Thursday, December 11, 2014

Steam Has A Problem

Steam rolled out a new holiday event this evening, and it looked interesting. I was musing with Lino and Snuggles and my sister about how things would shake out, and if there was profit to be made in the margins. Ultimately I concluded that yes, there was profit to be made, possible a lot of it, and it would be worth my while to get involved. At the very least I found thinking about it to be a good mental exercise and it made me happy, so it was a pretty good game regardless.

I was going to write a post about what I thought would happen after playing around a bit with it, but things went way off the rails. The basic idea of the event was you could disenchant items in your inventory to get gems, and then you could use gems in 200000 silent auctions to win games. Left over gems could be traded in for Steam cards. But it turned out there was a 'better' way to generate gems than disenchanting your extra emoticons and backgrounds. Put some gems up for sale, cancel the sale, and get more gems back than you listed. I have no idea the exact ratios or how it really worked but there was definitely a gem duping exploit.

So now Steam has a problem. They were probably expecting something like 50 million gems to be created over the course of the entire event but 3 hours into the event there were over a billion gems for sale. People who were duping gems had an infinite source of gems and a market of people willing to pay for them at low prices. The market bottomed out at 3 cents for 1000 gems, with 2 of those cents going to Steam and 1 of those cents going to the duper. Now, the 'consolation prize' of extra packs of cards were priced in a way to make them not likely to be an efficient plan, just something to do with extra gems. Instead you could get 6 cards for 3 cents. Cards that routinely sell for something in the range of 6-15 cents each (depending on the game).

Not knowing that there was anything weird going on with the generation of gems and not thinking too much about the supply part I saw cheap gems and knew they had to be a good deal. My initial idea was the gems would rebound in price once the initial rush of generating them went down, so I bought ~$7 worth to sit on and resell in the future. But then Lino did the math on the whole packs thing so I went and bought 67 packs of cards and have set about selling those cards at a mad profit. Well, except lots of other people were doing the same thing so the price of cards has cratered. Still profit to be had though, so no regrets thus far...

But now that I know the gems were duped and not just from some people who had a huge stash of unwanted emotes. Steam has to do something about it or their event is ruined and their trading card system is destroyed. They started by making gems untradeable and unsellable, which was certainly the right first step. But now the question is... What are they to do with the current situation to resolve things.

This stuff is so hard to track... I bought (almost certainly) duped gems. I used those gems to generate packs of cards. I opened those packs of cards and sold some of them to other people. I also bought a couple from other people (possibly obtained from packs bought with duped games) and made a badge. Said badge gave me a holiday card which I am trying to sell.

NOTE: Steam actually makes 2 cents off of every single transaction in the marketplace.

How do you fix the current situation? The guy who buys my holiday card will have an item generated pretty much entirely from duped gems, but almost certainly isn't tagged as such. But even if they did know that card is not legit, what could they do? Remove it from the other guy's inventory? What if he's turned it into a badge?

Do you punish everyone who duped gems? Do you let 'innocent' people keep their ill gotten gains? Do you delete all gems but leave cards and packs generated from them alone?

For perspective... If they just fix the exploit, punish the dupers, and let people keep what they have on hand... If the gem price rebounds to where it probably should be (~30c/1000) I'll be up $50 and 150 cards. And I only put in ~$7. Imagine someone who went whole hog! They could be up thousand of dollars. And Steam itself would be up 2 cents off of every sale along the way...

It really feels like the only way to salvage the system is to roll all inventories back to before the event started. But then what do you do about purchases in the meantime? Would rolling back inventories impact games that people bought? Games they may well have already installed?

So Steam has a problem. It will be very interesting to see what they decide to do. Will I be up $60? Will my inventory be reset? Will I be banned in some way for having used duped gems?

I'm really hoping for door #2. I'd certainly take door #1. I am actually worried that door #3 will be on the table.

1 comment:

Vienneau said...

I'm now troubled that I am associated with a hardened criminal such as yourself. Should the Steam police call, I'll insist we were mere acquaintances. Don't want the taint of evil rubbing off!