Steam, the video game distribution platform owned and operated by developer Valve, has a new code of conduct. The rules prohibits, among other things, any gambling-related activity. It follows a shift that has more digital content platforms, such as Twitch, separating themselves from the gambling industry. But Steam users only have a two-word response to the decision – so what?
Steam’s community rules have always been somewhat abstract. Although Valve had a list drawn up with many of the behaviors prohibited from being carried out on its platform, the truth is that many actions remained in a kind of legal vacuum, which prevented establishing a real specification of what could really be sanctioned.
Valve hopes its updated policies clear the air, and the anti-gambling language, which seems to also cover certain loot box-related activity, is a response to years of legal hassles the company has dealt with. However, judging by the responses on social media, many gamers have no intention of changing their habits.
Of Loot Boxes and Skins
The new code of conduct, which has been posted on Reddit and other platforms, states that gambling activity could lead to player bans. It extends to skins and loot boxes, although Valve has been changing how loot boxes operate in an attempt to free itself from the negative connotation they currently have.
Valve faced a year-long lawsuit in 2016 accusing it of facilitating unlawful gambling on third-party websites. That suit contended the third parties enabled individuals to place bets on CS:GO skins, some of which are valued at over $1,000. The legal saga eventually culminated in early 2017, with a US federal court dropping the final injunction against the gaming company.
A year earlier, there were news stories circulating about teenagers using their parents’ credit cards to purchase CS:GO weapon keys and bet them on unauthorized websites. Reports from Forbes noted that these weapons were providing young gamers with an excessive amount of power.
Consequently, Valve was reprimanded by the Washington State Gaming Commission. However, it was ultimately able to bypass any long-lasting harm that could have resulted from the scandal.
Valve was accused of fraud by plaintiffs who claimed that they were deceived by the company without ever using Steam or any of its games. However, the court rejected this argument, partly because of the lack of evidence.
The Case Must Go On
Posting the updated policies on Reddit led to a hearty discussion about what might happen next. Some expressed doubt over enforcement action. Others stated that streamers opening prize cases in front of audiences in games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) could be considered gambling.
This is because there are betting markets on what the cases might contain. The website CSGO Case Tracker showed 39 million case openings in March of this year, with players spending more than $100 million to purchase the contents.
That level of activity will, intentionally or not, invite gambling as well. Gamblers will bet on almost anything, including what might be in the next case reveal or how much a certain game object might ultimately go for in the market.
Despite the announced changes, one user, “SweetLobsterBabies,” expressed doubt about Valve’s newly announced position toward gambling.
“They aren’t going to do anything about this. This is a legal stance they are taking, but I highly doubt they start banning accounts for trading with gambling sites,” SweetLobsterBabies said.
Other Rules Coming to Valve
One of the new changes applied with the Steam Community Rules update is related to sexual content on the platform. Although Valve has already banned any content related to pornography, the new rules specifically prohibit sexually explicit content, exempting “in-game content posted on its own game center.”
Valve hopes the changes will make Steam more user-friendly and acceptable for all age levels. Along with the gambling prohibition and the stern warning against sexual content, it has also updated the policies to stipulate that players are required to be respectful of other players and avoid “external issues.”
The updated rules also prohibit the following in an effort to clean up Steam:
- Insults or harassment
- Threats or incitement to harm
- Trolling or causing arguments
- Bypass word or content filters
- Public accusations against others
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