Steam Sales Selling The Dream

As I look at my Steam games list following their annual holiday sale I can't help but feel more than a little embarrassed by how many titles I bought because they were "deals" instead of games I'll ever put any real time into. Like a pot head who just stumbled into a supermarket, everything just looked so good with that $4.99 price tag on it. We’ll get to my list in a minute, but I’ll spoil the surprise and tell you that I’ll play half of them for about 30 minutes and never, ever touch them again.

These deals and insane publisher game packs have turned selective game buyers into sudden onset collectors. It’s not enough for Deus Ex to be snug in a jewel case and shoved into a basement closet somewhere; it needs to be on THE LIST. The ‘My Games’ tab on Steam isn’t just a launch pad for your game library -- it’s a gaping maw, a whisper in your head that there’s comfort to be found in THE LIST. The bigger THE LIST, the happier you’ll be. What if there’s a Star Wars Jedi Knight II emergency? Take comfort, it’s right there, ready for launch. But you’ll never click on it, will you? There’s always something new to play, but THE LIST doesn’t care. Its appetite is insatiable. Let’s have a look at what I’ve recent shoveled into the digital maw to keep it sated and see what Valve is really selling.

A Farewell to Dragons
Atari: 80 Classic Games in One
Ben There, Dan That!
Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box
Cogs
Defense Grid: The Awakening
Deus Ex: Game of The Year Edition
Lumines (With Advance Pack)
Sid Meier's Civilization IV
Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword
Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization
Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Warlords
Star Wars Jedi Knight Pack
World in Conflict: Soviet Assault
Time Gentlemen, Please!

Total money spent: $80.80

But wait! That’s a lot of game for a mere $80.80, isn’t it? It is, but if I’m being honest I would have spent $0 on a normal day. I blame the constant Steam sale thread updates and the resulting debates about whether this or that game was even worth the sale price. I was buying games just to prove to people wrong. I’ll never play Lumines. Atari Classics? Am I insane?!

The genius of this digital fire sale method is that they've converted old PC games no one cares about into commodities. "Buy low, sell high" doesn't really jive since you can't actually sell your Steam games, but the "buy low" principle is in full effect. Burnout Paradise currently sells for $29.99. It resides there as a good price for people who never got around to it on a console or finally got a PC that can handle the graphical demands. I played the 360 version so at that price it's just a game I've already experienced and not worth a second look. But for $7.49? THE LIST whispers that maybe I'll feel like racing on my PC some rainy day in the future. It's not a game anymore, it's an umbrella.

Steam and services like it have turned games into tube socks. It’s not enough to simply buy what I want to play; now I can buy games I’ll never play unless I lose my job or the apocalypse comes. That’s the dream Steam is selling – that I’ll ever have time to play what I buy. They count on THE LIST forever perching on my shoulder and telling me these games used to be $50 and now, only a year later, I can buy them for $5. What a deal! What riches available to me now. What a list!

I’ll see you at the next Friday sale with money clenched tightly in my fist. Buying the dream.

Comments

MrDeVil909 wrote:

I've bought pants before and found them on sale a week later, it didn't affect my goodwill to the store. It is a business owner's obligation to boost sales.

The more we accept a caveat emptor ("let the buyer beware") market, the more unfair bullsh*t will fly, until at some point you will find yourself being taken advantage of in a way that kills goodwill.

I personally don't want to end up living on Ferenginar, to extrapolate things to their most extreme.

My article on bitmob references a very successful local business that has made a great deal of headway by intentionally marketing their reticence to have a bunch of crazy sales, and thus offers you consistently low process at all times, that you can trust. Why is everyone so reluctant to consider that this may be a better way to do things? Lazy acceptance of the status quo? Fear of not being able to get ahold of all those on-sale tube socks?

Just because you never got annoyed by overpaying due to timing, doesn't mean that others won't and that it won't affect the market in general.

Valve aren't the only party that sets prices, in fact they probably can only suggest to publishers what price they offer their games at. From what little has been publicly disclosed, valve take a percentage cut of any steam sales (rumoured to be a third) and it's not as though soft-wares are in limited supplies (besides CD keys, which can be generated and added to a database) so there are minimal costs to make more copies of it. Pretty much the only criteria they have is to maximise revenue, and the maximum amount of buyers at the highest price point they can.

Whether you get cheesed off with sales is down to personal tolerance. I just noticed the sale for Kings Bounty, and I'm downloading the demo for a game in a genre (turn based RPG) I never touch. They get the attention of customers and get them to try new things.

IMAGE(http://www.danalaratta.com/images/steam_vs_afw.png)

The extrapolation of Ferengi pricing policies as the ultimate development of this really helped me come up with the image I needed to add to my article. Thanks for that!

I wouldn't count on it, don't push your luck. I don't mind if it adds to the conversation, but at some point you're just advertising.

Scratched wrote:

Whether you get cheesed off with sales is down to personal tolerance.

I will cop to a bit of muckraking here, yes. However I don't think I'm the only source of future public relations problems for Valve in this area, and I'll again point to the URLs of some of the other rumbling from Stardock's CEO and Gearbox's CEO:

http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3176406

http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3177041

I would also like to thank the editors here at gamerswithjobs showing a lot of tolerance for me linking to my own article on another site as well, and admit that my muckraking and linking is indicating to me how much of a writer I may actually be at heart--in that I appear to mostly be desperate for attention.

But in this case, I want attention to this pricing disparity specifically BECAUSE my fondness for Steam has led me to feel concerned that they may undo their efforts--specifically getting people more willing to buy over digital distribution, because they will get people ONLY willing to do so during a sale.

Certis wrote:

I wouldn't count on it, don't push your luck. I don't mind if it adds to the conversation, but at some point you're just advertising.

Yeah but its not like bitmob pays anything. I am a free contributor there just like I am here, and the growth of the intelligent conversation on the internet in general is good for all of us, right?

I didn't want to repost the whole article here as if it was a response to thsi post, even though it did carry the point of the article here a bit further into new terrain.

Anyway thanks again for letting me push my luck a bit. Promise to restrain myself.

Imbarkus wrote:

IMAGE(http://www.danalaratta.com/images/steam_vs_afw.png)

Very nice.

Sonicator wrote:

Very nice. :-)

Thanks!

Imbarkus wrote:
MrDeVil909 wrote:

I've bought pants before and found them on sale a week later, it didn't affect my goodwill to the store. It is a business owner's obligation to boost sales.

The more we accept a caveat emptor ("let the buyer beware") market, the more unfair bullsh*t will fly, until at some point you will find yourself being taken advantage of in a way that kills goodwill.

In which case the consumer with exercise their right to move on and a balance takes place.

Imbarkus wrote:

My article on bitmob references a very successful local business that has made a great deal of headway by intentionally marketing their reticence to have a bunch of crazy sales, and thus offers you consistently low process at all times, that you can trust. Why is everyone so reluctant to consider that this may be a better way to do things? Lazy acceptance of the status quo? Fear of not being able to get ahold of all those on-sale tube socks?

That's a really great business model and I would like to see it applied to video-games. I think one of the great opportunities of digital distribution to be the chance to experiment with pricing of new games. But, not many publishers would be willing to risk a lower initial margin on a title when hype is at its most intense and they need to recoup several tens of millions of dollars, and turn a profit, in the space of 2-3 weeks.

Maybe Valve is the one.

Imbarkus wrote:

Just because you never got annoyed by overpaying due to timing, doesn't mean that others won't and that it won't affect the market in general.

No, of course not. But I'm pretty sure that on balance there are more people who won't get twisted than there are those who will. But as is the way of the free market a period of experimentation and testing will create a path forward for all concerned, business and consumer aside.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

Maybe Valve is the one.

The problem with this is that Valve can only price their own games, games from everyone else get sold at the price they request so if EA wanted to price a game at £500 (silly exaggerated example) they could. If valve was buying stock at a certain unit price, they would be free to sell at any price, even below cost if they wanted because they publisher has been paid already.

But, as a publisher of their own games Valve could experiment with them.

I don't know if they would, or need to, but they could.

On the other hand, a sale only really works in relation to a higher initial price. A cheap launch price can create a negative impression.

I feel they already do.

The RRP for games in the UK is around £30-35, I got the orange box for £26 preordered through steam for 3 games I've got a lot of play out of, and L4D2 at £20 with the 4-pack. They also put TF2/L4D/L4D2 on sale *every* time there's a significant update and it has the chance to get attention from new players.

That is something I did consider, but I was posting from my phone so I skipped it.

All of Valve's current titles are either pretty small (Portal, Episodes) or extremely focused (TF2, L4D). So while you are right that they play with pricing, and must be gathering fantastic data, I don't think that it is quite the same as releasing a 'full' AAA title to rival Crysis 2.

You're also ignoring the fact that those are established franchises. If another developer sold a three-in-one package with three new games you'd never heard of, you'd probably assume that they were somehow inferior.

Arise, article!

In this new Gamasutra analysis piece, psychologist and gamer Jamie Madigan explains some psychological reasons why those big bundles from Steam and other digital distribution platforms are so hard to resist.

Link

Yoyoson wrote:

Link

The Article wrote:

"This is madness. I am buying games for a theoretical PC that I will build someday (maybe) so I can play them. Damn you, Steam."

I swear that I wrote that. Spooky.

I think the idea behind the scarce opportunity to purchase the game is the biggest player. The, "I have to buy it now, or it will be more expensive in a day" type of thing. It's what all infomercials do, even though they don't know when there is "10 min less" and will always give you the "deal."

Valve are employing techniques that maximise sales. I am shocked.

The only purchase I regret is Xcom. It was cheap, but I could not play it. I just can't seem to remember what to do or how to work things. Guess it's back to Torchlight.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Yoyoson wrote:

Link

The Article wrote:

"This is madness. I am buying games for a theoretical PC that I will build someday (maybe) so I can play them. Damn you, Steam."

I swear that I wrote that. Spooky.

I was doing just that up until I built my computer in February. I had something like 5 games that wouldn't run on my old computer.

Hey I did that with some games and now that I do have my new computer, I'm glad I did

I don't know if I'm the only one but I actually don't mind buying games that I already own on CD. I friggin' hate discs and patches and all the ceremonial dances you have to do in order to get a game to run nowadays. STEAM does all that crap for me while I'm sleeping and to me that's worth paying again.

Of all the Steam games I own, there's about 30 that I got on disc too but put away once I got 'em on there. I never thought I would but for PC gaming, I've gone digital. The only games I buy anymore in shops are Steamworks games (that are registered in my Steam account upon entering the key.)

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Yoyoson wrote:

Link

The Article wrote:

"This is madness. I am buying games for a theoretical PC that I will build someday (maybe) so I can play them. Damn you, Steam."

I swear that I wrote that. Spooky.

"Madness?"

Six months on, I can say this article still runs true. I never finished Torchlight and barely touched any of the classic games I bought last December. Heck, I'm just getting around to playing DOW II now.

Same. I haven't made a dent in anything I bought in December. But I still have managed to spend about $40 on this sale already somehow... I like to justify it by thinking one day, I'll be stranded on a tropical island with just me and my computer. Then I'll be able to catch up, right?

Because of Steam sales and bundles, without even trying, I've amassed almost 300 games.

I've only tried/played less than 1/3 of them

DAMN YOU STEAM SALES!

You know it's bad when you see a game on sale, you click to buy it, and Steam notifies you that you alread own the game ><

EvilShawnAndrich wrote:

Because of Steam sales and bundles, without even trying, I've amassed almost 300 games.

I've only tried/played less than 1/3 of them

DAMN YOU STEAM SALES!

You know it's bad when you see a game on sale, you click to buy it, and Steam notifies you that you alread own the game ><

Confession: I recently bought a game on a Steam sale that I put aside for "someday" like I do with many games I buy on Steam. However, a few days later I realized that I already owned this game - on GOG! Curse you multiple wish lists!!!

I kinda knew that would happen one day.