Where does Steam Level Up Bot get its cards?

I have just been browsing all my friend’s profile, and I notice the majority of them has some Steam Card Bot added, typically trading sets of cards for keys (eg: 20 sets for a key).

Tons can be found here: https://www.reddit.com/r/SteamTradingCards/

But how do these bots profit? Most bots are selling 18-22 sets per key, and there are on average 7 cards per set. At that rate, each card is about $0.01 with $0.007 profit margin.

I recently read this article: http://steamcommunity.com/games/593110/announcements/detail/1954971077935370845

And I quote

These fake developers take advantage of a feature we provide to all developers on Steam, which is the ability to generate Steam keys for their games. They generate many thousands of these keys and hand them out to bots running Steam accounts, which then idle away in their games to collect Trading Cards. Even if no real players ever see or buy one of these fake games, their developers make money by farming cards.

But to my knowledge, you need to spend at least $5 to trade those farmed cards:

You will need to spend at least $5.00 USD within the Steam store. Click here to view your current limited user spend.
Some examples of purchases that grant access to these features are:
Adding the equivalent of $5 USD or more to your Steam Wallet
Purchasing game(s) that are equal to $5 USD or more from the Steam store
Adding a Steam Wallet card that is equal to $5 USD or more to your Steam account
Purchasing a Steam gift that is equal to $5 USD or more from the Steam store (Receiving a Steam gift from a friend doesn’t count)
Each Steam purchase total will be tracked in USD. If your Steam store’s currency isn’t in USD, it will be tracked and converted to USD automatically using daily exchange rates.

If they were to spend $5 per bot, they need to at least farm 2 (~$2.50 per key) * 20 (avg cards per key) * 7 (avg cards per set) = 280 cards to make zero-sum (break even). Keep in mind that for each game, you only get a certain amount of cards max. Next, let’s pretend an avg game has 10 cards, that’s 28 fake games the bot needs to farm. Steam Direct (replacement of Steam Greenlight) cost you $100 to put your game on Steam store.

With all the information available, let’s recalculate that, 28 (“fake games”) * 100 (Steam Direct fee) = $2800 worth of fake games. To make zero-sum, 1120 (~2.50 per key) * 20 * 7 = 156,800 cards are required. If on average each bot gets 5 cards per game, that’s 140 cards per bot. This means, 1120 bots are required to farm enough for zero-sum and that’s just zero-sum.

Of course, these are just estimations, they could just have 1 game, and only 40 bots are required, but most of these card bots have hundreds of different game cards. It’s highly impractical as they need some source to deposit that $5. Surely Steam could pick up that the same payment source is used for thousands of bots and game fees. So, that can’t be it, here’s why:

Steam recently added restrictions to brand new game trading cards:

Instead of starting to drop Trading Cards the moment they arrive on Steam, we’re going to move to a system where games don’t start to drop cards until the game has reached a confidence metric that makes it clear it’s actually being bought and played by genuine users. Once a game reaches that metric, cards will drop to all users, including all the users who’ve played the game prior to that point. So going forward, even if you play a game before it has Trading Cards, you’ll receive cards for your playtime when the developer adds cards and reaches the confidence metric.

But yet these “level up bot” prices just keep getting better and better. What am I missing here?

1 Like

i can only speculate since i don’t follow the information surrounding that stuff anymore

1, “old” accounts,
i myself have 2 steam accounts where i used my 2nd for freebie games for cards,
not only could i level up and trade before the change just fine (since it was a “recent” change), but there seemed to be a bug where even after the change this 2nd account could still do it just fine, tho supposedly shouldn’t have been able to do either after. (tho a temporary “bug” happened where it couldn’t do X(i think level up, can’t rem which specific), but still do Y-such as get cards+trade them)
so a lot could be something like that, thousands of “leftover” bot accounts from pre-change

2, there are literally thousand and thousands of these cheap card games. the amount of “fake” games outnumber the “real” games by an insane amount, so even 28games per bot just to break even would be nothing

3 steam greenlight had many of these farms created long before the steam direct fee, so the break even ratio there is probably a bit lower since it only applies to the 1 “dev”, that then hands free generated keys to already established farms (and that 1 “dev” makes the 1 bucks back easy enough)
1 dev gets a fee of 100bucks, correct, but can then generate 10s of thousands free keys to hand out to already established farms so no need for 28100
and even if as “countermeasure” to hide identity they upload new game under new dev name, it’s still 1 fee per “dev”, just under acc2 this time, but they still have thousands in the farm running, that are already good to go, so never 28
100 per bot or even per person
(fee is a 1 time entry per 1 upload, not per bot expense)

4 there (is)/was a bug with card drops, because of course steam algorithm (like most automated systems) didn’t work, and so didn’t take long for even new games that weren’t supposed to drop cards to quickly get approved to drop cards anyway, and you would even see brand new “fake” games have cards implemented immediately at times, to the point where the “dev” was aware of it and had no problem advertising “game has steam cards”

5, cards is in an “endless” source of revenue for the owner/game uploader, hence why many of the “devs” are people with bot farms, because even tho they autofarm the cards themselves, and trade them for keys, thus 1 could think the cards are out of their hands and the profit stops there, the “dev” continue to make money of each card then resold on market places in perpetuity,
so 1 “dev” uploads game, (sure cost 100)
generates thousand of keys to already established farms (already broken even there)
trades freely generated cards for (cs)keys, the resell keys for profit, end of primary transaction stream
but, the cards traded for keys continue to exist (yes a lot will be used to level up and “disappear”), but a ton will continue on and find a way to the market places, where the “dev” now gets a continuous share of the income from the free generated cards put in play (because for some reason there are people that buy them)

6, people are idiots, and a lot of the time a “dev” will break even on greenlight/direct free+asset flip purchase price, from legit customers being unaware of what they are buying, making the bots even that more profitable

7, highly optimized trading bots can make small profit on just direct user trading, slowly ramping up gains without even needing the card bot farm, tho bot farming just helps this along ofc

8, tho unaware how steam dealt with combating this: credit card fraud.
steam wallet is instant, but trade hold is only 1 week i believe, while a back charge can take months, and not only can the trades have changed “hands” a million times in between, they could even be consumed somewhere a long the step, and steam can’t withdraw something from the N’th user by then, that was by all accounts bought/traded in good faith (also it’s theoretically possible for steam to make more profit of the ill gotten goods than the back charge cost them, even if maybe unlikely)
so some trade owners could just be abusing credit card fraud to gain a ton of trade goods for “free” then trade for real profit,


PS. sry for the wall and continued edit to add more and more lol,
but hope the “theories” help with some of what you were wondering about

1 Like

Yes, I do realize the fee is one time thing, that’s why I calculated the zero-sum. But isn’t sets per key suppose to go down? That’s what I’m curious about. Surely Valve is tracking down these fake games right?

reason sets per key doesn’t go down is likely due to inflation more cards = less worth, not to mention it’s free cards so they lose almost nothing by just adding more stuff they generated freely, 1 bucket of air or 2 buckets of air, doesn’t really “cost” the seller more to give you
and the more sets/levels they offer you per key, the more attractive they appear, powerful marketing to make people chose “them” over others
(just look at g2a where it’s so obvious how much people value “more”/“worth” over legitimacy/security)

whether or not steam can or is tracking them down i can’t say, i don’t work there
they say they “can”/are trying
but the real important thing here is motive; why should they?,
yea it would make them look good to the consumer/us if they dealt with it, because some of the users complaint about it
but make no mistake, valve is making money of this too, even if not as much as they had liked
they make money of the direct games sales even tho few
they make money of whatever leftover cards manage to find their way to the market places
and most importantly they make money of the cs keys that find the way to the market place (and that’s the “big” bucks for steam in this scenario)
the only thing there is to consider is the operational costs of the traders for steam/valve
with some farming tools the farms don’t even need to download the games so there is no bandwith/server costs on steam’s end, just the app cost. But other costs could still be there

A recent statement was made by a Valve employee, that had some indicated that there might actually be some “costs” to steam elsewhere in the pipeline through all of this. (my personal speculation here would be something like credit card fraud, or the vast majority relies on card farming that has some server toll to valve)
Making them want to crack down on the fake games/bot farms a bit more. Something like changing how keys are generated or how many a given “dev”/uploader can generate at a time.
This could just be something to help quell the user uproar against some of the “crap”, or it could be something actual legit, but where and how the “costs” for steam/Valve is there we don’t know because they dont’ share their data or real motivations.
and whether or not they succeed, making it in the end less profitable or harder to do “fake” games and bot farms, who knows.
It’s just always important to remember, Steam/Valve makes/made money of each item sold on the market places, even if it was generated free or from a “fake” game. Just like they took 30% from each sale of the fake game in the first places, in addition to them upload fee, so they are far from innocent in all this.
Would you spend resources tracking down something like this when making you money? unless it had a cost in the end “somewhere” that was higher vs the revenue?

Valve says they will “do” something, when or what that is, or even if, we can only wait and see
so far what they’ve “tried”/“done” clearly didn’t work, for us
(stats actually show steam direct caused more “shit” than greenlight. Who would have thought huh? :smirk:)

the “leaked” statement