Posted on November 11, 2009 by Doolwind

Would Steam Points Work?

Steam’s having great success at the moment, with 40% market share making it the #1 platform for online game distribution.  They’ve expanded from in-house games to publishing titles of all shapes and sizes (from Modern Warfare 2 to Osmos).  I’ve always thought they were missing something, Steam Points.  Steam Points would be to Steam as Microsoft Points are to Xbox.  This entry discusses why this would be a valuable addition for Valve, developers, gamers and even retailers.


Steam Points could be used to buy games, Downloadable Content and even in-game assets (through micro-transactions).  They open up the option of gift cards rather than buying a specific game for someone.  This would be perfect leading up to Christmas as non-game savvy friends and family could buy gift cards rather than guessing and thinking “Diaper Dash” is something you’d enjoy.

All payment would still go through PayPal keeping the security burden on them.  Keeping payment with PayPal also stops Valve from watering down their focus by becoming a merchant facility.  It will simply give gamers more options with how they buy their games.

Advantages for Valve

  • Create new revenue sources – gift cards and micro-transactions
  • Encourage micro-transactions within games, increasing revenue
  • Bringing more developers and gamers to their platform
  • Another differentiator to their competitors (not that they really need one)

Advantages for Developers

  • A new revenue source
  • Revenue during the life-time of the game rather than only at the point of sale
  • Reduce barriers for customers as the initial cost of the game can be lower
  • Micro-transactions allow more styles of games to be developed

Advantages for Gamers

  • Using a trust company for purchasing points.  Valve isn’t going bust any time soon
  • Initial cost of games will be lower, increasing the number of games a player can afford
  • More options for how players want to play (pay for convenience)
  • Can purchase points at a retailer removing the need for a credit card
  • Unifies the currency leading to less confusion for the international market

Advantages for Retailers

  • Gives them a simple avenue into online distribution
  • Can sell cards in their shops and make a cut of online sales
  • Game retailers may resist however it’s similar to “iTunes credit” which most music shops now sell


Whether you love or hate Steam, it’s here to stay.  I see a lot of great opportunity for Valve in the future and Steam Points are a great way to begin their move forward.  Some people I’ve discussed this with are against the idea as they already see Valve as having a monopoly over online distribution.  What do you think?  Would you be happy to start spending Steam Points to buy your games and make micro-transaction?  Should other platforms like Impulse use this system to differentiate themselves?