Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Steam's snazzy new trading feature has come out of public testing and officially launched. It lets Steam users swap games for hats, hats for guns, or any combination thereof through a snazzy and secure interface.

The official launch also adds support for trading Spiral Knights and Portal 2 items, on top of the Team Fortress 2 trading seen in the beta. The Steam store also now has the option to buy gift copies of games to stash in your inventory for later gifting or trading. Only unused gift copies can be traded, not games you've played or accepted.

"The addition of Steam Trading is the latest example of how Steam continues to evolve with new features and functions developed based upon feedback," Valve director of business development Jason Holtman said. "We look forward to seeing how gamers and developers have fun and move this functionality forward."

Trading has also been added Valve's Steamworks SDK, letting other developers add it to their own games.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Remember Portal 2? Remember how Valve had promised free DLC for the game back in April? Notice how it's... um, not out yet? Did Valve forget all about it? Is it being released alongside Half-Life 2: Episode 3?

No! Thankfully, Valve hasn't quite forgotten about its multi-million selling sequel. Valve's Doug Lombardi told Kotaku that the upcoming downloadable content will be available in September. That is "still technically summer," for those of you looking at your Valve clocks.

Unfortunately, the company rep offered no additional details on what the DLC will entail. From the April release, we understand the expansion will offer "new test chambers, leaderboards, both a single- and multiplayer challenge mode, and more." The pack will be free on all the platforms: PC, Mac, PS3, and Xbox 360.

If you desperately need more Portal 2 content now, make sure you pick up the PC/Mac version. You can download some fan-created challenges. If you have a lot of money to spare, the Razer Hydra peripheral also lets you access some specially designed levels as well.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Valve has been making comics around some of its biggest properties for months for free online, but now the company has partnered with Dark Horse Comics to bring them out in print. Comic Book Resources (via Gamasutra) reports that "Valve Presents: The Sacrifice and Other Steam-Powered Stories" will go on sale November 16 for $29.99.

The collection is a bit pricier than the average comic collection, but it's also more than three-hundred pages long and sports a hardcover. That makes it hard to complain. It will include stories from the worlds of Team Fortress 2, Portal, and Left 4 Dead. All indications are that this is a compilation of comics you can already find online, but it wouldn't surprise us if Valve slipped a bonus or two in there.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

The second chunk of Portal 2's three-volume soundtrack 'Songs to Test by' is now available to download for free, bringing another eighteen toe-tapping tunes to your ears.

Accompanying the new soundtrack volume is another round of Portal 2 ringtones in handy Android and iOS formats. Some are based upon soundtrack snippets, whilst others simply in-game sound effects for your telephonic tililation.

Download the second iOS ringtone pack here, and the iOS sound effects ringtone pack here.

Download the second Android ringtone pack here, and the Android sound effects ringtone pack here.

Free Portal 2 downloadable content is expected on all platforms this summer, though this was announced in April and we've heard little of it since; who knows what degree of Valve time dilation is in effect? However, free DLC has been released for players using the fancy Razer Hydra motion controller, introducing a number of new mechanics.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Portal 2

Valve has announced the winners of its Portal 2 Summer Mapping Initiative contest. The company says that they received 280 entries in all, and the 13 lucky judges took 140 hours to complete them all. Play Portal 2 for hours and hours -- what a terrible fate, right?

Patent Pending, an intermediate difficulty map, won the contest. Pit-heavy Infinifling took second place, and Edifice won an honorable mention. Those levels have been given a Valve stamp of approval, so they're probably worth trying out. The instructions for installing the packs are at Valve's winners page.

The winning creators will each receive Portal 2-themed t-shirts, posters, and swag from Jinx, Think Geek, Glitch, and Valve. The company also reminded users of the music video contest currently running through July 15. You can win a guitar autographed by The National along with some Portal goodies, so get started if you have any video editing skills.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Valve's Gabe Newell casually mentioned sales of Portal 2 during a talk at Games for Change in New York City. Three million is the number he told the audience, as captured by Joystiq.

While Newell didn't offer any detail about retail and Steam sales, that is an incredible accomplishment given the game's April release and full retail price point. By the time of Portal 2's launch, the original game had sold four million retail copies. At this rate, it seems likely that the sequel will match the sales of the original. And with the money made from Portal 2, Valve will finally be able to complete development of Half-Life 2: Episode 3. That's how it works, right?

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Portal 2

Portal 2 has gotten its first bit of downloadable content -- for those who bought an expensive controller, at least. Rock Paper Shotgun reports that those who bought a Razer Hydra motion controller built for the game can now get 10 levels of motion-centered Portal 2 DLC.

The motion pack, developed by Sixense Studios, involves rotating portals and scaling the mass of objects like cubes to solve puzzles. Unfortunately, the Razer Hydra is roughly $140, so getting this DLC isn't exactly cheap.

Keep in mind, this isn't the free DLC promised for the game, as that will be coming for all platforms and include other features like leaderboards and multiplayer challenge rooms. But, this pricey DLC did give us an opportunity to ask Valve about the free pack, and whether this motion pack is planned for release elsewhere. We'll update as more information becomes available.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

In the greatest music/game tie-in since Marky Mark asked you to make his video, Valve has announced a music video contest for The National's song "Exile Vilify" (featured in Portal 2). Though the song was written for Chell's second trek through the Aperture testing facility, your music video doesn't have to be machinima -- Valve says creators can use "whatever visuals they choose."

The deadline is July 15. Once you've pieced together your masterpiece, you can post it to YouTube using the tag "PORTAL2NATIONALEXILE" to mark it for the contest. The announcement promises that Valve, The National, and the community will select a winner, implying that there may be a voting aspect to the proceedings.

The winner will get a guitar autographed by The National and some Portal 2 merchandise. Valve is a little vague on what exactly that merchandise will be, but the company store has no shortage of items that could be included in the prize.

Shacknews - Xav de Matos

Valve has announced that the once iPad-exclusive, interactive story "The Final Hours of Portal 2" is now available for purchase on Steam.

Released in late April alongside the game, "Portal 2: The Final Hours" attempts to tell some of the story behind the development of Valve Software's most recent release: Portal 2. The app, turned interactive PC thing was developed by GT.TV host Geoff Keighley. Like the app, the PC version of the interactive story is priced at $1.99.

When we first reported on the product, comments indicated a desire to jump deeper into the story behind the game's development; however, some complained of the iPad exclusivity. Though the product isn't as timely in this release, it's now available to a wider audience.

We asked how willing people were to pay for the content when it launched on the iPad. With a PC release weeks later, we wonder again how the interactive experiment will fare in the marketplace. Is it too late to read about the development of a game most have already mastered? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More information on the app can be had on The Final Hours of Portal 2 official site.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The NPD Group released its retail-only sales data for April 2011 last night, and it shows some positives signs for the industry. Physical software sales grew in both units and dollars for the first time since November.

Portal 2, SOCOM 4

Mortal Kombat took the top spot with 900,000 units, edging out Portal 2. It's worth noting, of course, that Portal 2 probably saw more than a few purchases through Steam, which isn't tracked by NPD and may never be.

Though NPD hasn't brought back detailed sales numbers, it points out that five games sold more than 250,000 units this April, as opposed to only two last April. Finally, NPD claims that if the Move accessory bundle for SOCOM 4 had been counted in its software sales, the game would have ranked in the top ten. The Full Deployment Bundle, which included the Sharpshooter, Move, and game, was the top new accessory for the month.

The Xbox 360 was again the top-selling hardware in terms of unit sales, followed by the Nintendo DS. Sales of hardware were up over last year, but only by 3%. NPD didn't share the sales spot for the 3DS, so we're left to wonder how interest has waxed or waned after its launch month.

    Top 10 US physical retail games - April 3 to April 30, 2011

      1. Mortal Kombat 2011 (PS3, 360)

      2. Portal 2 (360, PS3, PC)

      3. Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (Wii, NDS, 360, 3DS, PS3, PC)

      4. Call of Duty: Black Ops (360, PS3, NDS, Wii, PC)

      5. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters (360, PS3, Wii)

      6. Crysis 2 (360, PS3, PC)

      7. Just Dance 2 (Wii)

      8. Michael Jackson The Experience (360, Wii, PS3, NDS, PSP)

      9. Pokemon White Version (NDS)

      10. NBA 2K11 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2, PC)