Or, why Steam Trading Cards are awesome
As most of you probably know, Steam launched its Trading Card program earlier in July. With it, gamers can play participating games to get virtual trading cards specific to that game. The cards can then be traded with other users or sold on the Steam community market.
So, what is the point of all this? Players are supposed to gather up whatever number of cards in a game (usually 7 or 8, but they can vary wildly) and combine them to make a badge, which gives you Steam profile XP. If a player wants silly rewards like profile backgrounds and emoticons to use in Steam chat, not to mention five extra friend slots per level (which is….weird), that’s all well and good.
I’ll admit I bought into this pretty hard at first. I was level 23 or 24 by the time the trading cards even officially launched. Every time I gained a level, I sold the rewards. I was out leveling everyone on my friends list easily, since I happened to have the majority of trading card games at that point. Once the summer sale rolled around though, I started to realize there was pretty much no point in what I was doing. Now virtually everyone was catching up to me level wise, so my drive to keep leveling with the cards was quickly waning. So many games were showing up with trading cards, it seemed completely fruitless to keep chasing those levels. What good did they do? You get a dumb background for your profile and an emoticon? Woo.
So I stopped trying to level and focused on selling the cards on the community market. Steam became the game I was playing. I became a filthy idler. I have a 1 month old kid at home right now, so my time to actually play anything is severely cut down right now anyways. Hell, even as I write this, I have a game booted up in the background. My game time consisted of loading up a game, going to watch the baby, and coming back a couple hours later to sell whatever popped up. I decided to see if I could get some free games. And I did. Easily. I managed to sell enough cards to buy $12 worth of games in just a few days. Which, during a Steam sale, is quite a bit. I picked up Fallout: New Vegas ($2.50), 4 copies of McPixel ($4 total), and Risen 2 ($5). To me, it's pretty amazing I was able to do this. I felt like I was cheating the system by getting these games with absolutely no investment (well, other than all the games I had already bought to be able to do this, I suppose).
After that little bit of success, I decided to see just how far I could push it. I bought a few more games I had my eye on, and then I focused on getting as many cards as possible, to see if I could save up enough money to buy a full $60 game. Keep in mind, if you want to sell trading cards like this, they sell anywhere from $.10 to $1.00. Sometimes more or less, but that’s generally the range. Usually on the low side of that, more often than not. As a general rule, the more cards a game has, the less each card will be worth. So if a game has, say, 15 cards (I’m looking at you, Brutal Legend), the cards are going to sell for less than dirt. There are other factors too. If it’s a game not many other people have, the median price for cards will generally be a bit higher than a typical game. Then there are the Foil cards as well. I honestly can’t believe people buy these, but I’m not going to complain. These cards are essentially no different from a normal card, except they are much rarer and sell for quite a bit more. In the month or so I've been doing this, I have only seen 4 foil cards drop. The prices on these have varied a lot. I sold one for about $1.50, but the highest one was about $4.00. These have absolutely no special benefit, other than bragging rights. But then again, I guess that could be said about any trading card game with foils.
I have 58 trading card enabled games out of the 167 currently available. Each game has, on average, about 7 cards. That means I potentially have about 406 cards that I can sell. If each card sold for just 50 cents, I would have a profit of $203. Granted, most cards will sell lower than that. I would say there is potential to make at least $100 though, easily. After figuring this out, my goal of getting a free full-price game started to look much more obtainable.
While I haven’t reached my goal yet, I think it will happen soon. I’m currently about $15 shy of $60. With a bit of patience, I will be there soon enough. There are some other things I could probably do to facilitate this goal, but I don’t want to go in too deep. I could theoretically go onto the market with my current wallet balance, buy up any cards listed for cheap, and sell them for a bit more. I could trade with my friends for cards that are worth more than what I currently have. But I’m not going to do any of that. I’m sure there are people out there going to these lengths, but that’s too much work for me. I’m perfectly content just idling and selling. It’s free money, after all. I don’t want to get too greedy.