Steam says you can't pass down your account in a will

A recent conversation with Steam seemingly indicates that trying to give a Steam library to a loved one through a will could face problems.

Steam says you can't pass down your account in a will as digital game collections are not inheritable since digital distribution limits ownership as users buy a license, not the product.

Digital distribution in general often carries the limitation that users aren't really buying the product, but rather buying a license to access it, which can potentially be removed at any time.

As digital libraries for games, movies, books, and other media continues to replace buying physical copies, how do you feel about the realization that you don't actually own any of what you've paid for?

Do you think you should be able to resell or transfer your digital licenses?

If a distributor revokes a license for any reason, do you think you should get a full refund at any time?

  • I doubt they will do anything serious since they don't know when someone has died. If someone passed and gave their accounts to their family Steam wouldn't know unless they looked into their death. In this situation for that this just seems like terms and conditions lingo for "we aren't going to refund/do anything for games you bought from years ago because you died or the publisher wanted to remove their games." Now for the ownership that's just digital products for you. I've been a huge advocate for physical games, books, movies, etc. People don't see that making things digital is only allow companies to own what we buy. I barely ever buy games off of digital platforms for this reason only. Sony has removed plenty of shows that people have bought and nothing has happened to help the consumer. I got a free movie on Xbox a few years ago and they removed it without telling me. Games on steam are being removed yearly at this point by companies like EA and Ubisoft but no one can do a thing because digital limits ownership of these products. These are things that are going on are not changing because people don't care unless something groundbreaking happens that effects everyone. 

  • Officially transfer of ownership has not been allowed in the terms/policy but we all know what happens unofficially. However, I do hope that they make official exception less of abuses and heritage would be a really good marketing material

  • I'm not surprised at all, that's how digital licenses work.

    I definitely have issues with developers being able to kill a game you bought by pointing at the license. But for reselling it's trickier - I think one thing most people don't appreciate about digital licenses is that it's also how we get crazy Steam/Epic/GoG sales so often. A lot fewer developers/publishers are going to agree to discount their game 25-75% for a week if it's effectively just creating a scalpers market when it goes back up.

    Only allowing free transfers sounds nice in theory, but in practice that's still going to end up with sales because there is no way to prevent it.

  • From what I've read about Steam in particular, is that your account there is associated with the first e-mail address that was registered to it. So, people that bought accounts had them taken away because they changed the email and didn't have access to the original. I don't know all the details about that as I have never bought or sold a Steam account, but it seems that if you wanted to leave your account to someone you would also have to will your email account as well. It seems crappy, though, that if you lost an old email account somehow, you might be screwed out of your Steam account, as well. I've never had that happen, either that is just from what I have gathered, so take it with a grain of salt.

  • Makes sense since that is how ownership over digital media works. I'm surprised at how shocked people were after seeing this situation. After all, Steam isn't GOG and is very open about its policy. 

    As a consumer yea of course I am in favor of more ownership laws for digital goods, but I doubt we will get anything as substantial as what physical goods currently have. 

  • Yes. How would they know you died? I feel like this is an official answer with no enforcement mechanism of any kind. Maybe you could give the heirs passwords when you are alive. Charles can leave an account to Charles Jr. and they wouldn't know. Could start an account in your baby's name for posterity, or just leave them your computer and bequeath the notebook with ALL the passwords. I'm not worried. Also, I have no heirs or friends that game. Starting a Steam Task Force to comb obituaries and investigate use would cost soooo much more than a Laissez-faire attitude toward this. Stores generally don't enforce their "no shoes, no service" policy, but it is policy.

  • Instead of willing my games to my heirs, I think I'll just leave them a list of logins and passwords in case they want to honor my passing by playing games. Slight smile

    I miss the old days of buying a disk/CD/DVD and owning the content for life, whether it's a game, a movie, music, or whatever. But all these businesses want recurring revenue and have basically structured sales as perpetually renewing rentals. 

  • Just make sure you leave the password(s) to the accounts you want people to have. I always remember one thing - this is all digital crap that technically you don't own and Steam, Blizzard, and other companies can make them go away with the flip of a switch.

  • Doesn't seem like a huge issue, until they start requiring ID verification for users. Then you can't simply pass your login details to others.