Valve has started the beta for a new programme on its digital distribution service Steam. Dubbed Steam Trading Cards, the service gives access to virtual cards that are earned by playing games on Steam. Getting enough cards will get players rewards. To be eligible to win trading cards, players will have to play games that are participating. Up to half of a game’s card set is dropped through gameplay, while the other half has to be created by combining already-collected trading cards.

A step in a very strange direction for Steam

A step in a very strange direction for Steam

Once you have collected a set of cards, you can craft them into a game badge. Like the badges that are already present, the new badges are tied to your account and are shown on your profile. Unlike the current badges, however, crafting new badges earns tradeable items like profile backgrounds, game discount coupons and emoticons. You can level up the badge by collecting the same card set again, thus earning more items.

Speaking of levelling up, all of the badges on Steam now have XP, which contributes to your Steam Level. A Steam Level is just a summary of how many badges you own. You can check out someone’s Steam Level by hovering the mouse over their avatar. Levelling up can get you non-tradeable items, such as profile showcases and extra friends list slots, among other things.

At the moment, the service is in the beta stage, but joining the beta is relatively simple. All you have to do is join the Steam Group for Steam Trading Cards. Steam will send out email notifications along with some extra invites to members on a first-come first-serve basis.

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