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Steam Summer Sale 2013: Aftermath

Okay, wallets. The Steam Summer Sale’s done and dusted, you can come out of hiding now.

If this year’s sale taught me anything, it’s that I think I’ve reached a plateau where the acquisition of games is concerned. Last summer I was going crazy, purchasing three or four things each day (one or two of which I may have actually played since then!), but this year’s bargain hunting turned up very little. In fact, here’s my entire catch:

  • Operation Flashpoint: Red River
  • Bully: Scholarship Edition
  • Strike Suit Zero Mega Bundle
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Dragonborn

So, barely $20 worth of goodies.

With roughly 400 games in my Steam account, there really isn’t much left that I actually need, especially when you consider that I could actively stop buying games for the next five years and still not run out of stuff to play. (Because there’s all my GOG stuff too!) Granted, there’s some recent-ish stuff I wouldn’t mind owning—Remember Me, Civilization V: Brave New World, DmC, Resident Evil 6 etc.—but I can probably wait a while for those.

As 1pm EST rolled around each day, I’d be there with everyone else, hammering F5 on Steam’s store page to feast upon the Daily Deals, but this year my response to most of them was either “got” or “meh”.

Valve are obviously very much aware of the fact that a significant percentage of their users are running out of games to buy (and even games to gift!), which is why we now have the Steam Trading Cards phenomenon, whereby JPGs and XML are now changing hands for money. I can’t help wonder if the cards will plateau a lot faster than the game store—most cards are ridiculously easy to come by and are worth very little (even the rarest ones) so it’s tricky to see where all this is going. There’s a lot of very clever people working at Valve who know more about economics than I’ll ever learn in a lifetime, so surely this is all going somewhere… right?

So, a fairly lackluster sale for me, but a good number of my Steam pals appeared to go bonkers, grabbing handfuls of new titles each day. But you guys will find yourself plateauing within the next 12 months or so too. The question then remains: what will Valve do next to convince you that your money belongs in their bank account? After all, Steam is now pretty much a game unto itself, with its own set of achievements, rewards and leveling up for being a good consumer. How much longer can we continue playing their game?

Edit: Since publishing this article I acquired two more games—Section 8 and Hydrophobia—after selling off a bunch of duplicate trading cards I had.

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About Mark Stevens

Mark is British but lives in the USA, which is why you'll see him flip-flopping between British and American spelling without a care in the world. As a veteran of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras you'll notice a decidedly retro slant to his posts, but he has just as much to say about contemporary gaming too. Outside the world of blogging Mark has previously written for Wired and The Guardian and has written a number of Doctor Who short stories for Big Finish.

  • Rika

    I had Steam sale fatigue this time around too. I’ve lost my feeling of urgency that “I need to buy that now!” because I’ve learned that I’m slow getting to new games, and I’ve also learned that once it becomes a game that goes on Steam sale, its going to go on Steam Sale again. There were also several games I had in mind that I thought would go on sale this time and I never saw them go – the Carpe Fulgur collection, and Mass Effect 1 and 2. The voting was frustrating, as half the time I didn’t care about any of the choices, and when I did, my choice didn’t generally win.

    So what could Steam do to get me personally to buy more? Maybe do some sort of ahead-of-time voting where you get so many votes but all games compete for X spots? Or let us buy/earn discounts that can be applied to any game in a certain pool – like let me buy or earn a token for any game in the “indie” pool for $5, or 40% off of a pool of “best of this year” games. Or maybe do some sort of Raptr like thing where players use time spent in certain games to vote for sales in the weeks before a sale? Or have flash sales that are the guaranteed lowest price for the next 3 months so that I don’t decide to wait in case it comes back/comes up lower (this only works if the prices are really good obviously.) Or offer some sort of reward for already owning games on the sale – like if I own five out of today’s sale games, I get a $5 Steam credit or something – this could make a deal I think of as “ok” into a deal I think of as “can’t pass up” because I have a credit.

    • http://runjumpfire.com/ Mark Stevens

      I noticed an absence of the publisher packs this year, which I’m also assuming is due to the fact that a significant number of Steam users already own most of the decent games within them.

      When the Steam summer sales first began, you’d have almost everything (other than brand new releases) discounted by at least 10-50% for the duration of the sale, the publisher packs, and then the daily deals. It was quite easy to play the Steam game at this point, living by the simple rule: if you want something, wait until the very last day to buy it unless it turns up as a daily deal.

      The flash deals complicate things a little bit, because there’s a small chance that the flash deal won’t be the lowest price something goes for during the sale. It probably will be the lowest price, but one or two items have ended up cheaper in a subsequent daily deal.

      Then there’s the user votes, which brings a more frequent layer of rollovers to the table, although everything that turns up for a user vote (winner or loser) is guaranteed to turn up as a flash or daily deal. They’re just there to bait users into revisiting the site more frequently and thus increase the chance they’ll buy something.

      In other words, Steam have worked in all these overlapping rollovers and also a small slither of uncertainty to the proceedings. Nerve-wracking for the users, but more money for Gabe to roll around in at the end of the day!

      I just remain fascinated by the prospect of what Valve’s economic analysts have in store for future sales. The whole trading card/achievement thing seems a bit “cheap” for want of a better description. It takes advantage of those towards one end of the ADHD spectrum in order to milk a few more bucks out of them, but doesn’t necessary bring any extra value to the Steam shopping experience.

      I’d like to see more rewards for gifting games to other people, maybe in the form of coupons. Ie, gifting someone Skyrim gives you an extra 5-10% off any other Bethesda game and a pack of cards only available to gift-givers.

      A few more incentives for pre-ordering stuff wouldn’t go amiss. Some games do a good job of it (ie, BioShock Infinite giving free copies of BioShock 1 and XCOM: Enemy Unknown) and some don’t (free multiplayer skin and a TF2 hat, great). I figure we’ll see cards starting to figure heavily in pre-orders too.

      Fun times!