Valve has launched a new feature that allows developers to sell in-game items outside of their games (yet still within Steam). They're appropriately known as Item Stores and thus far, only one game - Rust, the open-world survival title from Facepunch Studios - has taken advantage of it.

As Valve's Doug Lombardi recently told Eurogamer, Item Stores are no different than in-game micro-transactions. So, what's the upside?

Lombardi said Item Stores take away the burden of building an in-game store. Steam takes care of the checkout process including splitting payments when necessary and adding purchased items to buyers' inventories. Item Stores may not be a big deal for large-scale developers but eliminating the need to build an in-game storefront could be a huge time-saver for small indie developers.

The Item Store for Rust currently offers 62 items including clothing of all sorts, sleeping bags and weapons with prices ranging from $2.49 to $4.99.

Developers will also be able to work with game modders to make and sell custom items they've created. Proceeds from sales of this nature can be split between the developer and the modder. Virtual goods purchased from an Item Store can't be sold or traded for at least a week, presumably in an effort to limit any potential impact on the overall market.

It'll be interesting to see how gamers react to Item Stores, especially in the wake of the ill-fated paid mods disaster that played out back in April.