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I love what Valve and Gabe Newell are doing for the PC gaming community. The resurgence in independent design, game mods and bringing amazing sales to consumers is wonderful. However, like any gamer worth their salt, I hate DRM and I hate having my library held ransom on a company's whim. With that said, the VZBV has been working hard to get consumers their rights back regarding digital rights management, and they're still targeting Valve and their subscriber agreement for Steam.
According to the Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V., representative Eva Hoffschulte, speaking on behalf of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations and executive director Gerd Billen, the consumer rights advocacy group is trying to pursue the matter in court and they believe that things will get underway later this year.
Hoffschulte has stated that things are looking up for consumers if they can just get the case in court, writing...
Unfortunately a date of the trial is not fixed, we hope it will take place this year. Until then, it is not realistic that Valve will change their policy. But our chance to win the process is very good and that will be really an improvement for consumers: then they can sell their games to others.
Previously, Valve's Doug Lombardi spoke to Gamasutra about Valve's interaction with the VZBV back in February of this year, following previous negotiations and exchanges with the Verbraucherzentrale Bundersverband, when the advocacy group originally sent out a cease and desist against Valve's current subscriber agreement that they employed during the summer of last year.
According to Lombardi...
“We are aware of the press release about the lawsuit filed by the VZBV, but we have not yet seen the actual complaint,”
There are many reasons to stand on the side of Valve and the way Steam operates – there is no other digital distribution service out there right now that allows gamers to download, buy and maintain the updates of their games in such an easy-to-use and consumer-friendly fashion. Valve has also extended their connection with the community by offering services like Greenlight and the Steam Workshop that allows just about anyone to get their game or a mod up and out to the public with minimal financial and marketing effort.
Nevertheless, one cannot ignore the fact that none of these services are sustainable without Valve, and there have been increasingly stringent methods of keeping a lockdown on the way gamers and users interact with Steam, including limiting how many of the same applications on Steam can run at one time, as well as claims that offline mode may have been patched with a two week check-in requirement. The reality is that Valve has everyone by the balls and ovaries when it comes to these kind of user policies, including whether or not you want to give away a licensed game in your library or resale the title.
Now, there have been rumors about Valve potentially starting up a resale or software trading mechanism within Steam that would at least alleviate the consumer complaints about ownership and license trading.
According to the VZBV, however, they have not been notified of any of these potential changes and such directives are not on the cards, with Hoffschulte stating...
We have not checked the current directives, because first we have to finish our lawsuit against valve. Over and above that we are not able to take action against Valve, because of our financial and personnel situation.
Whether or not the case goes before the German Supreme Court once more and the VZBV are able to make good on the EU Law for the resale of digital goods remains to be seen, but the VZBV seems very confident that if they can make a good case, then they can persuade the court to force Valve into offering gamers the option of digital resale.
Previously, Valve's director of Business development, Jason Holtman, had made it known that they were not going to make digital resale an available option to Steam subscribers.
I like what Valve does for the community, for indie developers and for nearly single-handedly reviving the PC software sector and curbing a lot of the rampant piracy out there, as well as forming unsavory clones in the form of Origin and Uplay, but I've got to side with the VZBV on this one. It would be a real win for gamers, at least on the front of digital resale, if the consumer rights advocates came out on top this one time.
[Update: For those curious how a monetary resale system could work for Steam, check out the article here]