User Generated Content – Are virtual items more valuable than real ones?

Steam is a gaming platform owned by Valve Incorporated. It is a program that allows users to purchase digital download rights to games. Some of the most popular games are Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2. Team Fortress 2 was so popular that developers in Korea and China made what some would call “shameless downright copies”.

Team Fortress 2 Final compat ripoff Final compat seems legit ripoff



What’s interesting about these games is that they both are heavily influenced by user generated content (UGC). Valve allows contributors to create in-game items for these games, and if the creators items are accepted and used in the game; they receive royalties from each purchase of the item…FOREVER!

Aw yeh baby meme


As a result some people have quit their jobs and made creating virtual items their full time job. Valve has confirmed it has made payouts of more than 10 million dollars so far to creators of digital content. Allowing players to create items, maps or even different endings for their games, has made it more of a democratic and transparent process in game development and modification. Valve as a game developer has to be more open with its game’s code and this openness also allows new ideas, rules or even different endings of the game to be created by gamers/users online. Here’s an excerpt form their workshop:


UGC is so successful and widely accepted by the community it now makes up 10 times that of the content created by Valve itself. The owners of valve have taken the attitude that the biggest problem they face in game development is removing the barriers between the people who create new content for their games and those who want to download it.

UGC is also so important to valve that it has created a game hub for every game available on Steam. This ‘game hub’ is an area just for discussion of the game, reviews and any user generated content. Here’s a preview:

game hub good



This prosumer action of UGC has given players and users the ability to express themselves through the art of games in a way that movies and books will never be able to do. Thousands of items have been created. Check out the list here:


One of the main reasons Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 are so successful on steam is that they are played all through South East Asia. So much so that one of the biggest gaming competitions is being held in Malaysia. Tickets for the one of the biggest gaming tournaments featuring gamers from Korea and China are being sold through Steam. Here’s the portal if you have a spare 140 Euros!!

Valve is targeting the international market with Dota 2 because it is played so heavily through South-East Asia and incorporates a lot of UGC. Even in Vietnam it’s very popular. I do recall seeing it being played in my university’s computer labs.

yeh i see you meme


It’s so popular in Asia that users actually defend the company; Valve, because of the quality games they make and how they incorporate UGC to make the game free. Some people still complain though. Read the comment of “Someone Someonemrore” coming to the rescue on Yahoo answers:


Asia is such a big consumer of UGC such as virtual items that valve has even updated its system to accept the currencies of Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan. The input of these currencies obviously makes a big difference to Steam’s in-game economy and finances.

give me all your money meme


Micro-transactions from UGC have actually created in-game economies. A new element Valve is trying to tap into and exploit. Check out the explanation in the video:


So if UGC such as virtual items can create miniature in-game economies, give people full time work, make games free, update games for free and allow users to improve the game experience for thousands of other users… is it better to create a real product or a virtual one?

not sure meme better







References, 2012. Is Steam/Valve slowly turning into one of those obscure Asian game companies that makes games like…? – Yahoo Answers. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014].

Davis, K., 2014. In-Game Economies in Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2. [online] YouTube. Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014]., 2014. Valve’s Asia push takes Dota 2 to top of Steam. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014].

GamesIndustry International, 2012. Valve highlights user-generated content on Steam Community. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014].

GamesIndustry International, 2014. Valve adding 12 new currencies to Steam this year. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014].

PC Gamer, 2014. Valve loves content creators, paid out $400K in the first week of 2014. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014]., 2014. The PA Report – Gabe Newell claims users have “defeated” Valve-created content, and that’s a good thing. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014]., 2014. Steam Community Market :: Listings for Corsair Asia Cup. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014].

YouTube, 2014. Embracing User Generated Content. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014].



2 thoughts on “User Generated Content – Are virtual items more valuable than real ones?

  1. very nice!
    I haven’t thought about UGC as in gaming. I know about DotA 2 (I don’t play it, though) and I have seen my friends go “crazy” about it – they buy and sell the items, for real! I mean, it’s a big surprise now gaming actually gives player a chance to make profit. Not to mention all the tournaments and prizes, right ;))

    regarding your last sentence “is it better to create a real product or a virtual one?”, I think it depends. Talking about games – they are the tool for our entertainment and relaxation, of course people buy items to increase their character’s ability, thus makes them want to stay with the game more => money to the game producer! The players have fun with the game, and the producer have profit.

    I only play MMORPGs where the selling and buying are not frequent, so there above is just a few thoughts after reading your post. Maybe I’ll try DotA someday ;))

    and yes, I have seen students playing DotA in the school library and laboratory ;))


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Imagine, if Sims users could also make money out of playing it… It’s an interesting topic you bring up, but I think it’s important to point out the impact such lifestyle of stuck in online world can have on the real one. We already have thousands of nerds who are willing to give up their lives just so they can continue sitting in their rooms staring at the screen, no movement in the body except for eyes and typing fingers. That’s bad already, but when this becomes your main income source… Man, I don’t want even begin to imagine what it does to their eyesight, posture and muscle atrophy.
    So, are those online products popular? Yes. Profitable? Hell, yes. Good? Well, in what terms?


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