Valve has announced that it is disabling the ability for Counter-Strike Global Offensive players to buy and sell container keys. According to the CS:GO blog, the change was made because “worldwide fraud networks have recently shifted to using CS:GO keys to liquidate their gains.”
As a result, “nearly all” key purchases made in the steam community market are believed to be related to fraudulent deals.
CS:GO Keys Being Bought and Sold to Launder Money
CS:GO containers are in-game loot boxes that offer weapon models, player skins, and other perks. They can be found at random while playing the game. To open one, players must buy a “container key” from Valve that matches the container they found.
Valve charges real money for CS:GO keys. Until now, players could buy and sell keys with each other on the Steam marketplace.
However, the system also offers criminal enterprises a chance to launder money through CS:GO’s in-game economy. Stolen funds can be used to buy and sell the container keys, which makes it impossible for law enforcement to trace money through the marketplace.
Now, CS:GO keys can still be purchased directly from Valve, but they can no longer be traded on the community market.
According to Valve, “combating fraud is something we continue to prioritize across Steam and our products.”
CS:GO’s Troubled In-Game Economy
Since the introduction of skins in 2013, Valve has had to contend with a number of illegal activities in its communities. Skins contributed to the creation of CS:GO’s first in-game economy. As certain skins became highly desirable, a wave of third-party sites began trading and selling skins independently of the Steam marketplace.
Before long, many of these sites began gambling with the skins based on the outcome of esports Counter-Strike matches. Two popular YouTube personalities—Syndicate and TmarTn—promoted one of the gambling sites to their fans without disclosing that they were partial owners of the site.
Class action lawsuits were filed in an attempt to break up the gambling circuit around CS:GO skins, and Valve has done its best to curb the practice. Still, some gambling persists to this day.
As Valve has now disabled CS:GO key container trading in its own marketplace, more third-party sites may crop up to facilitate trading.
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