A week ago today, Steam trading cards were officially released after a very short beta of a month and a half. Starting with only six participating titles, forty-three currently have cards associated with them. So, what are these cards for and why would anyone want to collect them? First we need to rewind a little and look at what else this update has bought us.
Each Steam user now has a brand new profile that will show off what games the user has been playing, any badges they may own and any group they belong to, as well as a few other minor bits of information to anyone who cares to look.Something new here though, is the level of the user. Yes, people can earn experience to level up their Steam profile. How does one earn experience points? Remember all those badges that steam gave to people that participated in summer and winter sales? No? That is okay, because even a new user can earn a badge by participating in the community. Each badge a player owns is worth a number of experience points, and every hundred points grants a level.
So, maybe people wish they had participated in steam event more often to earn those badges. Well, do not worry as more badges have been made available to the community. This is where the trading cards come in, as when someone manages to gather a full set of cards they can use them to craft a badge for the game. Here is the catch though; each user is only given a limited number of card drops per game (usually half the total number available) and could potentially collect multiple of the same card.
The handy new badges section of the updated profiles show each user which games they own cards for and whether they are entitled to any more card drops. A nice feature is that any games in a users collection that could drop cards will show up here, even if a user has not yet obtained any cards in the relevant set. Clicking on a card set will also display all the cards that are missing and if anyone on the users friends list owns one of them. For people who lack friends, there is always the Steam Trading Cards Group where people will trade community items for cards. A bit more expensive, there is also the Steam market place where one can purchase missing cards for real currency.
For the shy people who lack friends and money, there are booster packs that are handed out randomly as the community craft badges. These contain extra drops for specific games the user owns as long as they have already collected all the drops available and the chance of getting one raise with each ten levels the user obtains. Booster packs are like gold dust and can be sold on the market, though as more cards are collected and badges are crafted, so too will the number of booster packs handed out increase.
There are a couple of other items that can be given to a user whenever a badge is crafted. Games have special emoticons for use while chatting on Steam and backgrounds to personalise a profile further. Vouchers can also drop that entitle the bearer to discounts off games on the Steam service. Of course, all of these items can be traded or sold on the Steam market place.
So, what do Valve have to gain from this other than getting players to hit games in their collection to obtain new badges? Well, each item sold on the market earns Valve 5% of the sale price and 10% goes to the games creator (an incentive for developers to include cards in their games). When a game with cards is goes on sale, it may be the deciding factor that drives a purchase. Now imagine what will happen during the Steam summer sale. A week of deals, many of which will have cards. Hundreds of cards flooding the marketplace, lowering prices and bringing many new people looking to complete their sets. Only time will tell if this is a major win for Valve, but judging by the number of new items available on the market there are no shortages of people looking to complete their collections. Did I mention that cards can come in foil versions as well?
Do you own games with trading cards? What is your Steam level? Would you buy a cheap game if it had cards available? Let me know in the comments!