Steam trading cards and gamification

Steam trading cards and gamification

In my opinion, a great example of gamification is Steam Trading Cards. But before we talk about collectible cards, there are a few sentences on Steam, because you probably don’t all know what to do with them.

What is Steam anyway?

The company Valve, an American game developer, whose Counter-Strike series of games should also be familiar to non-gamers, launched the Steam platform more than ten years ago. As far as I know, Steam was the first project at the time when computer games could be purchased digitally, while at the same time a whole range of other client community functions were available (chat, forum, central access to all games in my “collection”,…). For Valve, this had the huge advantage of no longer relying solely on retailers taking over the sale of the games, but, in the course of increasingly widespread high-speed Internet connections, customers could now easily and at any time directly access to their own products. Other than that, the platform’s aspect of copy-protecting games shouldn’t have been entirely uninteresting for Valve.
A few years have passed since then and Steam is probably the best known and most widely established platform of its kind, which most computer game fans (partly due to the exclusivity of certain titles) cannot to avoid.
That should at least give you a rough idea of ​​what Steam really is. So, move on to trading cards.

What are Steam Trading Cards?

Whether it’s baseball cards like the ones you see in American movies or TV shows, or maybe even Magic cards from your own experience, you need to know the basics of trading cards. . Collection is of course the main objective. And what does a collector do other than collect? He trades.

It is not for nothing that the principle of trading cards has been successful for decades and destroys not only the pocket money of many generations of children, but also a right to existence for a number of adults. . It’s basically no different with Steam Trading Cards. It is collected, exchanged and purchased. However, these are not actually tangible cards, but purely virtual goods. You get these virtual cards to play games that the developers are involved with (Steam has only been offering Valve titles for a long time now). However, only about half the cards you need to get a full deck. Of course, you have no control over the cards you get. You can be lucky and get rare or unlucky and get one you already own three times. Now, Steam offers you the possibility to exchange the cards to get the missing ones. However, it is also possible to buy (or sell) the tickets online, for real money, of course. The prices range from a few cents to clearly double-digit amounts in euros. The highlight for Valve: 15% is earned on every transaction in their own trading system, the “Steam Marketplace”. If there are enough transactions (which will certainly take place), something will happen.

What does all this have to do with gamification

In addition to the mechanics that motivate people to collect baseball cards or the like, Valve has offered a bit more. Along with Steam Trading Cards, a leveling system was introduced to the Steam community. Those who level up can beautify their profile, increase the maximum number of friends and also have a better chance of receiving the randomly distributed boosters (three random cards) for games in which all regularly available trading cards have already been ” collected” by the user. Most experience points are for badges, which are mostly obtained by fusing all cards in a set (between five and 13 cards).

Of course, these badges are also displayed in your own profile and are therefore another motivational element. In addition, there are also profile backgrounds, emoticons or coupons for the purchase of discounted games on Steam to assemble decks of cards. There are therefore many incentives for the target group, which is receptive to games anyway.

After the costs of creating one-time cards, emotes, and profile backgrounds (I’ll review the system itself liberally, as much of it is used for other areas of Steam as well) and certainly manageable costs for hosting & Co, Valve earns quite possibly quite a nice amount of money by getting users to use Steam Trading Cards through different approaches.

Valve is not alone

Of course, it’s no longer just Valve games that collectible cards are available for. Many developers who distribute their games through Steam are also participating in the project. The motivation for this is certainly that for gamers “addicted” to Steam Trading Cards, there is an added incentive to purchase games from these other developers. Of course, once the developers have already done the design work for trading cards & co, they also announce the system. Valve will be doubly happy, because after all, if these cards end up on the Steam Market, they’ll also make money.


As we hope has become clear, relatively simple means can be used to motivate people to do things that, if we are to be completely rational, actually make no sense to them. The incentives don’t even have to be huge to entice them to participate. Shows once again that a lot can be achieved with a simple but clever idea and that money can even be earned in a playful way. One or the other may now think that it is relatively easy with such a product. Could be. But I am very confident that concepts can be developed for industrial adhesives, solder wires or similar products which at first glance seem “boring”, based on playful principles and lead to the desired success.

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