Valve has announced yet another high-profile software release that isn’t Half Life 3. This time it’s the Steam Community Marketplace, an effort to capitalize on the thousands of transactions between Steam users that previously involved only digital currency for digital goods. Now, Valve is allowing a real-money marketplace for players to buy, sell, and trade their items. It’s still at a half-way point between real currency and Monopoly money, however, as any collected funds go straight into the seller’s Steam Wallet, which is only good for purchasing games (or investing back into the Marketplace).
Valve takes a 5-10% cut of every transaction, of course, but the official FAQ makes a vague promise to use some of the revenue to protect against “nominal fraud incidents”. An additional “Team Fortress 2″ fee in also in effect, despite the fact that TF2 is the currently only game with items eligible for listing in the Marketplace.
This is perhaps a move to acclimatize Steam users to the idea of game-specific Marketplace fees, softening the reaction when the large publishers inevitably move to take their own cut of the proceeds; Activision certainly won’t allow Valve to be the only one making money from the sale of their content. By having all fees in place from the outset, Valve has rather effectively preempted the internet’s predictable indignation over the issue. Without such a fee structure in place, the Marketplace would have been hard-pressed to expand beyond Valve-published titles.
Purchases can be international, with all currency conversions going on completely behind the scenes. Currently, sales max out at $200 – but who would pay more than $200 for an item in Team Fortress, anyway?