The gifting restrictions recently enforced on Steam were unavoidable in the face of spiralling fraud, Valve has said.
A number of restrictions were put in place late last year, and expanded upon earlier this year, that restricted some games from being played in a different region to that in which they were purchased.
We hate the gift restrictions as much as you do,” Valve's DanielJ said on Reddit in a thread about gifting restrictions on the recently released Dota 2 Compendium. Here's the problem: Bad guys buy compendiums with stolen credit cards, and then resell them to other players at a discount.
It can take days to determine that the cards were stolen, and that a fraudulent item had been added to the economy. We can't effectively punish the fraudsters, because they're not really traceable – they commit the fraud on new or stolen accounts, never on their own accounts.
When this started happening in 2013, we decided that the impact fraud was having on players and the economy wasn't big enough compared to the drawbacks of imposing restrictions on everyone. Unfortunately, like all scams that make money, it ballooned rapidly. The moment a method of fraud becomes profitable, it will explode in scope until we can find a way to address it.
In 2014, the percentage of compendium purchases that turned out to be fraudulent became very significant and we also saw a massive growth in scam-related support requests from users that didn't receive their items or had their accounts stolen. Additionally, credit card fraud can become a big problem for us because if our fraud rates climb too high, we will no longer be allowed to accept credit card payments at all.
So, we added the time-based trade restriction to allow time to detect and limit the impact that the fraudulent activity has. We believe it actually hurts sales when we put restrictions on our players, because it means it's harder to buy a gift for your friend, for example. We hated doing it, but we didn't have a better solution.
We are continuously exploring different methods to solve these problems, because we want to be able to stop fraud without affecting legitimate users.”