Thursday, July 04, 2013

Underwhelmed: Steam Trading Cards

About a week ago, Valve released their Steam Trading Card program to the general public. I was part of the beta, but at the time, I was playing a game that didn't have cards and one that wasn't on Steam at all, so I had some of the secondary benefits of the program for a while without getting cards or trading for them.

Basically, on a selected number of games (a list which increases every Wednesday), a player receives drops of trading cards designed around that game, and they can get about half of the cards a game produces via that method, and they have to trade for or buy the other ones from other players (and occasionally a booster pack will drop). And if you manage to collect them all, you can make a badge which will maybe give you a coupon, a profile background and will definitely give you some profile xp.

And to me at least, this whole thing is sort of silly. Like ooh, my profile is level 12 so I have a higher level than a bunch of people I am friends with, but really, it just seems pointless, like an arbitrary pissing match. It doesn't enhance my experience.

I can justify achievements by at least thinking of it as challenges that the developer thought would be interesting and worth acknowledging, but I don't need them... it is like a bonus, and it doesn't really affect my experience if a game doesn't have them. I also don't really get competitive and compare what I've done to someone else in terms of achievements.

But this trading card thing is setting up a situation where I don't really care about it, but at the same time, thinking about trying a game I haven't played before from my library is also leaving me feeling a little cold since if it doesn't have trading cards now, it could have them in the future, and time spent playing a game in the past doesn't count for any form of credit if a game later gets cards. Considering that the cards can be sold on the Valve marketplace for sometimes ridiculous amounts of money, it puts me in a position where it is literally not in my financial interest to play a game that isn't putting out trading cards, even though I don't care about them in and of themselves.

I just think this whole setup is getting in the way of the actual mechanics of what Steam should be doing. I want to buy and play games, and the new setup is making me not want to do that. If Valve made it so that if you are already a veteran in a game, you would receive a booster pack for that title, I think that would be a good fix, since those people have clearly put the time into a game and it seems like they are being unfairly punished because they started early (which again wouldn't be a problem if there wasn't a financial incentive on the cards).

And there are a group of players who also seem to be getting the shaft, since today, people who combine their cards to make badges are now getting a Mystery Card, which seems like it is going to be related to the upcoming Steam Summer Sale (likely on July 11th) and everyone who made badges from the beta through yesterday lost their opportunity to get one. Granted, they got coupons, so... maybe they didn't actually miss out in the end.

Of course, this is very much a first world problem, and I gladly admit that and maybe I am just getting grumpier as I age. But I also couldn't help but notice that the current cards are numbered but are also part of series 1... which seems to indicate that new cards for games are going to be released, perhaps making the old ones rare... that wouldn't drive prices up, now would it?

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