Aliens vs Predator was 40.98 € from Steam and 54.90 € from a brick-and-mortar store.
It's a shame that Steam doesn't make the prices more equal, at least in terms of exchange rates between the dollar and euro.

Personally, I love Steam because I hate hard copies of games. Given the option to spend $40 on a hard copy and $50 via Steam, I'll take Steam every time.

It may seem like I'm wasting money, but I like Steam for a few reasons.

1. I can never lose a game I buy on Steam. I can uninstall it, and re-download/reinstall it whenever I want, onto any computer I want (assuming I don't lose my login info).

2. The games are instantly available on release date. For example, Left 4 Dead 2 was available at 12:01 on release day. While WoW is a monstrous game that can keep game stores open past midnight on release, most other games are not. But with steam, it doesn't matter. Download game and install, play that night.

3. Nice easy interface. Buying a game, installing a purchased game, and keeping track of games is extremely easy with Steam, since it covers multiple games, and not just Valve games. And of course the ability to keep track of friends, allow chatting through the interface, etc, makes it wonderful if you're social.

I love Steam. It's perfect for gamers. Besides, I like my games soulbound. Screw giving away a game I might want to play more of later. Hell, every 6 months or so I play through HL2 just for fun. Same with Portal.

Why wouldn't I want my games soulbound?
It's possible that Steam is kicking the bottom out of the boxed game resale market anyway, with their amazing sale prices!
I thoroughly love Steam ever since I weaned myself off WoW. To players who mostly play MMOs, Steam doesn't make any sense: who really cares about game distribution services when you play a single game for years? Any discussion about its merits is pretty theoretical in those cases. I've found Steam invaluable since quitting however: the amount of money you could make selling an old game is pretty trifling, and the market is small getting smaller. Who can be bothered to sell their old games? Do those same people sell their old CDs too for a bit of extra cash? Garage sales aside, very few people I bet. And who buys used games? For a $15 discount on full price, I'd rather not take the risk of a scratched disk. Factor in Steam's truly excellent weekend sales, including its ridiculous Xmas giveaways, "complete set" packages, demos, easy links to forums, great usability and so on, and the convenience and security of the platform wins hands down every time for me. Physical media of all types is going the way of the dodo: when was the last time any of us walked into an HMV to buy a physical CD? Books will be the next common media to digitize en masse. Sure, a few people from the older generation still like to "hold it in their hands" , but it wont be long (a decade maybe?) before the only physical media you'll see will be in a museum.
I adore Steam and I'll tell you why.
Besides the amazing holiday sales and weekend deals (the wonderful mount and blade $5 instead of $30 on a weekend deal!?) - as someone who has been gaming for years and has quite a collection, physical CD's are easy to lose or damage. For a person who lives in a dorm, apartment, or otherwise doesn't have a permenent longterm residence - a non-home owner, it's easy to lose games or run out of space, and then when you get a new computer, forget it!

With STEAM, my whole collection of games is right online, and if I want to get a laptop with no cd drive, reinstall my OS, or buy a new PC they are all right at my fingertips!
Buying games from Steam is the worst choice possible and it's equivalent to buy a Mechano-Hog on WoW: you spend a lot of money and end having the same possibilities. Of course that by saying "I'm steam powered" lot of socials can have lots of friends on their Steam friend's list but to the goblin the only real choice is do download the game from a P2P site or to someone who has Steam to share his account and then play it offline.
There's more than enough there to keep me busy... I think you've played more games than me but!
Steam is a horrible love affair with me. Unlike you, I don't HAVE a good job. I'm a poor college student and very much price sensitive.

But I have to hand it to them, as an age demographic notoriously hard to market to, they have marketed to me perfectly. I have games on steam I have purchased for no reason beyond it sounded kinda good and it had a massive sale going on. Steam has taken soooooo much money from me for games I otherwise never would have bought.

I love their system as a whole, but it bleeds me. Damn you steam.
@Sine Nomine: not having a good job is entirely your fault. Also, if you make decisions based on "sound kinda good" you'll never have one good (good paying) job. Your social behavior will undermine your success.
I've never sold a game second hand, I like collecting them too much. Selling games second hand doesn't seem to be very popular in Europe.

Yes, steam games are ridiculously overpriced, one example:
-Assassins Creed 2,
--Steam:: 49.99 35.49

You have to be insane to buy it from steam.

None the less their weekend deals and bargains are awesome. I've bought a whole backlog of games costing 5 a 15 euros a piece.

As for new games? Unless if you're Blizzard you won't see my money upfront. Waiting even a few weeks gives you massive discounts.

I like steam. But I'd buy quite a bit more from them if their prices were fair and competitive...
@Carra: collecting things is a ape subroutine. People collect things like hamsters collect food. It's useless and it serves only the social purpose of having collections to share and show.
If you enjoy playing old games then you should give a try. Their collection is growing each week. And, no DRM! So you can have both an online copy and save the game on a harddisk or cd. Beats either buying a cd or through steam. And their prices are fair too! $5.99 whether you live in the USA or anywhere else.

@Gevlon. Have you taken a look at their christmas deals? They were insane. Whole game catalogues for the price of one. E.g. Twenty games including the recent Batman game for €35. There's plenty of chance to get excellent deals. It's like getting the entire mount collection for the price of one.
It looks like a good deal but in the end you won't play the games you bought. The social behavior of buying anything that's "cheap" is a trick using by marketing companies and by Steam.
Sorry, off-topic:
Does anybody know a quick and easy way to find out if the poster Gevlon is the "real" one or the fake Gevion (with capital i)?
(Checking the profile for each of their posts is not what I call quick and easy).
Maybe gevion would just like to use a different picture?
Damn, ban Gevlon from here.

What a fucking troll, I love how you use socials as a slur and suggest downloading the game from P2P to steal from developers so they don't make good games anymore.

SOCIALS! THOSE APES! Why play games with friends? I have real life friends on my steam list, but I guess you wouldn't have those either, as you clearly have Asperger Syndrome (or wish you did) and have no conscience and feel no emotions. Congratulations on being a soulless robot.

I know you see all that as a compliment, but you are a failed deviation from the successful human genetic standard that has made us capable of making good games, creating art, cities, and civilization.
I see Gevlon's troll sub-routines are out in full force. He's the number one argument for moderation IMO.
Tobold, if you insist on this non-moderation policy, could you at least ban this Gevlon impostor? You're currently allowing one troll to derail each thread.
@Anonymous: stealing is the most effective way to get what you want, if you're not caught doing it (if you are, you deserved it).

Your outrage explosion against my superior intellect skills show clearly why socials won't ever succeed in life or in-game. Use your brain instead of allowing those ape subroutines controlling you.

P.S. - You can find out the troll by looking at the avatar. The avatar's troll will blink one eye every 30 seconds while the real one will keep still.
@Nees: that's the whole point of Tobold's experience! You're being social. Only socials would ban trolls for not being like them.

Besides, how can you i'm not the real Gevlon making fun of myself? That would be social but if you look closely, I AM SOCIAL!

Also, i can be Tobold using some kind of drug. I can be anyone.

Someone should write a post about me being able to imitate the real Gevlon so well that most people wouldn't see a difference.
Steam will lose out in europe and asia however if anyone starts offering the same service with better local pricing
'Someone should write a post about me being able to imitate the real Gevlon so well that most people wouldn't see a difference.'

Well, you're the one who likes to pretend they are Gevlon, why don't you do it?
Or is creating a blog people might want to read beyond your impersonation abilities?
Another disadvantage - bandwidth! In places like South Africa, and probably most 3rd world countries, downloading the game could be more expensive than how much you actually pay for it on Steam!

It can also take several days to download, depending on your connection.

So new, big games we buy the boxed version, older games on sale we buy from Steam, depending on what bandwidth specials are floating around. :)

We went a bit mad with the Steam Christmas specials... >.>
Anon (off topic):
You can check if it's the "real" Gevlon by mousing over his picture.

His username displays as a tooltip, and it clearly shows the capital I as a l replacement.

Might just be my Firefox font settings though...
The problems with Steam go well beyond the issue of second hand market - frankly I consider that a minor issue. The real problem is that it does not allow you to share your game with anyone else.

- Do you have an older game you would like a friend to try? Not possible.

- Do you have a family member who wants to play one of the games you bought while you play another? You are out of luck!

- Are you on the road while you forgot to log out at home from Steam? Good luck with that.

- Note that if you were to get banned from Steam you'd lose everything! Whether or not you are guilty is beside the point.

Steam works well in the scenario of the sole "loner", and that actually covers a lot of gaming folks. But sooner or later most people will realize just how limiting it actually is.

In the end it is fundamentally the wrong direction software evolves to. Companies would love to make software a service, you owe nothing just the right to play - a right that they can revoke at any time.
I share the games with my brother*: he uses my account to install them then he uses Steam offline and we both play.

* we only share some genetic code. There is nothing social in having a brother.
@Marz: there is no real Gevlon. There is the Dr. House wannabe Gevlon and there is the funnier version. We're both part of the entity you all call Gevlon (a farm of 12.51 servers in a basement in Hungary).
From the American side of things, having Steam sell games at the same price as the store is extremely convenient. I can purchase the purchase the game immediately from my own home, start downloading, get things done around the house and then sit down to enjoy the game I just purchased. All this without having to leave my home.

Having my game list banned isn't much of a problem considering I don't feel any need to cheat in their VAC secured games. Unwarranted bans are just a phone call away to fix.

As an aside, including this comment 14 of the 28 comments here are from or in response to Gevion, Gevlon's imposter. That's a rather large derail.
You were never really buying the game. You were buying a use license. Think of a box as a marketing "freebie", like the cup when you buy a soda.

If you really wanted to, you COULD set up a fresh steam account for each purchase you make, and then sell the accounts when you’re done playing them. There is lots of software that “doesn't allow” the end user to transfer their license.

It is a gray area. If you buy and own a book, CD or DVD you are allowed to copy it as much as you want for personal use. But if you sell the original, legally you are supposed to destroy all copies because you are effectively selling your use license.

There is a reason you don’t see used PC software stores today (I remember when Electronic boutique tried), or PC software “rental stores;” be it for games or other software. It is too hard to tell a copy from original, or what has been already registered or what has had a one time use key used. Besides from collectors there is little worth to a disc and box if the data on them can not be used (I have seen boxes or manuals sell for more than game they are for). Also, today it is easier to find a link to a download torrent than sales listing for used software online.

Maybe these difficulties will help consoles win the gaming war, idk. You can sell a console game and normally recoup at least 30% of your purchase value, or you can rent games and pay less. PC games are dieing out of game stores. Gamestop is down to 1 rack in most stores, many Kmarts dropped PC games, etc. That said the indie market is growing, games that for the most part aren’t planned to be sold in retail chains.

I guess my question is. Yes, Steam doesn’t let you “sell” your games, but if you sold a “used” PC game before, what were you really selling? And what was your buyer really paying for? My guess is in a lot of cases the person selling didn’t “completely” transfer their license. The owner of a software license isn’t always defined by whom has the box and disk their possession like it is with DVDs.
I love steam, it means I don't have to keep piles of CDs, if I get a new laptop or PC I can just download what I fancy playing from my account. The sales can be really good, I've bought a lot of indie and older games in sales that I wouldn't have paid full price for.

btw, the fake Gevlon is really annoying
@Bent: but if you sold a “used” PC game before, what were you really selling? And what was your buyer really paying for?

Frankly the answer to this seems obvious: I am selling my right to use the software. I won't use it anymore and the other person will.

Just like any other used product.
As I said in the post from yesterday. Ban GevIon. He's an utter idiot who is only going to ruin your comment section. He is smurfing the name of another blogger (whomever he may be) and is adding nothing to any of these comment sections.

Purposefully allowing this idiot to Smurf Gevlon and continue to post is, in a way, your fault Tobold.

Seriously, this moron is just trolling. Use whatever tools this site has and ban his IP. He has nothing of interest to say, and I think he's made up at least a 1/3 of this topic's posts.

I'm all for moderation after the fact. But if someone is continually being an idiot and has proved they don't have anything to say besides idiot troll remarks, ban them, or at least warn them privately. Please.
Also, ban n1ck. His only contributions were requests to ban me. He's a ban trolls. Wipe us both.
Djinn spelled out nicely a number of problems I have with Steam. I am an advocate of using licensed media (software, movies, music) properly, and that is something I try to pass on to my kids.

My scenario is a couple of computers for 3 children to use. I have had a long time Steam account for my big kid games, and have only been buying games for the children recently.

Steam tracks activity per user, and not per software license. You can only be logged into Steam on one computer at a time, even though you will likely only be running one of your licensed games at a time. So to still keep with the spirit of the licenses, I have had to create a separate Steam account for each game that I buy for the kids to use. This is extremely cumbersome to log in and out, but I can't afford to buy 3 copies of everything for an account for each child, especially since there are only 2 computers between the 3 of them. I have bought two licenses before with a game that they wanted to play together.

This allows child B to play game C on computer 1, while child A plays game B on computer 2. Or in whatever combination works, but only one instance, or one license, is ever in use. Legit, right?

I would prefer a family style account that would track the license usage by title. I can't have the only household with a higher gamer to PC ratio.

I would like to see the ability to transfer licenses between accounts. Then maybe I would give each child their own Steam account.
Kind of, a counter example would be - anyone can sell ownership of a car but a person can't sell a license to use it. I know people that have bought and thus owned a car before they were old enough to be licensed to use one.

My point with used PC games is it doesn't have anything to do with a box or a disk. You can own a Box and disk but you cannot own a game. You only get a license to use that game as defined by some verbiage in the manual most times. I think most people think they own a game when they have the box in the closest somewhere; thus all the complaints about DRM. If someone is selling a used game (box+disk) a buyer can’t know for sure they are purchasing that persons license or just a box+disk. Like I said before, I’ve seen old manuals and empty game boxes sell for $15+ so pricing doesn’t determine if the use license is included with the sale.

This is my opinion why game stores got out of selling used PC games. Simply because when they bought them or allowed trade-in, they couldn’t tell if they were getting just a box+disk or the box+disk+license. With console media (license isn’t tied to installation), so the owner of the disk has the “right of use.”

With PC media the license is normally tied to installation or a number of installations. If you install on your computer from a disk and then throw that disk+box away, you still maintain your right of use. Your license isn’t tied to anything physically tangible. It is hard to sell “used versions” of things that are not physically tangible.

If Valve wanted they could develop a used game market within its steam client to allow steam users to sell to steam users and take a cut of the sell price. But even steam can’t guarantee license transfers. Steam is Not DRM; if steam allowed resale “no steam hacks” would become as common as no-cd hacks are today. Granted many would use such a system properly, some people would buy, install, tweak some files, and re-sell and keep playing.

Generally I think the used PC software market is small <10% of sales, and of that market I would guess >80% of the resulting installs are in the strict sense “illegal”, whether knowingly so or not. Granted that is mostly people buying “used” business software on auction sites and not gamers.
I like and I hate Steam. It allows me to buy games very easily and often times at a reduced rate. Everything is stored to my account so I don't have to keep a physical copy of the game.

The problem is I like hard copies. I also don't ALWAYS have an internet connection due to being in the Military. The fact that some single or LAN based games require an internet connection is maddening to me.

Overall Steam's good outweighs it's bad. For those 'cult' classic games I'm still going to goto a Brick and Mortar to pick up a CE copy but for random games like MW2 and L4D Steam is perfect.
Tobold's GEARSCORE is teh sux. Honestly stop playing wow if you are just going to get carried by your guild. I hate people who do stuff like this. It's a good thing I have a high GS (5.5k+), and I'm gonna at raiding ICC and TOC 25. One time I ganked a level 80 in full epics, and he bearly got my health done. I hate you. I hate your face. YOU ALL SUCK AN EGG!
@anonymous playing Rome:Total War
Good PC game, can't believe it was on Steam for 2 dollars, soooo worth it's entertainment value. I think I actually have it boxed up somewhere.

@Topic - Lots of great feedback on this topic. I understand from the guy with kids standpoint, he doesn't want to buy a copy for all of his kids.

What about the iTunes style setup? What if steam allowed 5 accounts to be activated if you had the original game owners password/account info. For those of you not familiar with this; a song purchased through iTunes can be activated on 5 different PC's as long as you have the original song purchasers credentials.
@Dustin Moore

Even the huge tyrant that is Microsoft allows you to install most of their software on 3 different machines.
Mount & Blade, $5 weekend deal. Best decision I ever made. I actually couldn't justify the purchase, so I scrounged through my drawers and couch and pockets for change. $4.88 later, I win.
"Someone should write a post about me being able to imitate the real Gevlon so well that most people wouldn't see a difference."

You can imitate anyone if you limit information ~150 words.

@ anon: You'll probably have to check the first, but in comments where he spams, if you click the 'said' next to his name, it will minimize all of his posts. Obviously, it won't do the same for Gevlon, leaving you able to read peacefully. For a thread atleast.
There is also the other end. What about people that DON'T want to sell their games, but rather, want to collect and keep them?

I actually like stuff with my games: Thick manuals, boxes with nice artwork on them, little odds and ends they throw in. Long after the server has been shut down or the latest OS can't play it, I can browse the manuals and artwork.

However, these days Software is getting stingy with that stuff. My parents bought a copy of Adobe Premiere and it didn't even come with a manual. I have seen console games that essentially force you to buy the Strategy Guide just to get basic information that used to be in the instruction manuals.

The convenience you get from having it all online is tempered for me by the lack of anything physical.

It also annoys me that I now have to be sitting at my computer to be able to read the damn manual for many games. It's not like the old days of Bauldur's Gate II, which had a monstrous manual that I still pull out every now and then to reminisce over. Beyond that, it is nice to have a manual that I can take with me anywhere and read when I can't play the game (or can't access the internet due to firewall etc.)

The more things change, the more I understand the older generations that say they don't like the way things have changed.
I love Steam. I use it mainly to find games that I either can't track down elsewhere, and/or don't want to wait for a week to get them shipped to me.

I never buy new games from Steam though. Typically older games, or anything that is on sale for a good deal.
I use steam the same way I use Walmart and Gamestop. If it's cheaper then it's worth it to purchase. The big factor for me is that I'm so disorganized that I usually lose CD keys, so having steam memorize all that crap for me is good. I haven't had any problems, and don't know anything about bans etc.

Then again, I don't mod my games or use cheats.
Reading/reminding myself about steam and its affordable older games makes me want to install it on my little netbook. Wow hardly runs on it, but it runs enough to check mail/chat with guildies, etc.

Checking out some older single player games that might have lower system requirements might make for a great rainy day (literally, my work doesnt have wi-fi so I have to take my netbook outside to find available wi-fi).
Gevlon - Attempting to save socials from themselves, a waste of time?

Wouldn't the Goblin know that you are arguing with idiots who don't see their choices as problems? And even attempts to highlight their stupidity are only met with a rebuking?

Wouldn't the Goblin stay quiet and rather exploit their stupidity? Invest in Valve!

Or is it too much to refrain from making people look stupid for your own personal benefit and(although also obvious) social standing?
Damn, fake GevIon likely got me, delete my stupid posts.
I have no problem with Soulbound games, but I can't stand Soublound BOOKS. A.K.A eBooks.

My wife got a Kindle over X-mas (like everyone else in the US) and she loves it. Only problem is that we used to trade the occasional book, something we haven't done since she got the Kindle.

So at least for me, it depends on the type of Media.
I'm pro-steam. Steam is cheaper than a brick & mortar store (even with the Australian pricing markup), and when I reinstall my machine I've those games I was playing ready to go again.

Then again, I'm not really an impulse purchaser, so sudden discounts and other Steam marketing silliness doesn't affect purchasing decisions. I've played enough crap games since the 80's to be able to spot most of them a mile off.
1) Isn't the advantage of resale only for older style games? You can download the software for WoW or EvE without charge. It is the account you pay for, and that is not legally allowed to be sold. I would assume F2P/microtransaction games would operate the same way

2) Several of the posters are uninformed about the somewhat grey area of software licensing, at least in places like the US. You are *not* buying the software, you have a license to use the software. Many licenses certainly give the publisher the right to prevent you from selling the software. Even more try to prevent you from renting software. You can sell a used book; it is not so clear your rights to transfer copyrighted software to a third party. You may not even have the rights to make unlimited backup copies of the software.
The law recognizes rights; it does not create them. If we don't have the right to give away what we have purchased, it is only because rights don't actually exist at all.

This will probably come to a head when we start dying off and our kids have to sue for access to our digital libraries. With luck the big guns of DD will not by then have acquired the power over government which Disney and others have used to extend copyright expiration to obscene degrees.

I second the recommendation of GOG. Apart from their good DRM policy, they have fixed up quite a few games which would have been difficult or impossible to play in their original form. The community there is also a good bunch of people, though they seem to have an inexplicable obsession with Tetris Attack.
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