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Steam Trading Cards are a digital commodity issued by Valve Corporation for use on its digital distribution platform, Steam. Steam Trading Cards are a non-physical analogue of conventional trading cards , which are periodically granted to Steam users for playing games, fulfilling tasks, or by random chance.
Cards can be "crafted" to acquire Steam-centric awards such as emoticons or profile backgrounds , traded to other Steam users, or sold through the Steam Community Market for store credit. Since their introduction in , Steam Trading Card sets have been integrated into over 7, games.
In a series of blog posts, Valve condemned this behavior, calling such games "fake games", and claimed that trading card farming was responsible for damaging the Steam storefront. In the years prior to the introduction of Steam Trading Cards, Valve implemented multiple features into Steam to facilitate the trading, buying, and selling of virtual goods.
Steam Trading was introduced in , which allows users to trade virtual game items between each other. The Steam Community Market was introduced in late , which enables Steam users to buy and sell virtual goods with store credit. Steam Trading Cards entered open beta in May , with six games initially participating in the system.
Like their physical counterparts, Steam Trading Cards are a collectible commodity which are routinely traded, bought, and sold. Supported games each have their own set of trading cards, which typically incorporate game art in their designs. After collecting a full set of trading cards, the user has the option to "craft" the cards, permanently removing them from their Steam inventory in exchange for a game-themed emoticon, profile background, profile badge, and an amount of Steam "XP".
XP can be used to increase a profile's level, which unlocks more profile customization options, increases the friend limit cap, and raises the probability of " booster pack " trading card drops.
Steam Trading Cards are distributed through several methods; if a game has a trading card set, playing that game will periodically grant the player trading cards until a threshold is met. For most games, this threshold is reached once the user has received half the number of cards required for a full set.
For free to play games, cards won't drop until the player makes a purchase associated with that game. During seasonal sales, Valve releases unique trading card sets to coincide with the event. As Steam Trading Cards afforded developers a means to generate revenue beyond game sales, trading cards soon became one of the driving forces behind "asset flipping", the process by which Steam games are cheaply and quickly made, often with store-bought assets and minimal differences between each other, in the hopes of netting profit through trading card sales.
In September , Valve ended their business relationships with Silicon Studios, who were implicated in an asset flipping scheme involving numerous developer accounts managed by the same person.