Sunday, December 12, 2021

December 12, 2021

If you're reading this, there's a good chance you have at some point in the recent past, bought a bundle or two, maybe three - or a heck lot more.

Some of those games you bought for yourself, but the thing with bundles is - sometimes you already have a few of the games, or they just don't interest you. So, what do you with the rest of them? Hoard them like a true dragon, give them away to friends, or trade them for something else.

Getting inventory

You start out as a newbie, a dozen steam games to your name and you find yourself bored on a rainy afternoon. A friend mentions you should check a few bundle websites because wow, you can snag a dozen games for a few dollars instead of buying them one at a time like you've just won the lottery.

- Humble bundle - is the main one I'd recommend you check often. It's not what it was, but still a great source for a ton of games.
- Fanatical - a different beast than HB, but has a lot of bundles of varying quality. If you're just starting out this is a great place to check. But, even if you've been using bundles a lot, it's still wise to check back so and then.

Bundles aside, there's IsThereAnyDeal which is a good source for finding the best discounts on individual games and checking whether a game was in a bundle/cheaper before. If you aren't sure if a discount deal is good right now, check ITAD and make sure. As a bonus, any site listed at ITAD is as far as we known a legitimate reseller - any game you buy on those sites benefits the developers of that game. Unlike certain gray market sellers which only tend to deal in stolen/fraudulent/other keys. But that's a whole other story. In summary - try to avoid gray market resellers. If a site offers you "buyer protection" you can bet it's not a legitimate seller.

Managing your inventory

So, you've bought a bundle, activated a few keys for yourself and are now left with a few "unrevealed" keys on one of possibly dozens of bundle/key sites. That quickly becomes messy, and a chore to manage. Worry not - google, or a local excel file are your best friends in this case.

Now, there are multiple reasons you want to have everything in an excel or google sheets.
- Easy to sort
- All your keys in one place
- Easily updated
- Keep track of what you own / have used / plan to do with them
- Any extra information you feel like tracking

And, if you set it up like below (row 2 with the dash, and B / D / F with the pipe), you can easily copy paste column A-G onto SteamTrades, column A onto your Barter tradeable inventory, or to for example Fanatical's Discord server. It ensures you have a flexible list that you can easily expand and update, or copy to somewhere else that is publicly viewable. (obviously you don't want your actual inventory with keys to be public)

Finding the right person to trade with

Now comes the tricky part. You need to find the right person who is interested in your leftover keys, and get something in return. As mentioned above, you can try SteamTrades, Barter, Fanatical's Discord - but there are dozens of other ways to trade. I encourage you to look around / ask around when you do a trade with a friendly person and see what other places they use. Most active traders don't restrict themselves to just one site. The simple reason is - if you buy bundles from Fanatical, and try to trade with other people who only buy from Fanatical as well - you're not going to have much that they are interested in. The same goes if you try to trade Humble Choice games in a group that has a focus on Humble Choice. You're just going to have a list of the same games to compare, and will be unlikely to find anything you both need.

So, shop around.
Finding a lesser known group for trading can be a great way to discover new games to trade.

Getting good value

If you buy Humble Choice or another bundle by HB, then chances are the games from that month will be somewhat equal in value. Similar with Fanatical. But, some games are worth more than others. It's simple math really - If a game has never been bundled before, then it's "value" is basically the lowest price it's ever been on discount according to ITAD.

If a game has been bundled, but it's been a long time ago since then - and never bundled since, then it's value depends on the basic "demand" for it. e.g. if nobody wants a game, then it's probably not too hard to get a year or two later. But if a good game was bundled once some two years ago, and hasn't been since - it's value and number of times wishlisted has likely only gone up since. Take for example the game Two Point Hospital, It's been in humble Choice once and no bundles since. It's been wishlisted a LOT according to barter (same with Dead Cells). So, there's a high demand, and very low availability unless you simply go out and buy the game on sale. But that's something we generally want to avoid.

The one time you can use the gray market keyshops is to determine a game's value. Going back to Two Point hospital, you can see on, that this game is valued at around 8€, quite a chunk if you remember this game was 1 of 10 or 12 games in a bundle at the time.

Fanatical's mystery bundles are a case on their own - and generally despised because they're basically just lootboxes, or a gambling mechanic best avoided - or embraced depending on your view on this.

Not everyone is trading with your best interest at heart, so understanding the value of your keys is important. Imagine you have a spare copy of the above game and someone makes you an offer for it. What do you look for? How badly do you want the game they are offering you?

Lets say you are offered the game Valkyria Chronicles 4, at first this seems a great deal - your 39$ game for their 50$ game - but a quick look at the supply/demand and gray market shows that Valkyria only goes for about 4$ or less, and has very little demand.

So, try not to get scammed with a low value game for a higher value game. But always keep in mind you're never going to get a 100% equal value unless you're dealing against some very low value games. For example Garfield Kart, has been bundled so often, it may as well be free. But cheap is good - you can quickly and easily trade low value games vs other low value games. (Which is a thing Fanatical excels at providing you with bundles and mystery lootboxes)


A small footnote on reputation. Sites like Barter, SteamTrades and various other groups will have a way to check a person's trade history and reputation. If you're dealing with someone who is rushing you to trade, or offering that seems too good to be true - it usually is. Be wary when trading, don't get scammed.

Trading is not only about games

Often in the more established trading areas you'll get people either offering of asking TF2 Keys. This specifically refers to the Mann.Co Supply Crate keys for Team Fortress 2. These can be bought from Valve directly at a price of about 3$ a piece, or the player market at about 1.5-2$ depending on the time of year.

When trading for, or against these keys it's extra important to note the value of the game you're trading. It does add a little extra transparency, but it's a really close border between game keys or gray market trading. You'll find a lot of people never trade for TF2 keys, while some do nothing else - as it takes away the need for finding another game you want, and gives the freedom to just use a separate currency to trade. (Much like the Stone of Jordan back in the Diablo 2 trading days, if you ever played that)

Keys aside, you'll also find people who trade with Sacks of Gems, which are around 0.30-0.35 at the time of writing. Gems are easier to get, and can be used to craft trading card boosters. Those looking to make a profit this way tend to craft card boosters for games that have high value cards (such as very new anime games) or to complete their own trading card badge sets.

Cards, got to catch 'em all!

If you're looking to get some gems, a great way is to craft Badges during a major sale. Such as the Winter sale coming up this December 22nd - Jan 4th, or the Summer sale. Smaller sales don't tend to have a special badge and so don't drop bonus cards. If you craft badges during the sale - each badge will give you 1 bonus card, while crafting badges outside the sales will just give you (useless) discount vouchers with a limited expire date. So please, avoid doing that.

Anyone who has done so will happily tell you, card trading is a pain in the rear area to the extreme. Luckily there are a few sites that make this pain a little bit more bearable.
- SteamTrade Matcher - is your main, get rid of duplicates - place to be. It ensures your inventory is scanned (make sure it's public or this doesn't work) and you can make 1:1 same set trades at the click of a button. It saves you time, and works incredible.
- Steam Card Exchange - If STM doesn't get the job done, and your friends list doesn't either - there's SCE which you can use to send cards to in exchange for credits. Those credits you can then use to request cards in return from the bot. SCE is HEAVILY gamed by people looking to game the market, so chances are the card you want will be out of stock - but it's still worth checking so and then.
- Various steam groups - Look around, there's steam groups on most games set up for exchanging that game's cards, as well as card exchange and open inventory groups where you can browse and trade cross-set cards. It's this point where the real headache starts though. Steam is absolutely not set up to make this kind of trading easy, and you'll quickly wish there were better options to trade your cards more easily. Sadly, the site that "did" just that (similar to how barter works now) has been defunct, abandoned and taken down. Manual browsing and very very slow filtering is unfortunately your only way to get this task done.

Google "Steam Inventory Helper" and install that addon to get a little bit of help in checking your card values. It isn't much, but it's really the best way to get your cross set trading values done in a way that is fair to all.

One final link I will give you is the site, itemvalue sorter. If you have a lot of items/boosters and maybe rare cards, it's worth sorting them from highest value to lowest. If any card or item is worth 0.20 or more - it may be easiest for you to just sell it on the steam market, and use that wallet cash to buy cards or games.

Getting cards

To get steam cards you need to own a game that drops them. Then, you play that game for a few hours and magically the cards start to appear in your inventory. Once you've gotten all the cards that game can drop, you'll be eligible for booster packs for that game. These booster packs can appear randomly at any time of the year whenever somebody somewhere in the world crafts a badge for that game. Note however, that you need to have your steam profile level 20 or higher, and every 10 levels increases the dropchance. So, while you may see 1 booster every 2 months at level 20, you might see as many as 1 per week if you were level 120.

Some games are very, very poorly suited for actually playing. e.g. some mostly negative game, which uses up your CPU to 100%, or has a 60GB install footprint. In an effort to make getting your cards a good lot less painful, there's a tool called ArchiSteamFarm. It's a small tool, that takes a tiny bit of effort to install. Once it's up and running it will take care of almost EVERYTHING for you in regards to idling your games to get your card drops. So you don't have to worry about playing those terrible negatively rated games ever again. Fair warning - if you use this, your password is stored in plain text on your hard drive. Always make sure you use Two Factor and Steam Guard to protect your account in addition to having a strong password.

ASF is trustworthy as far as I'm concerned, and open source - you can compile and modify it to your liking. It can also do a lot more than just idle games for cards, but I'll just say RTFM (read the fff manual), it's there for a reason.

Note: Idling your games also has the downside that, you will no longer be able to request a refund for games you've idled. So if you aren't sure if you like a game or still have intention (as you should) to play and enjoy a game at any point, it's a good idea to get to that before running ASF.

In closing

Seems I ended up writing a bit more than I originally intended on the trading subject, but hopefully this guide is useful to you guys :) Feel free to share it with your trading buddies.


JMM72 said...

It's a good sum up of what took me a year to learn.

However nowadays I find more gratifying giving the extra games in SG, than going through the (personal) stress of trying trading them.

bbr said...

Indeed. Some games aren't worth trading - putting them on SG helps get you some level points, or just happy people if someone happens to have been looking for the game ^^