And this is why we can’t have nice things.
Yesterday, Steam launched their first annual holiday auction. Conceptually, it was pretty simple. By buying and playing games on Steam, or by trading with other users, players can earn virtual items like cards, backgrounds, and emoticons. Most of the time, these objects just sit in a user’s inventory, forgotten.
However, starting yesterday, users could convert these items into “Steam Gems,” a digital currency that could be used to bid on almost 2,000 games (limited to 100 copies of each). Auction rounds lasted 45 minutes; at the end of the auction, the user that bid the highest number of gems got the game for free.
Participants with a small supply of gems could always buy more cards (for real money) and cash those in to increase their wealth. With the average card going for about 20 gems and auctions closing in the tens of thousands, it’s likely that Steam was hoping to turn a profit offering these “free” games. The games on the auction block were pretty good, too, including the likes of Borderlands 2, Arma III, The Forest, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. All in all, it sounded like a fun way to engage users and make use of the otherwise frivolous Steam Community Items.
So, of course, people had to ruin it. Shortly after the auction was announced, users on the Steam subreddit started identifying people who somehow exploited the system, quickly accumulating trillions of gems. This ruined the virtual economy, and basically made most players’ collections worthless.
As word of an exploit spread, Steam quickly cancelled the auction. At first no real reason was given, but Steam later updated the auction page, saying only that “We had an issue with Gems that means we need to reset and start again.” There’s also a cute image of a yeti terrorizing elves, for what that’s worth.
Users who have already cashed in items for gems shouldn’t worry; Steam promises that all gems created by users will be returned to their original owner, while any gem purchases made over the Steam marketplace will be reimbursed. User-to-user trades “are being investigated on a case-by-case basis.” The official from Steam:
- All Gems created by you will be returned to your inventory
- All Gem purchases from the Community Market will be reimbursed
- All Auction bids have been canceled and the Auction will be reset
- Trades involving Gems are being investigated on a case-by-case basis
That’s a bummer, even if it’s not entirely surprising. Still, while Steam hasn’t announced when auctions will resume, one assumes they’ll be working hard to get the system back up – and working properly – as soon as possible. Besides, with Steam’s winter sale rumored to start as soon as December 18th, those gaming backlogs aren’t likely to get significantly smaller any time soon.