Valve has announced a new initiative called “Item Stores” which will allow developers to easily create microtransactions for their games via Steam. The beginning of the initiative has been marked by the Rust Item Store though more developers should be signing up soon enough.
The Rust Item Store may be limited to a single game but we can still learn about the way the new system works and what kinds of items you should expect to see in these marketplaces. In Rust, players can purchase a variety of cosmetic items which mostly cost somewhere between $2.49 and $4.99. The Item Store looks exactly like something you would expect to find in a mobile game’s store or perhaps in a free-to-play MMO as paying $2.49 for an in-game sweater is kind of strange for a game like Rust.
Before you get all up in arms, the Item Stores are not necessarily a bad idea. Valve has simply provided an infrastructure so that smaller developers do not have to spend resources to create their own marketplaces. Furthermore, Item Stores are closely tied to Steam and its Workshops so developers can add items from modders and then split the profits of the sales with them. It is not clear whether developers will need to get permission for that or not but I assume that the mods need to be in the Workshop at the very least.
A lot of the things you will find in the Item Stores can be traded on Steam and there are already people selling hoods and pants from Rust in the Steam Community Market. Many will undoubtedly compare the initiative to Valve and Bethesda’s ill-fated attempt at paid mods but the truth is that Item Stores are entirely different. Despite my ever-growing hate of microtransactions, this will at least give some developers the tools to create decent marketplaces for their products. We can only hope that the system will not be abused but the backlash from gamers would be so huge that it would be very entertaining to watch at the very least.