Poll Question 274 – Will Steam sales eventually back fire?

11th May 2012

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

Back in October 2011, I read this article called How Valve experiments with the economics of video games posted on GeekWire.

I wanted to write something about it but one thing got on top of another and I completely forgot about it, that was until two other articles appeared, one of which I currently can’t find link to, about Valve pricing policies.

Here is the EuroGamer article.

Anyway, both are an interesting read but for me this is the kicker in the GeekWire one…

Then we decided that all we were really doing was time-shifting revenue. We were moving sales forward from the future – Gabe Newell.

I think that’s incredibly perceptive.

Here’s how I have been viewing it.

I have bought a fair few games in the Steam sales and haven’t played ANY of them. I want to but believe it or not if I have a little free time I would rather spend it on the site.

I am going to make a big effort to play these games but maybe I won’t. They could be sitting in my Library for many more months, if not years!

I know for sure that when the Steam Summer sale comes I am going to be very tempted but unless the games I want are under 3 Dollars I am not buying them.

I feel that by having such good sales, they have actually stopped me from buying games in the long term, especially more expensive games.

I would never have thought I would say this but it’s possible that the sales are too good.

Maybe the “blockbuster AAA” games don’t have this issue because people want them as soon as they come out, but many games are not that important.

Now, I could be the lone voice in the wind (nothing new there) but I know for sure that others, in fact plenty of others, have bought games in the sales they haven’t played.

There’s only so many games we can buy for rainy days until we or our bank statements say enough is enough!

Perhaps it’s the type of game that counts. If you buy lots of shorter indie games then maybe it’s not such a problem, but if you buy 10-hour games then maybe it is.

I do collect games, and I want to stop, but I feel that the games collection I have may be worth something in the future. Of course, I am talking about games in proper boxes not via Steam.

And that’s another issue, nothing bought from Steam now carries any residual value. I won’t turn this into a rant about how Valve manage their policies but not being able to give unplayed games away could be a problem for me.

In fact, from now on, all games I buy I will buy as “gifts” so that in future I can give it to somebody else if I decide I don’t have time to play it.

So, do you feel that the Steam sales have changed your buying habits and could cause you to buy less games in the long-term?

Time to Vote!


  1. I don’t think it will completely backfire.
    There is a chance that certain people will get over-saturated and downgrade their spending habits, but the sales themselves really help push the games to people who might not have bought them otherwise.

    I think in the end there will be enough consumers who will keep buying games either because they don’t have back catalog or because they have a different spending/playing habit.

  2. Derbler

    I have a lot of untouched games, but what I do, which I find works pretty well (and you might want to try it, Phillip), is I have a .txt file set up with a bunch of unplayed games in it, sorted by month, and under each month I have the games that I realistically plan to play during that month. So that way, even though it takes a while, I can have a sense of organization with all these games I’ve been accumulating and that helps a lot, especially when I am undecided about which game to play.

  3. Hec

    Yeah well, sometimes I look for the GRAND titles in Steam in order to buy them, I want CoD MW3 but when they down the price more than 30%, which I think it won’t happen at least in this year….

    I mean for me as I see the only good thing about steam is that replace the old classic CD, but sometimes I think I just would love to get back to the old days and by the titles physic format!!, that encourages me a loto to play it.

    Recently I bought the Classic counter strike, and the CS condition Zero and well, I haven’t play them at all!!

  4. galocza

    i think that valves policy is devilishly clever.
    i do the same thing as Phillip, filling up my game browser at sales time – and then not playing most of the games.
    i justify my stupid spending with similar reasoning: I will play them when ill have the time, or even if they entertain me for a few hours only, the price was worth it.
    there are quite a few that considering the time I played with them would have worth hundreds of dollars (cs:s, wh40k:soulstorm, etc) but many not even the few bucks I spent on them – because never even loaded them, and im suspicious that I never will.
    on the other hand there were a few gems that I picked up at sales, not really knowing if I would like them or not but they had ok reviews, I was curious and I ended loving them. otherwise I would never have played defense grid (157hrs), disciples 2 (157hrs, not finished), freedom force pack (40hrs), kings bounty (112hrs, wo expansions), majesty2 pack(93 hours), plants vs zombies (183hrs), sw:empire at war pack (42hrs). and in general I dont replay games, and dont play around with mods, and dont care much for multiplayer, the above are all single walkthroughs (although in several cases I went for the achievements).
    there are no games on my steam list that I was enthuiastic about and spent big bucks on that I played that much as with these b- c- whatever rated or older games.
    actually I have never spent the general aaa-game-new-price 50usd for a game. in two cases the price tag was much more (hl2 collectors, dx:hr collectors), in most cases much less (sales, older games). and I havent even played dx:hr…
    i have three conlusions:
    – I shouldnt be angry with myself for spending this much (few bucks multiplied by a few hundred games amounts to quite a lot). now and then I choose right, and I find great games at a very friendly price
    – Phillip might be right: if many people buy and play these underhyped and undervalued games, who will pay 50usd for a 5-10hrs long aaa title (+ that much again for dlcs)
    – Phiilip might be wrong: those who have a compulsion to buy the new shiny bf, cod, moh, crysis, etc shooter, will buy it anyway, because their friends have it too and/or they want to play its multiplayer part. and I dont think valve cares: with their sales, midweek/weekend madnesses they make a lot of money, they sell games that they couldnt otherwise to people who wouldnt buy them otherwise.

    ok, im conflicted 8). but I guess that a legion of clever marketing professionals after creating a lot of curves and diagrams and charts pointed out that THIS strategy brings the maximum profit, and they might be right.

    ps: and lets not forget about our eternal sorrow that steam games cannot be sold or given away. thats good for valve and the publisher/developer: their games wont circulate as used ones, everybody has to buy a “new” one.

  5. Major Banter

    I’ve gotten to 88 games on my Steam account, and that’s it. The only things that have swelled it in the past year or so are the humble bundles and Supreme Commander coming to Steam. Oh, and Portal 2 obviously.

    The rest I bought for my PS3, mainly because they run better but also because I can sell them on afterwards.

    I think this is more to do with my own preferences regarding ‘long term titles” these days over stuff I would once have bought, played and sold on. Steam has had an effect on that – I play about 10% of my massive collection, and I wish I could trade the rest for TF2 hats – but it’s largely down to a change of perspective.

    I love playing a good video game, but I’ve grown bored of modern titles. They’re just the same thing over and over and over again. There were only two games that caught my eye this year; ME3 and Dishonored. Despite the sea of AAA titles, I’m just not interested.

    Valve saturating the market isn’t a hugely clever move, but I know that they’re cleverer than that. I read recently that they see a boost in profit when they lower the price of their games!

    But anyway, if someone wants to trade a hat for The Movies, hit me up.

  6. Grey Acumen

    I never buy a game for full price on steam, and in fact rarely pay more than 50%. When you factor in humble bundles/indie royale and regular bundles on top of sales, I’m pretty close to the individual price of all the games I own on steam being 4x the money I actually invested for all of them.

    That being said, I have 324 games on steam, and many of them I have paid for multiple times for accounts that I maintain for my family and friends. I also make exceptions to my rule when there is a game that I know I want, and will be heavily discussed in the various online communities that I follow. In these cases, I will be willing to settle for a smaller discount in order to get in on the game earlier in its lifetime, such as I did for Portal 2, and to an extent, Skyrim.

    As other people have already mentioned, the steam sales also do a wonderful job at getting you to consider games you otherwise wouldn’t have even considered, and in my case I’ve gotten to the point where I’m starting to buy games knowing I will never play them simply because the deal is good or because it is a game with history. (like Wolfenstein 3d going on sale just recently)

    So the answer really is both yes and no. Yes, gamers will lower the price that they will pay for a game without incentive, but the social aspect will push them to buy for full price anyway to keep in the loop with their friends, and the sales will also help expand the variety of games that an individual will be willing to try.

  7. From my own prespective on this topic, I believe we can be faced with the process of “Non or never”.

    This process is meaning this :
    You will get a game on sale.
    You will love the idea of steam sales.
    You will never buy anything else untill it is on sale.

    This leads to a pre-early expectation of a sale.
    Meaning that you will only start purchasing games when steam does a sale on them.
    The process of a steam sale however is different, the sale percentage has to be authorised by the game developer (eg. EA, Activision,…)
    And most of the times they do not even wish for their games to be on a special sale for a month or two.
    Basically, the only way I see it firing back is the addiction of purchasing on sale.

  8. Kyo

    Backfiring on who, exactly?

    For the consumer, a sale is always a big win no matter who is offering it. For the developer, I think of it like this: today’s $60 games are tomorrow’s Steam sale titles. At some point, the consumer will pass judgement on your game and decide it’s worth $60 and buy it, or decide to wait. Ideally, you want your game to fall into that former camp, but let’s face it, most games don’t. So rather than peg the price at $60 for all eternity and miss out on those customers, you drop it in an attempt to sell to the gamers that were on the fence. Often, a sale at a reduced price is better than no sale at all. Valve’s argument is that there are so many fence gamers that they more than make up for the reduced cost when they all decide to buy the game.

    We still know a profit is being made. Once you get past whatever fees are associated with putting a game on Steam, what cost is there? It’s not like you have a physical product you need to ship to stores. You’re talking to the customer almost directly and minimizing the middleman.

    So, ultimately, what is the end result? Either $60 games pull out more stops to prove their worth – giving consumers a better product – or consumers get a game for a better price down the road.

  9. Gustavo Duarte

    Yes, consumerism can be a bitch. The remedy is to control ourselves, I think.

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