Portal creator takes hint from Zynga, updates Steam with game, item gifting

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Team Fortress 2 hatsWell, imitation is the finest form of flattery. GamePro reports that Valve, the creator of hit shooters like Portal, Team Fortress 2 (TF2) and the popular online game store slash community Steam, has introduced out-of-game hat trading to TF2. Better yet, Steam users can trade and gift full games with one another, though they must be brand new, never-before-played copies.

Now, a little background: As players bust a cap into numerous enemies in TF2 they accumulate or buy hats, cosmetic items that change their characters' headdress into slightly more unique designs (usually in humorous ways like so). Before today, players could only trade hats within the game, but now players can trade and gift these items from Steam client. The feature is called Steam Trading, and it sure sounds a lot like gifting in games like FarmVille and Empires & Allies.

In Facebook games, gifting can be done both in an outside of the game through either each game's gifting page or by responding to News Feed posts that friends provide. Since this Steam Trading system works within its Group Chat and Steam Friends list, we're gonna go out on a limb and say that this is less coincidence and more ... adaptation.

While trading full games to other players is certainly new regardless, it's the fact that Steam is opening itself up to this new layer of friend interaction normally reserved for social games that's interesting. This is far from the first move Valve has made with its Steam platform toward social game-like tendencies. First, the company brought in free-to-play games like Spiral Knights--of course, social games are free-to-play as well. Then, Valve introduced a free component to TF2, allowing players to enjoy a somewhat limited version of the game for no upfront cost, though it was sure to keep those micro-transactions open.

Now, players can send each other gifts without even opening TF2, and can send each other full games from the Steam client (as long as they're brand new copies, like leftovers from a bundle purchase). And Valve has even introduced Friend Tagging to the service to more easily organize and search for your friends--likely those who gift often.

Steam Trading is currently in beta testing--and we all know what sometime implies--but this feature won't stop here. According to GamePro, Steam Trading will cross over into Portal 2 and later the developer's third-party game offerings. Valve games like Team Fortress 2 are tightrope-walking the line between hardcore and Facebook game, and we have a good feeling of which way they're going to fall in the future. To learn more about Steam Trading, check out the FAQ here.

Are you interested in TF2 now that you can trade items with your friends? Do you think Valve is headed in the right direction with these and past changes to its games offerings? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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