A day after Valve announced a greater degree of transparency to Steam’s customer support with the Steam Support Stats page, the company outlined changes to the gifting process on Steam as well.
Now, gifting a game on Steam can be scheduled months in advance. And if you’re on the receiving end, if you’ve got a game you have no intention of playing, declining it will not have stored in the giver’s inventory. Instead, the purchase will be refunded directly to the giver.
Finally, Valve is scrapping the gifting of games via email and the there’s a large price difference between games in countries, gifting will not be available as an option and you’ll know before purchasing. The company notes that pre-existing gifts will be unaffected by this change.
All of these changes result in a revamped, streamlined gifting experience that's quite different from how it was. Valve claims that these were necessary for user convenience.
“The gifting process has had a bunch of friction in it for a while, and we want to make it easier for you to share the games you love with friends,” the post from Valve reads.
On the surface, this seems like a reasonable set of changes that make gifting — in the very spirit of the term — a whole lot easier. But there’s more to it. Previously, key sites and not so scrupulous individuals would stock up on games during Steam Sales to sell at a markup at a later date via gifting, at times taking advantage of pricing differences in different countries. The removal of a Steam Gift inventory puts an end to this as does the inability to gift cross-country if the price difference is too high.
By restricting this underground economy on gifting Valve also wants to keep its publishers happy while ensuring consumer friendly features aren’t infringed upon — a tough balance to strike, but it seems that the company is up to the task.