Subscribe to our newsletter

Join our subscriber list to get the latest news, updates and special offers delivered directly in your inbox.

What happens to all your videogames when you die?

So maybe you’ve been accumulating dozens of games onto your Steam library. Or maybe you’ve hung on to your Xbox gamertag, hoarding digital purchases from across four generations of consoles. You’re probably wondering two things: 1) “Why do my knees and back hurt?” and 2) “What will happen to my game library when I die?”

For the first, we suggest you go see a doctor or a chiropractor about your knees and back. For the second, well we recently got some answers. According to a member of Steam customer support, your “accounts and games are non-transferable,” and that they cannot provide someone else with access to your account or merge its contents with another after your untimely passing.

This was in response to a user asking whether or not they could transfer ownership of their account via a will. While a library of digital games is likely not the first order of business one might have in mind when it comes to estate planning, they do have some value especially for power users who might have spent thousands of dollars over a lifetime of gaming.

But it also makes sense. You don’t actually “own” the games in your digital library, according to the user agreement maintained by most platform holders. They are merely licensed assets. “The Content and Services are licensed, not sold,” reads the Steam TOS. You could technically, just pass down your username, password and the associated e-mail address, but for the purposes of formal estate planning, Steam’s customer support gives no assurances.

It’s very possible that the customer support representative was only providing a best guess response as part of the job, and does not in fact, represent an official stance from Valve, the company that runs Steam. But it leads one to wonder what Nintendo, Xbox, PlayStation and even the Epic Games Store might have to say. Well, one company got enough queries from its users to warrant a complete statement: GOG.

“If you can obtain a copy of a court order that specifically entitles someone to your GOG personal account, we’d do our best to make it happen,” reads a full statement from the digital games retailer that specializes in DRM-free releases. “We’re willing to handle such a situation and preserve your GOG library — but currently we can only do it with the help of the justice system.” That’s right GOG basically says that as long as you’ve got the right paperwork, they’ll do it.

In a world of digital services and content, an issue like this is no joking matter. As more and more of our access to art, entertainment and literature is kept and curated by service providers and digital rights management, it behooves the law to explore what it means to “buy” content. Not just for the purposes of private individuals, but for the common good of a culture that should be able to preserve works even after companies decide to stop providing access to them.

Personally, I’m bequeathing my Ubisoft account to one heir, my EA Play account to another and my Steam account to another, making it impossible for them to play Watch Dogs 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition without some kind of cooperative agreement.