Its times like the Steam Summer Sale where the Community Market is flooded with activity as customers buy and sell trading cards and in-game items as a part of the little mini-game Valve puts on as part of the event. Getting in on the best prices for these items is equal parts time, skill, and luck in the bustling marketplace where automated bots can often swoop in faster than your meat-bag hands can act on a deal. But now, Valve is testing out a new bold feature that hopes to level the digital field for everyone on Steam.
“Buy Orders” are now available in the Community Market, but are currently in very limited use (more on that later). A Buy Order allows anyone to place an automated purchase request on a particular item when it is listed on the market for a specified price (or less). As long as you have the funds in you Steam Wallet, a Buy Order will help ensure you get what you want at the price you want, and you can have up to 10 active orders at once. The oldest Buy Orders on an item are filled first with the oldest listing for the item, meaning no one can 1-up you with a fresher order.
Buy orders should eventually be available for use on almost all items on Steam, including Trading Cards. However, as of right now a buy order can only be placed on a “commodity item”, which is an item that is always identical from one to the other with no change in description, look, use, etc. Trading Cards fit that mold, but since Valve is slowly rolling out the feature the only cards or items that are considered a “commodity” are Half-Life 2 cards*. Only those items are eligible for a buy or sell order. Individual listings for Half-Life 2 cards are not visible when you visit the item’s market page; instead you only see a Buy/Sell interface.
*UPDATE: Steam Summer Adventure trading cards are also considered commodities and are eligible for Buy Orders as well.
This is one of those things that make me wonder what can of worms in might end up being. Nice to see the lid is being lifted carefully, but as many heated comments have already stated there is the possibility that this could turn the market into a closed port that is nearly impossible for the average user to get anything out of. We’ll have to see how Valve handles the potential pitfalls.