Shortly after launching its "Holiday Auction" on Steam last night, Valve was forced to put the thing on an indefinite hold—suspending many PC gamers wish to reap a bounty of free games. The problem? "There have been some issues with Gems." Dammit, Gems!
For those unfamiliar, the Holiday Auction is a new and exciting-sounding event that Valve kicked off this year inviting PC gamers to compete in a large-scale raffle staged by Steam. This year, Valve promised to give out 100 copies of almost 2,000 games. And the best part? You don't need real-world, paper money to participate in the auction. At least, directly. Rather, participants used the "Gems," a virtual currency that can be acquired by trading in Steam community items: trading cards, custom backgrounds, game-specific virtual swag, stuff like that.
If you are familiar with PC gaming, you can probably tell where this is going. Shortly after Steam users were allowed to start placing their first bids, posts popped up on the service's subreddit identifying issues with the gems and highlighting potential exploits. Player reports vary depending on people's personal experience, but many have said that their gems have simply disappeared from their Steam inventory. A rough consensus has emerged, meanwhile, which concludes that the Holiday Auction has officially been derailed by numerous duplication exploits—i.e., certain participants figuring out how to artificially inflate their gem count, and thus increase their chances of winning the games that are being given out next week.
Needless to say, some Steam users are upset with the news. And they're particularly upset with the alleged gamers who are taking advantage of the exploit for "ruining [the] fun for everyone," as one person put it on Reddit. It's not entirely clear if duplications or other exploits are actually the problem here, however.
All Valve has said so far is: "Sorry, but there have been some issues with Gems and the Steam Holiday Auction has been temporarily closed," in a notice on the FAQ page for the holiday auction. "The elves are working frantically to get the issues sorted out, and the auction will start again as soon as they're done."
According to the FAQ page, the actual auctions take place from December 15th through the 18th. Whether the event will still go according to plan remains an open question, however, since the service is still down.
We've reached out to Valve for comment, and will let you know when we have more information.
UPDATE (1:45 pm): Valve got back to us saying they've updated the holiday auction page. It now says: "We had an issue with Gems that means we need to reset and start again." Valve said that players will have their Gems returned to them, and be reimbursed for any "Gem purchases from the community market." Bids have been canceled since the auction is being reset, and "trades involving Gems are being investigated on a case-by-case basis."
We'll have more on this story as it continues to develop.
UPDATE 2 (5:45 pm): And it's back! The auction has been up and running again for the afternoon, so you're free to go in and participate in the Gem trading once again. Proceed with caution, as always. Happy holidays!