Valve is introducing a new policy meant to protect paying users from scammers and spammers.

When a new account is created on Steam, its privileges will now be heavily limited at first. The short way to sum it up is to say that it now costs $5 to have full access to Steam, but it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Once you’ve spent money – whether by purchasing games or simply transferring $5 to your Steam Wallet – all privileges open up.

Before that, though, the following actions are off-limits:

  • Sending friend invites
  • Opening group chat
  • Voting on Greenlight, Steam Reviews and Workshop items
  • Participating in the Steam Market
  • Posting frequently in the Steam Discussions
  • Gaining Steam Profile Levels (Locked to level 0) and Trading Cards
  • Submitting content on the Steam Workshop
  • Posting in an item’s Steam Workshop Discussions
  • Accessing the Steam Web API
  • Using browser and mobile chat

Things like activating retail games, playing demos and participating in free to play titles won’t unlock these, either, nor will activating gifts. Also, just in case you want to transfer $5 and then do a chargeback on your credit card for some reason, those privileges will be revoked. As long as your total historical spending on Steam is over $5 U.S. (or the rough equivalent of that in your local currency), the full feature set is available.

The most important effect these limitations will have is to keep newly created accounts from tricking users into situations where they can lose things like Team Fortress 2 items, gifted games, or even access to their Steam library. It’s easy to imagine someone creating a bunch of junk accounts and then using those accounts to push games through Steam Greenlight, either at a particular group’s whim or for a fee paid by the developer.

The $5 fee is nominal, something most users spend the first day their account is active, and the fact that Valve isn’t asking users to suddenly pay a membership fee – just simply show good faith by buying from the store – makes it a pretty good way to cut out a lot of problem users without adversely affecting people actually using the service legitimately.