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Hypothetical scenario that made me ask this question: Suppose I somehow get a viral tweet on Twitter. Some people who get a tweet like that use a reply to promote their own content like Twitch, Youtube, Soundcloud, a game they're working on, a charity they support. I don't have any of those things. However, I do have a Steam wish list with around 30-40 games. If I were to link my wish list, how easy would it be for someone to gift me a game from that list as an impulse buy? Could they just do it like that? Would I first need to accept their friend request before they can buy it? Do we need to be friends for a short period first? Is there another rule that we both need to fulfill?

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When purchasing a game for someone, you can only gift it to someone who is on your friends list. However, should you have a game in your Steam inventory - pretty rare nowadays - you can send that gift to anyone at all, just by knowing their email address. Once they accept the gift, you and that person will be added to each other's friends lists.

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    +1 for the Steam inventory. Metal Gear Solid V, has been in mine for over a year now and can only send it as a gift. However, you cannot place games in inventories. You usually get them randomly. – Mixxiphoid Jul 10 at 15:43
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    @Mixxiphoid A couple years ago you were able to purchase games as gifts and store them in your inventory. I still have a dozen or so left over from then. IIRC, when gifted, the giftee was also able to keep the game in their inventory (and regift it) instead of claiming it. No longer the case now. – Bob Jul 10 at 23:54
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    @Bob: The reason it was blocked was due to people accepting gifts from strangers, at which point the stranger, knowing the serial # of the game they gifted, could use that serial # in the account recovery process of their target. As it's now nigh impossible to get games in your inventory, it has mostly become a non-issue. Purchased (as opposed to inventoried) games can only be sent to friends and this issue was more related to strangers as opposed to friends. – Flater Jul 11 at 9:23
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    @Flater IIRC it was more that people were using stolen credit cards. It would be relatively easy to generate a different number when a gift is claimed, or just make inventory gifts friend only rather than removing them entirely. – Bob Jul 11 at 9:48
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    @Bob: Not every game leaves key generation up to Steam. Plenty of games, especially those from big publishers, will require Steam to purchase particular keys for to then sell on the store (it could be on the fly requests to the publisher when purchasing on Steam, but that distinction doesn't matter here). The point is that the key is fixed when the sale is finalized, as it legally should be. It identifies a purchase and the key is effectively the purchased good (as opposed to the game files) – Flater Jul 11 at 9:50
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That someone needs to be a friend:

When you purchase a game on Steam, we offer the option to “gift” the item to anyone on your Steam friends list.

So it follows:

If you'd like to send it to someone who's not listed, you'll have to add them to your Steam friends list.

That seems to be the only prerequisite.

Source: Steam page on gifts

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    If you scroll down further, the article also says If you'd like to send it to someone who's not listed, you'll have to add them to your Steam friends list – Wondercricket Jul 10 at 14:57
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    Yes, so they have to be on your friends list. So they have to be a friend. Or am I interpreting your comment wrongly? – Joachim Jul 10 at 14:58
  • Nah, I was merely adding an additional point :) – Wondercricket Jul 10 at 15:01
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Just as the other answers state, you do need to be a Steam friend to gift games to one another.

But, as an additional caveat, if you live in different regions, Steam will price your games differently. The price difference of the desired gift between your regions must also be minimal, (~less than 10%). Even if the price in the buyer's region is higher, Steam will not allow the inter-regional gifting due to price differences. There is no way around this.

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