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The Steam Summer Sale: The Aftermath and the Future

by Eric Frederiksen | July 3, 2014July 3, 2014 12:30 pm PST

Another Steam Summer Sale has come and gone, and we watch as gamers pick up the pieces of their bank accounts and wallets. Some have gone all out in buying everything that seemed like a great idea, and some have taken the reasonable route of only buying what they genuinely wanted.

We here at TechnoBuffalo are just average gamers like you. We buy our games from the Steam Sale, and maybe we play them. Maybe we don’t. All of the stereotypes of gamers during the annual event apply to us just the same as it does to you.

Deciding until the last second if something is worth it, getting buyers remorse over a $3 video game, and even bigger remorse over the 300+ games piled in our backlog because of these sales.

So how did we fare this year? Did we walk away with any great games, or in any way did the Summer Sale seem more lackluster than in years past?

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Ron Duwell

I managed to walk away from the Steam Sale unscathed. I had made it a mission to ignore the whole campaign altogether, but I got a little tripped up by checking it out a few times.

Fortunately, I didn’t go all out this year like I have done previously and emerged with only two new games to my account: Konjak’s Noitu Love 2: Devolution and the Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition. An indie game from before “indie gaming” became a thing, and a remastered version of a fifteen year old masterpiece.

Kind of represents where my mindset in the world of gaming lies these days. While not being totally loyal to my goals, I managed to make out with two solid games for under $10.

What did you pick up this year, Eric?

Eric Frederiksen

The way I look at Steam sales has changed a bit from what it was in the past, and for a couple reasons. Most of the best deals aren’t applicable to me because I tend to buy games when they’re brand new. Generally if I don’t play them while they’re new, I don’t go back and play them later. I already have all the Bioshock games, all the Dead Space games, that kind of thing.

However with the new generation of consoles going the Steam route – allowing day 1 digital purchases – I’m less attached to discs than ever. So about half my purchases ended up being games I already own on disc but am attached to enough that I’d be unhappy if I lost them.

As for the other half? I like sharing my favorite games with friends, so if a game is cheap enough I might buy a copy for a friend here and there.

For myself, I bought The Witcher: Enhanced Edition, Dragon Age: Origins – Ultimate Edition, and Alan Wake, the last of which I’ve already started playing.

Ron

I’m glad to hear that you’ve started at least playing the games you purchased. I fall into the dreaded category of gamer who buys a ton of games and never gets around to playing them. Noitu Love 2 is a quick enough game, so I’ll get around to playing it sooner rather than later with the Steam support.

Baldur’s Gate 2 though, as much as I’d hate to admit it, I don’t really have the time for these kinds of games anymore. Who can muster up the energy for huge RPGs from the past, when there are so many huge RPGs from the present and just around the corner?

I think I just picked it up for the sake of having it and daydreaming of a time that I might get around to playing it, but overall, I like to think I did pretty well with keeping within my limits and seeing the reality of buying vs playing.

Have you ever had this issue? Just buying for the sake of buying, or are you a rational person who only buys what he plays?

Eric

I used to buy a lot of stuff with the intention of playing it but no plan to actually do so. Some stuff I’ve tried to play and never get the time for because other games come out. Looking at my list, I bought Thief: Deadly Shadows and Zeno Clash, two games I’m super curious about, but I’ve never touched them. I didn’t even know I had a game called Lone Survivor until just now.

So, yeah, I definitely have bought games just for the sake of buying them, but it’s tapered off for sure.

With summers like this, I definitely have the time to go back a bit. There’s almost nothing coming out. I just finished Red Dead Redemption on Xbox 360 and I thought, while we’re remembering how great 2010 was, why not play Alan Wake, which came out on the same day as Red Dead?

Alan Wake was one of my favorite Xbox 360 games, and it’s been fun to play it again with the settings cranked up a bit. A warning though – the textures don’t hold up so well, even if the game is still fun to watch and play.

Ron

Quick food for thought, but the success of these Summer Sales generally came at a time when digital distribution was still new. The thought of buying a super cheap game with the click of a button was a powerful thing two or three years ago.

It seems like you and I have wised up a little bit on how to smartly approach the sale and not buy everything in sight. Do you think Steam will see the same success as more and more people start to “play the game” in buying games?

Waiting for last day’s sales, knowing there is always something better around the corner, praying for a flash sale, knowing there will be a holiday sale in a few months’ time.

Have gamers caught up to Steam’s thinking, or will we still see the huge response it gets year in and year out as more games from previous years plummet further in price?

Eric

Like I mentioned before, I buy a lot of games when they’re brand new. I like playing them right away, being part of the first round of people to get into them. For me, the Steam sales don’t have much meaning anymore.

My favorite part is tweeting and telling my friends what to buy and when. Sleeping Dogs is $5, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is $7.50 and so on.

sleepingdogs-01

With that said, I’m concerned about that continuing plummet affecting overall game sales and hurting the industry. It feels like a race to the bottom. I know not all gamers are like me, and I’m worried more will start waiting for the sales to buy the games they’re interested in rather than being part of the first round of players.

Ron

I’ve already noticed a definite trend in my gaming habits. While I might not be all over the Steam Summer Sale like I once was, it has definitely had a lasting impact on how I view the price of a game.

Rarely do I ever drop straight up $60 on a video game anymore, unless it is a Nintendo game and is guaranteed to not see a sale for a very long time. I know that games will drop to $15, $10, and maybe even $5 in the coming year. With my backlog as big as it is, I definitely have enough to hold me over until that arbitrary price point comes, and I think “Ok, now must be the time.”

I don’t worry about being a first adopter because I don’t play multiplayer games and don’t really worry about catching up to everyone else. That game immediately goes into my backlog, and provides me fuel to wait for the next price drop I want.

Even $15 for indie games seems steep nowadays because I know they’ll be available for less than $5 later.

I agree with you that this is not a healthy way of thinking for the industry because all studios, indie and AAA alike need the money, but the Steam Summer Sale has had a huge impact on me that still affects me indirectly.

I can’t even look at PlayStation Store prices the same way anymore because it is catching up to Steam in how often it reduces prices and even gives away games for FREE.

Eric

I think that’s why I ignore Steam sales nowadays and use it to replace games I have on disc – I like the digital aspect. I like not having to worry about losing a disc. But I like valuing the games I purchase instead of digitally hoarding them. I use these sales more to pull friends deeper into gaming with recommendations and gifts than I do for personal purchases nowadays, and I’m pretty happy with that. The summer sale only confirmed that position for me.

Ron

What you just described is what I do with Humble Bundle games I have left over from my crazier years in the Steam Summer Sales. Plenty of friends have found games that way through me rather than gifts directly through Steam.

There is just a stupidly absurd number of ways to get cheap games these days. GOG had a one day sale, PlayStation and Xbox were doing their thing as always, iOS and Android are always there, Humble Bundle had a special deal that went totally to charity, and even Nintendo shed a few cents off of a select few games.

I think we can agree that the mystique of the Steam Summer Sale has worn off for us and maybe a lot of other people, even if the aftereffects are still being felt all around.

Where does Steam go from here, and how does it keep an interest in the sale? I can picture Gabe Newell slamming his head against a desk to think of a way to keep gamers coming back this year and coming up with that whole “team” thing.

I didn’t participate, and I think you didn’t as well. MAYBE I’d get a free game or three, but most likely I won’t.

Like I’d even need one now anyway. That’s the end game there when the potential for free games doesn’t excite me in the least.


Eric Frederiksen

Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...

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