OCD nerds, rejoice or possibly bemoan your fate! As of today Steam has officially launched its new trading card program, proving once again that evil is much easier to swallow under the guise of fun features. For those not familiar with the details, buckle up, I’m gonna do my best. Previously Steam had badges for your profile which were awarded for things like participating in sales, participating in contests, using community features and so on and so forth. Well now there are also badges for games, but if you think Valve is just going to give those pointless tokens away, you clearly are some kind of filthy commie. No sir, in order to get a game badge, you’ll have to earn it via crafting together digital trading cards, a fixed number (usually half the set) of which are “dropped” while playing that particular game. Once you’ve maxed out your drops, you can either wait and hope for a random booster pack, trade with friends, or (and Steam loves this or) you can buy/sell your cards on the marketplace. Given that Steam gets a little taste of all those sales you can probably see where this is heading.
In case that’s not insidious enough, badges are tiered and sets can be completed up to five times. Plus there’s also a foil variant of each card that can be crafted into a single foil badge, and yes I felt a little dirty just typing that. But the real question is what do you, John Q. Pokemons, get out of all this collecting and crafting? Why XP of course, which goes towards raising your Steam level. A higher Steam level means larger friends lists, a variety of cosmetic perks, and every ten levels an increased chance for a booster pack drop. Badges also have a chance to unlock profile skins, emoticons and game coupons, many of which can also be sold and/or traded. I’d assume most of you are now chuckling to yourselves about the idiocy of shelling out real money for pretend cards, but as someone who participated in the system beta let me tell ya it’s all fun and games until you’re staring at an empty hole in a 9 card line-up.
Valve has managed to turn Steam into a brutally efficient money-making machine, and between this and their recent tweaks to DOTA 2 they seem to be on a never-ending quest to squeeze that last drop out of their consumers’ wallets. To their credit though, Valve has thus far limited these nickel and dime transactions to peripheral elements and kept them out of the actual game pricing. I mean hey, it’s just an added feature right? Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to use it, and much like achievements or trophies I’m sure there will be plenty of people for whom this new system has zero appeal. For everyone else, if you’ve got an extra Chell lying around, feel free to let me know because I NEED THAT CARD DAMMIT.
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