Valve has taken a big hit this week after a French court ruled that Steam users have the right to resell their games. The decision stems from a 2015 lawsuit against Valve by UFC-Que Choisir, a French consumer group. The organization sued Valve for a multitude of reasons, but its biggest beef with the company is that Valve does not allow users to resell their games.
The video game resale market has always been a source of contention, but with physical sales, it is perfectly legal. Companies like GameStop became popular with players early on, not just because of its game trade-in program, but also because of its willingness to buy and sell used games. Now, though, thanks to fast Internet speeds and technology, more players are downloading games, meaning that digital sales are hotter than ever. But there has always been confusion about who owns a digital game, particularly when purchased from sites such as Steam.
A French court has decided that digital game ownership, though, resides with the user. French gaming site Numerama (via Kotaku) reports that the High Court of Paris ruled in favor of UFC-Que Choisir, determining that Steam must allow its users to resell their games. Valve must change its rules within a month or suffer hefty fines within the European Union (EU). UFC-Que Choisir won its lawsuit on other counts, as well. Previously, when users left Steam, they could not access any remaining funds in their Steam Wallet. The court ruled that Valve must return funds to those former users who request it. If a user claims an item on the site caused them harm, even if it's something in beta, Valve must accept responsibility. The company also lost some of its rights over community-created content, including user mods. In addition, Valve has to clarify its policies on how it bans users accused of bad behavior.
Valve has already spent the last few years under fire for its hands-off attitude in monitoring Steam. Steam users spent years begging Valve to do something about its curation system, which often allowed questionable titles to appear on the site. However, Valve responded by telling users it would only remove games deemed illegal. Rather than choosing to police its own site, the company set up tools to make users responsible for what they see when browsing. The company did apply new anti-review bombing measures to Steam, but those don't seem to be that effective. Valve has also been criticized for how it treats developers: Steam takes around a 30 percent cut of sales, which many in the industry feel is too much.
Valve has plans to appeal the French court's decision, and it's likely the ruling will get overturned. However, this decision does set an interesting precedent that could affect all digital goods, including music and books. It also affects other stores that sell digital games, including Steam's largest competitor, the Epic Store. Unlike physical goods, digital products do not degrade over time, meaning that users could charge full price when reselling. Therefore, this decision could end up as a major win for consumers, should Steam's appeal to the court fail - though don't hold out hope on that one.