Today we will dive deeper into Valve’s biggest grey zone. Valve’s Gambling Problem and, why they don’t want to get rid of it. If you think of computer games, the First thing coming to mind is Valve. In this case, we will focus on their online PC-game marketplace STEAM.
Examination of Valve’s Gambling Problem
PeopleMakeGames dove deeper and analyzed online casinos that plug into your Steam account. Since those plug-ins first appeared 10 years ago, they’ve allowed all users to gamble billions of euros in form of cryptocurrency, skins, and cash. For example, you could link your Steam account to any Skin-Betting site without receiving any background check. To demonstrate the vast carelessness we created a new underaged Steam Account and tried it out on ourselves. In just a few clicks we were able to link our Steam Account to any skin Gambling website, without any interference from Steam. In brief, we were able to join websites that wouldn’t provide any information about the fairness of their odds, not to mention the absence of any warning about withdrawal fees. And on top of this, they have shown no interest in their users getting hooked on gambling or their age. Creating Valve’s gambling problem.
Valve’s nemesis – the First appearance of gambling plug-ins
Summing up dozens of interviews conducted with users, gambling psychologists, and ex-Valve employees we came to the conclusion that it was never in their interest to exterminate Valve’s gambling problem. Therefore we will try to explain some of the reasons Valve will never successfully shut this casino industry down. Without a doubt, Valve is one of the most wealthy and influential companies in the game industry, but also one of the most mysterious. People Make Games gave their best to gather information from ex-Valve employees in an attempt to pull back the curtains revealing the bitter truth.
How does it work
Obviously, their whole work concept is covered in mist and, is well hidden. But we managed to get a glimpse, and what we saw was fascinating. Seriously, it’s wild. To address Valves gambling problem, we have to wind the clock back to 2010 when the first loot boxes were introduced. Team Fortress 2, Dota2, and Counter-Strike Are just a few popular examples where loot boxes are available. Today, the game industry is taking big steps in not preventing but making it safer to gamble.
Zooming out to valve’s 2012 era, we immediately notice their loot-box design was scandalous. Playing any of the previously mentioned Valve games, you would be awarded crates with random cosmetic rewards. However, there was one catch: you can’t open them without a key, and keys can be obtained thru their in-game shop for 2.50$. Hence, Valve gave you the right to buy a KEY to actually win a cosmetic reward that is hidden in those crates. After unlocking the box, a spinning slot will show you everything you potentially can win before getting your real reward. Turning the whole opening ceremony into something thrilling and more fun. We personally like it and are huge fans of it because it has a big resemblance to Casino slots. Showing how close you are to bigger wins. Driving your trophy instinct to hunt down bigger wins.
Surprisingly, the only thing that is really ethically wrong is how those same skins can be traded on Steam Marketplace. Launched in 2012 this marketplace allows its users to trade, buy, and sell items in their Steam inventory. While taking a 5% cut of each sale rising to 10% if trading Valve’s own games. To sum it up, you’re not only winning a skin for your Gun, you are eventually receiving 5$, 10$, or even more. Some skins can reach breathtaking price tags, reaching almost 100.000$. But there is a Catch. When you sell skins you won’t receive any money. You would get a worthy equivalent- Steam Wallet funds or just Steam Money. Preventing you from withdrawing hidden within their FaQ.
Not long after the marketplace was introduced a grey market of unofficial sites that use Steam’s API was opened. Unfortunately, Valve still lets them plug into Steams API. By linking your Steam account to those sites you bypass Valves market. Thus selling your skins for hard cash. Unquestionably crossing the legal line. Looking deeper into this makes us think that Valve fathered the first Video Game NFT back in 2012. Without any blockchain technology, which is impressive. By comparison, CS:GO had around 25.000 players daily at any time. But after the implementation of this brilliant Arms Dealer update the player count multiplied by almost 14 times that number. As a result of this popularity, additional plug-ins were born.
Abnormal player counts forced people to find ways to make money. And after some brainstorming there it was – Gambling plug-ins. Providing additional means of winning more with your worthless skins. Valve’s useless items could be wagered in winner-takes-all games or just bet on upcoming Esports Games
Little to no safeguards were provided by those sites. Meaning you could be totally anonymous, as a result providing additional players who seek anonymity. This scheme turned those sites into havens for anonymous gamblers.
Fact-Checking Valve’s Gambling problem
To illustrate the pure vastness of the problem We made several accounts of nearly all relevant age groups and from various countries. We encountered no restrictions and had much fun doing so. While testing Valve’s gambling best-seller CS-Go, we noticed it resembles a well-oiled machine providing mass injections of dopamine. To demonstrate, we wagered ugly skins which were nearly worthless, and won other skins which were ugly but simultaneously had a better price tag. So we continued the practice until we got something we like. Improving your game inventory while gambling at the same time made it much more fun. Grinding the game was finally entertaining again. I was just swapping skins for skins and never felt like gambling with real money.
Fighting Valve’s gambling problem
Years followed and the plug-ins took control. The legal industry has grown so big it started making headlines. Just in 2015, Valve announced that they were handling seven bans for professional CS:GO players for match-fixing. Without a doubt, they were playing badly so that people could win bets against them. Many ex-professionals said that it already matured to the status of an open secret. Agreements were made between big streamers and those sites just to lure more people to the sites. Streamers making tons of money just to gamble on their side. The big oopsie happened in 2016 when Tom “Syndicate” Cassell from England and Trevor “TmarTn” Martin from the US were caught promoting their own gambling hub.
Tom “Syndicate” Cassell and Trevor “TmarTn” Martin started releasing videos using a site named CSGOLotto. Shining a positive light on CSGOLotto making it look like fun. At least some of their 10 million subscribers fell for this scheme. The problem wasn’t that big until an Indian youtube “Honour The Call” began his research. He revealed Syndicate and TmarTn being the president and vice president of CSGOLotto. Hence having better win chances provided additional wins, acting like winning wasn’t that hard at all. Following this scandal, another one emerged. This time it was James “Phantoml0rd” Varga being busted for owning stakes in CSGOShuffle. But unfortunately. the game industry stopped paying attention resulting in this practice coming back to life.
In the past years, this industry went thru massive changes. Becoming more colorful and appealing to younger audiences. Most of them provide loyalty reward programs, also featuring built-in mini-games. Valve made gambling easier accessible than ever. Stories of enormous wins started to emerge, claiming to have quadrupled their wagers. A chance to turn 50$ knives into 200$ hard cash was closer than ever. Looking deeper into this we came to the conclusion that this ain’t real gambling, it’s just a way to “trade” your skins.
While at work I used to use those sites regularly, smuggling fun in between work tasks. In fact, I managed to make quick cash on top of having fun at work. However, I wasn’t thinking enough about the consequences. And, I was lucky to avoid any consequences by pure luck. I look at it as a Phase in my life, searching for the extra dopamine when I was in my lows. Finally, I grew up and realized that I should gamble responsibly and everyone else should do the same. Still gambling but this time responsible.
Psychologists and their opinion
People Make Games managed to conduct an interview with Dr. Serena King who’s recently studying this matter. Both skin-betting and videogame with manipulative monetization are a huge part of this study. Stating those are behavioral addictions that are strengthened by additional reinforcements like loot boxes. The line between casino and skin gambling is paper thin. For instance, both constantly supply the brain with dopamine enforcing your gambling problem. To make it clear this isn’t a unique CS:GO problem. Without a doubt, the whole industry is infected and needs treatment. Another honorable mention is Roblox, allowing its users to gamble with their assets. The newest addition is Rust and its own symbiotic betting industry. It’s a never-ending circle.
How to handle Valve’s gambling problem
Roblox Corporation has shown more interest in prevention by being more proactive about going after those sites. Why Valve hasn’t taken any prolific moves in resolving the gaming problem, no one knows. They always tend to be as accessible as possible turning them into a chaotic-neutral company. Eventually, they will do everything in their power to stay as neutral as they can, no matter what. For this, to work they would need to create an allow list, but then they would need to create a process for people to apply. Because this creates additional work, therefore needing a bigger workforce for revision, approvable, and validation. It’s contrary to their work model where they try to be fully automated. As leaked, Valve works like this ” here’s this thing that we need to take care of this week, Who’s gonna do it? “, and workers apply for the job.
Is Valve’s Gaming Problem real?
We think that Valve’s gambling problem is non-existing at least from their standpoint. Obviously, they are generating more revenue which is every company’s main goal. Gambling sites that plugin steam will create additional means of entertainment, in the end benefiting Valve. On one hand, we have Steam and on the other, we have different websites claiming they have no relationship going on. But one can’t function properly without the other. They complete each other. Following this, people would play the game to acquire skins which they would wager. Eventually, winning skins and come back to Valve’s games to play and show them off.
Skin betting is so strongly implemented into Valve’s nature that it could mean a financial disaster splitting ways. Expanding Valve’s gambling problem. Shutting down these sites would wreck the value of the skins, thereby halving the market size and hurting players who already own skins. This means that the mere existence of a grey market augments the value of skins. Thus forcing players to enforce their existence. Today’s most popular skin betting site for CS:GO changed its work model from coin flips and roulette to simply opening Valve’s own loot boxes just on casino sites. This means people would get a chance of seeing thru the curtains. Exposing loot boxes as a cheap Casino rip-off.
GG.BET Managed to sign a mega deal sponsoring this year’s International. Resulting in public opposition. But it ain’t breaking any laws so it’s perfectly fine. GG.Bet provided an expert level of coverage. Going so deep that you could bet on how many times one team would sneeze during a game. Jokes aside, They did a perfect job. Not long ago a bunch of parents tried to sue class action against Valve. Resulting in a total disaster, because loot boxes ain’t considered gambling.