Digital games should be re-sellable, French court decides

The Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris has ruled in favor of digital game resales, a decision that could affect Europe as a whole

In a decision that could reverberate beyond games and into TV, movies and music, the High Court of Paris has ruled that, contrary to its end user agreement, French users of PC gaming service Steam should be able to sell their digital games and accounts secondhand.

The French regional High Court of Paris has ruled that users of computer gaming service Steam should be allowed to resell digital games that they have previously bought from the US-based owner and operator, Valve Corporation.

Consumer rights advocacy group UFC-Que Choisir brought the case, and the Tribunal de grande instance de Paris arrived at its September 17 decision after reflecting upon existing European law: the 2001 Copyright Directive, 2009 European Computer Programs Directive, and case law precedent from the European Court of Justice.

While the TGI's decision is expected to be challenged, its ramifications could be enormous, if upheld, applying not only to France but also other European Union member states, per local legal interpretation.

Preventing users from re-selling individual games or licenses is not a Steam business model quirk, but is standard practice across many forms of home and personal entertainment.

It's not clear how Steam or the games industry as a whole would respond, should the judgement be enforced.

Steam already has an internal marketplace through which users can sell certain digital goods -- trading cards, character items and costumes, and so on. In these instances, Valve and its partners receive a percentage of each transaction.

Equally, various incentives are already in place to encourage swift uptake of new games and ongoing participation, such as live events and content updates, progression boosts, early adopter bonuses and season passes. They could see even wider implementation should a secondhand digital market take off.

Aside from that, developers and publishers could raise initial game prices, for example, in order to compensate for reduced firsthand sales. Historically, PC game prices have typically been lower than console game prices.

Customers could find themselves becoming online merchants or affiliates, disrupting or amplifying an established annual cycle of seasonal discounts.

Publishers and distributers might increase migration towards paid subscriptions in the vein of Netflix, Xbox Game Pass or Apple Arcade, for example.

Before then, Valve Corporation can appeal to the Court of Appeal of Paris, and then to the Supreme Court of France (Cour de cassation); the European Court could also come into play, depending on how UFC-Que Choisir, Valve, and the French judges proceed.