What exactly is A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda? I couldn’t have told you a few days ago. I simply played the game because Steam added trading cards to it. A little known indie title that now has some cards I can collect; sounds fine to me.
This is the hidden beauty to the Steam Trading Card system. Much like how daily sales boosted income for indie devs, now trading cards are giving people a reason to buy even lesser known titles. Instead of falling into obscurity, users can work towards making complete card packs and selling them on the Steam marketplace.
Valve definitely knows how to engage their community. While some triple-A titles have cards, the overwhelming majority seem to be made up of cult classics and independent games. When you can buy Resident Evil 5 for $10 without cards, or 4 indie games with cards for $2.50 each, what sounds like a better deal?
It helps that allowing users to trade these cards or even sell them outright gives you more incentive to collect. Along with end-users benefiting, Valve and the developer take a cut of the profit from every card sold. While that seems like shady business, the cuts don’t start getting crazy until you hit the big bucks.
Even without reaping all of the rewards, selling off a virtual item that I didn’t really do much to achieve feels cool. This is a great way to give back to the community that has helped Valve grow over the years. It also has a mini-game of sorts attached to it.
The main goal for collecting all the cards from a particular game is that you can craft a badge for your Steam profile. When you do that, you’re given another random item drop. A background, emoticon, or even a foil version of the cards are just some of the items you can get. These foil cards sell for $5 a pop, which is silly to think about.
Along with the items, your Steam profile also levels up with an XP system. After every 10 levels, your chance of acquiring rare card packs goes up by 20%. These card packs contain the foil cards or packs of 3 which may help you complete a set.
Seeing all of these cards takes me back to my younger days. When Pokemon invaded the US in 1998, everyone was obsessed. I remember going on eBay and paying upwards of $200 just for a friggin foil card of Charizard. Thankfully, nothing with the Steam Trading Card System is priced quite so high, but there could possibly come a day when these cards become rare.
They also feed on the impulsive desire to collect. The reason so many of the 3D platformers in the late 90’s adopted fetch quest style mechanics wasn’t down to Super Mario 64 being popular; people just like collecting things.
These trading cards might not make a crappy game better or even further extend the play length of indie games; you are given a bunch of drops that run out after an hour or two of gameplay. Still, just getting something back for enjoying your hobby is pretty awesome.
Thanks, Valve. Along with making your sales irresistible and your service extremely stable, you’ve provided another form of OCD for me to work on. If every game in the future has trading cards, I know that I’ll be gaming for quite a long while.