CSGO key update likely to shake up the entire Steam economy

Tom B. November 1, 2019

The latest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive patch targeted third-party services that trade skins and keys, but everyone that uses Steam will likely feel its effects.

Within CSGO, keys can be purchased to open loot boxes that may contain valuable skins. That inherent value made keys the most liquid asset within the larger Steam marketplace, transforming them into something of a currency. This CSGO update ended players’ ability to trade or resell newly purchased keys, which should bring major changes to Steam’s economy.

Valve discussed its rationale for the move on the official Counter-Strike blog, stating that the primary motivation was an uptick in fraudulent dealers using the demand for keys for their own nefarious ends.

“Most key trades we observed were between legitimate customers. However, worldwide fraud networks have recently shifted to using CS:GO keys to liquidate their gains,” Valve said. “At this point, nearly all key purchases that end up being traded or sold on the marketplace are believed to be fraud-sourced. As a result we have decided that newly purchased keys will not be tradeable”

This change will only impact newly purchased keys and is not being applied to any purchased before the patch. This will also mean that players who wish to trade keys perfectly legally will no longer be able to. This will also force Steam traders to find a new liquid asset.

Steam traders have always latched onto specific items to act as a form of currency. The early economy for Team Fortress 2, which laid the foundation for the Steam Marketplace as it stands today, saw traders deal largely in MannCo. Crate Keys, as well as promotional hats like Bill’s Hat and Earbuds. These items retain a good bit of value, event though Team Fortress 2 has seen its popularity drop precipitously over recent years.

This message from Valve shows an understanding that their products are being used in a fraudulent way, and an intent to stop it. With the ghost of skin betting still looming over Valve, they no doubt want to avoid having platform land them in legal trouble once again.

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