On Wednesday, French Court ruled that Valve must facilitate its users in reselling games that are bought on Steam. This rule doesn’t only apply on Valve, rather it will soon be mandatory for every digital store to follow that operate in France. This move is a game-changer and can fundamentally change how companies and gamers interact with each other.
After 4 years of court battles, the French Court ruled the case in favour of UFC-Que Choisir, a French consumer group who first filled case against Valve. The group believes that consumers should have the right to resell their digital games similar to how they are able to resell the retail physical copies of the game.
“So far, dematerialized games, that is to say without physical support (such as a CD or a cartridge), could not be resold used, unlike box games. Believing that this difference in treatment was not justified, the UFC-Que Choisir asked the judges, four years ago, to declare the clause prohibiting the resale of Steam games abusive.”(translated from UFC-Que Choisir’s Website release)
Currently, Valve doesn’t allow reselling of games and have a clause in place that also limits its users to transfer ownership of accounts or game keys to others. According to the current terms and conditions of any digital purchase on Steam (or any other online platform that sell digital copies); when a User purchase a game, he is given a license key that is valid for an indefinite time, unlike physical copy of game where the User have rightful ownership of the game. This license key facilitates as temporary ownership with limited rights.
Although this ruling might look like a win-win situation for gamers currently, but it might push companies to change their model to that of subscribe-to-play. In sub-2-play model, a pre-defined library of games will be made available to Users at a monthly/yearly subscription fees (such as Origin Access, Uplay+, Google Stedia, etc). Secondly, it might even force some small developers (mostly indie devs) to shut their business or offer free-2-play games loaded with microtransactions to fund the development.
The Court also ruled out Valve form keeping funds of users that left their platform and also ruled 14 clauses that Valve impose on its users as illegal.
Currently, Valve is unwilling to accept the ruling and have filled for an appeal. The steam store will function as it is till the case is on appeal, but if the appeal is upheld than Valve will be forced to amend the changes to its store policy immediately.