Steam Sale

This marks the start of a series of articles from TechnoBuffalo that covers the gaming trends of 2013.

Long has the debate raged on about how to get gamers to buy games “new” rather than “used.” Logic says that when a person buys a video game from GameStop or a second-hand Amazon user, the publisher is losing out on a sale.

The world is not so cut and dry, and in this case 1 plus 1 does not equal 2, but 2013 finally saw a lot of publishers catching on that if you want us to buy your product, you’re going to have to drop the price.

The set $60 price is on its way out the door, all thanks to a company called Valve.

Steam has has been working this wonderful tactic for years now. Daily sales, Holiday Sales, Midweek Madness, Free Weekends. Cooperation with Humble Bundle and Indie Royale hasn’t exactly hurt the statistic, either. Steam throws so many sales out there that I have amassed a library of 265 games in the three years since I first joined the service. It holds games that I wanted, games I wouldn’t have touched with a 30 foot pole, and games that I would have never heard about without the discounts.

I don’t know if I should be proud of that or not.

A lot of the money went directly to the people who made the game, put cash in the pockets of those who most deserve it, just like developers and publishers have been whining about for the last several years. Just not as much as they were hoping. Steam has created an environment where I might never have to pay $60 for a video game ever again. But that was years ago, so why is this a trend of 2013?

PlayStation Plus Year One Free Games

2013 is the year that console developers finally caught on to this idea, Sony especially.

PlayStation Plus first launched in 2012, and Sony needed to figure out a way to sell it as a necessity for the PlayStation 4. Half of the allure of the PlayStation 3 was free online gaming, something that the Xbox 360 did not offer. Sadly, free online would not be possible for Sony to keep running as the price was too high, even more so than giving away weekly free content.

The Instant Game Collection was the key to all of Sony’s problems. Nobody wanted to pay for what was already free, so Sony got everyone with a genius idea: give away one free game a week. What started as an alluring siren’s call turned into people realizing that PlayStation Plus was actually one of the best values on the market. 2013 saw it evolve so much that games barely out of the gate were being offered for absolutely nothing.

And if free games were not enough, much like Steam, sales are constantly going on through the PlayStation Network. PlayStation Plus users get an even bigger discount than everyone else. I think there is one going on his week with several games I’ve had my eyes on.

Again, through discounts and bargains, my $50 a year for all these games created a huge backlog of over fifty titles, and all of my PlayStation Plus subscriber’s fee went to the right people, Sony and whatever deal they struck up with the publishers.

There is a catch, though. If you leave PlayStation Plus, you can’t have your free games, creating more incentive to stay involved.

I might never leave, unless Sony focuses all its efforts on the PlayStation 4 and never looks back on the PlayStation 3, a console which really took its time to become one of the best deals on the market. And we all laughed at he $599.99 price tag.

Playstation 3 - Xbox 360 - Halo

Microsoft slowly caught onto the idea of cheap and free content. Ever the stingier of the duo, sales from Xbox Live have been coming out at a slower pace, but 2013 seems to have finally taught Microsoft that sales can be a good thing. The holidays saw huge discounts on a wide variety of movies, TV shows, and games.

The Xbox Live Games with Gold also copies the Instant Game Collection and offers free games at a periodic pace. A free game once every two weeks is nothing to scoff at, but not everyone has been pleased with the choices Microsoft has offered. It obviously did not want to share in the fun with third party publishers, because most titles come from Microsoft’s halls itself, and those that played along like Assassin’s Creed II came a few years too late.

We get games like Halo 3 and Gears of War several years after their release for free, when the used copies are sitting there on Amazon for a penny. Otherwise, the stream of digital only games have been mediocre at best, save the odd exception like Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light popping up here and there. Still, can’t complain over what’s free.

Microsoft is catching on, so we’ll have to wait and see how to proceeds with the Xbox One, but 2013 might have been the turning point.

Super Mario 3D World - Review - Featured Hero

Which leaves us with Nintendo. Nintendo rarely discounts its software, and it most certainly never gives anything away for free; but, then again, it doesn’t have to. Nintendo consoles are the only place where you can buy Nintendo games, and Nintendo knows this. It doesn’t have to worry about you buying its software cheaper through Sony, Steam, and Microsoft, because they can discount material they don’t have.

2013 saw the Wii U begin to turn around. Pikmin 3, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and Super Mario 3D World all scored big across the board, meaning the shortage of quality software is no more. Nintendo has won back its fans by scrapping the shovelware which polluted the Wii, focused more on quality control by huge timed releases, and it is finally exciting to be a Nintendo fan again after a generation of meh.

Club Nintendo has already been around for quite some time, but I didn’t catch on until 2013 as well. Nintendo does give away free games, but you have to buy games in order to get others for free. It’s a fair system which has its ups and downs. There isn’t a much worse feeling being a Nintendo fan than seeing the new monthly lineup of rewards just to realize you already have them or they just plain suck, and you have to wait another month to see if maybe the next bunch will be better.

As it is now, Nintendo is the only reason to drop $60 on a new video game. It doesn’t have a constant stream of new titles hitting its ranks, and this makes it all the more acceptable to drop full price on a new Nintendo game once every two months or so. Some might say the lack of third-party titles hurts Nintendo, but it might actually be a blessing in disguise for its profits on the games it never has to discount.

Shin Megami Tensei IV

Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo aside, one more company has played the bargain game better than anyone else. Atlus had a huge year and pushed through as easily the best of the third-party publishers on the Nintendo 3DS. The move comes as Square Enix is sleeping on its JRPG roots, and Atlus wants to put its quality games into as many starving JRPG fans’ hands as it possibly can.

The move has worked, because Atlus is the most exciting JRPG developer and publisher on Earth right now.

Here is a quick example of how often Atlus discounts its games. After a Black Friday sale which saw huge discounts on both the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation 3, it threw a Christmas and New Year’s Sale a month later on the Nintendo 3DS eShop which discounted all of its games by $10 to $20. The Nintendo eShop crashed under all the new user traffic, and Atlus made due and extended the sale an extra week. It was a nice move that didn’t have to happen, but it did.

Oh yeah, two weeks later, and Atlus has another sale going on right now with several of its older titles on the Nintendo 3DS. Many had worried how Atlus would transfer into the digital age because it so frequently offers free extras for pre-ordering its physical games, but it has soared past everyone’s expectations and remains one of the most gamer friendly companies out there.

And of course there is the indie market. I’ve spoken out about this a lot over the years, but it remains true to this day. These brilliant little games do everything that the bland and uninspiring AAA market doesn’t, and you can buy them at less than 1/6th the price of their big console brethren.

The indie market is only getting stronger from here on out, and with Steam dropping their prices to as low as $2.50, don’t expect their sales to drop any time soon either.

The $60 price tag is not dead, but it might as well be. In fact, it continues to climb with silly Limited Editions and Collector’s Editions, but unless your game is first party Wii U title, there is a strong possibility that I will never be paying full price for a video game ever again.

I wasn’t overly passionate about any single video game in 2013, but if anything can be taken from this year, it’s that I don’t need to buy games right away to enjoy them. I have plenty of other cheaper options and a huge backlog waiting for me to dig through while I wait for the games I really want to drop in price.

That being said, I must just go order Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance now. It’s dropped to $20 since release.

Thank you 2013. You’ve saved my hobby as I begin the next chapter of my life: Saving for weddings, preparing for kids. I would have never thought gaming would be possible several years ago while doing those things, but here I am, just as dedicated as ever.