Not Everyone Thinks Steam Sales Are A Good Idea

Not Everyone Thinks Steam Sales Are A Good Idea

Steam sales are universally awesome, right? Everyone gets cheap games, developers sell a lot of games, we're all happy. Right? Well, no.

Indie dev Jason Rohrer (Passage, Between, Sleep is Death) has written a blog post called "Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players". He argues that a "culture of sales" has led to people waiting for a game's price to drop before buying, which in the long-term isn't just resulting in less money for developers, but also a diminished community around a game, as buyers are dispersed over a period of months (or even years) instead of being concentrated around a game's launch.

He's not out-andout complaining; Rohrer withdrew his own games from Steam sales last year, and says "I... get that it's impossible to escape from it now. To Valve's credit, they never force developers to put their games on sale." He's just showing us that the sales aren't some perfect thing where everybody wins all the time.

As a test, his next game - Castle Doctrine - is going to adopt a pricing scheme that goes in the other direction. It will be 50 per cent off before launch, 25 per cent off in the first week, after which it'll cost its full price "forever after that".

There's more to it than this, of course, including arguments that online games never need to go on sale at all (since they're not taking up shelf space), so you should read the full thing below.

Why Rampant Sales are Bad for Players [The Castle Doctrine]


    That's sort of what they did with ARMA3....except it still went on sale later :/

    I just cant justify spending 60 bucks on a game on steam. I find my self more and more just playing indie games on steam and I have no no issue spending 15 bucks on an indie that I am looking forward too.

    What this guy may not realise is that if I I don't know enough about a game and am undecided, I will wait for a sale and give it a go. If I like it enough than when the sequel comes around or any new IP from the developer, I won't hesitate to slap down 15 - 20 bucks.

    For example, torchlight was 5 bucks when I bought it. Loved it. Bought torchlight 2 at launch.

    This developer won't get my money then. The price of digitally distributed games is absurd already.

      But, you are almost never paying for the distribution and goods anyway. Even a physical copy, the percentage of your price which is going towards distribution costs is miniscule.
      The biggest cost of producing/selling a game is the actual development costs. You are paying for the game to be made, not be sold to you.

      The belief that digitally distributed games should be significant;y cheaper than in a store is absurd. I'm not talking about the EB games and their insane mark-up prices. But you saying that 60 bucks is too high for a game, because digital distribution? That's not the reason the game is at that price point.

        I know the development cycle. I'm still saying it's too expensive.

        The majority of the development time goes into the engine, period. Unless they're building their own proprietary engine (few actually do), they're leasing the right to use it and developing ontop of it. This, although costly to you, me and budding indies, is nothing to a proven development studio.

          Is it too expensive though? [Serious question, which I don't know the answer to]. At the very least, these companies need to cover their costs, regardless of what those were spent on.

          Are game dev/pubs really just rolling in filthy piles of cash after each game release? I mean, you can't get "margins" on digital goods, but are there any numbers on what sort of profits these guys are making on their products?

          I imagine it's hard developing any product. You may have a idea of how many units you will sell, but it's always going to be unpredicable to some extent. The only smart thing to do from a business perspective, is to make predictions based on past price points. You have to decide how much money to spend developing a product, and while having a lower price *may* result in more sales, you really have no way of knowing for sure.

          I dunno, it just seems like something which is a lot more complex to work out than people give it credit for. As a consumer, it's easy to say "it's too expensive, make it cheaper", without factoring in everything else which has gone on to this point.

          And again, for all I know companies could be evil-incarnate and rolling in cash from manipulating customers. But free market economies usually don't suffer from this in industries with a healthy amount of competition. Companies usually out-price each other the point of being just marginally profitable.

          Last edited 18/01/14 11:27 pm

      You're also missing his point. He isn't saying all games should be expensive. He is saying that the culture of the Steam Sale means tight arse gamers (read 80% of them) are waiting for a sale to buy a game instead of supporting the dev and paying for the game at launch.

        I'm thinking Star Citizen. A game that's unreleased and is closer to the 40 million side of crowd sourced income.

        People paying for a game they can't play seems to stick a rather large spike into that theory.

        People will pay for it (even if they can't get it) if they know about it and like the way it looks.

        Then there's the whole: If debs stopped releasing betas as full products, people might be willing to spend more on them. That whole console port stigma from '09 - '12 still lingers.

    The people who really want the game and are often beneficial to the games community get the game at release. They don't wait for it to become cheaper. Part of the problem is the lack of demos anymore. Who the hell wants to drop $40, $50 or more on a game just to find out that it is not for them.

      This. This is exactly why I have something like 8 games on Steam with only 2 hours of play; buying a game on sale just hedges my bets because I can buy two with the same amount of money in case one is terrible. Fortunately almost no game I have was bought at full price.

    Make a good game, get its name out there, and you'll get good money and a good community around it as soon as it launches. Do anything else and you really don't have anyone to blame but yourself if it doesn't go well.

    Would they rather I not buy the games at all?

    I'm pretty sure there was an article on this same website stating the complete opposite, some indie developer had made like as much money AGAIN in a single steam sale as they had made in all sales until that point. Can't find the article, but i think this guy might be a little bitter.

    I tend to pay full price when it's a game my friends play and are enjoying.
    I tend to go for specials when it's a game I'm iffy about or it's a series is previously not gotten into eg. Assassins creed

    17 Bazillion people buy AAA games at launch...mostly because of the hype and mostly because it is a sequel to something else that sold a squillion. The smart marketing person would thus make sure that the first title was less expensive and awesome and then milk it for the next few sequels. Create large demand = increased percieved value. As demand decreases you need to improve the value proposition; hence the sale.

    I personally don't buy games a launch because my pile of shame is so long that I am still playing games from two years ago. So when they come up on sale after a year... - I pay very little, have no bugs to squash and usually get the DLC included, and I'm not paying though the nose.
    Of course this also means I buy games that I have a vague interest in, which if they were full priced, I would never consider.

    Looking at new releases right now and 7 out of the latest 10 (not including DLC) are already on special. If so many developers have new release and pre-release specials, surely sales can't be hurting the industry that much?

    PC gaming in general has ruined me for paying full price.

    I decided to buy Lego Marvel last night. $80AU on the WiiU store. Steam had it for $30US but I managed to buy it for $23US via greenmangaming using a 25% off voucher. The game isn't even that old and I bought it for $23 and didn't even have to leave the house.

    What is it with these "Not everyone..." Headlines? Do you just have a template and find a few arguments a week to bait people with?

    people have been waiting for the price to drop for a long while now, it's just that recently the higher priced titles have been getting a little more ridiculous in their pricing when you consider all the worthwhile content you can get cheaper (even without sales) so more people are inclined to wait, sales are pretty much your only hope of getting these people at any point in the games life time.

    I kind of agree with him. So many times you hear about how people aren't going to spend a couple of dollars on such and such a game, they'll just wait for the sales and get it then, so that they can save a few cents instead.

    So it starts off people talking how people should buy games and not pirate them and when people buy them they complain that they bought it too cheap? Really?

    He's right, you know. I have only bought one game this year that wasn't on sale. (Morrowind) The only reason I bought it at the standard price is because I waited about two months for the game to go on sale, which it never did. Steam has made me the cheapest bastard.

      On the flip side I have a ton of games I impulse bought in a stream sale that I never would have bought other wise. I spend more money on games overall because of sales. I also will not spend more than 20 bucks on a game with the exception of a few franchises. Pre stream sale I pretty much only played these franchises.

    If the game looks entertaining and the price is right, I will buy it. Sale or no sale. The otger thing that tempts me to buy games is if my friends think it's entertaining. So, 4 packs are an amazing way to offer a discount and also get more sales.

    When I saw the title I came in here to say that 99% of the time I will not buy a game unless it's on sale because I know it will go on sale at some point, and even then, most of the time I'll usually wait until the sale is over 75% off. And on top of that if it's a game where they plan to release much DLC I will wait until they stop making DLC and buy the Elite/Ultimate/GOTY edition. The only games I've bought on launch in the last year were Gunpoint, Rogue Legacy and Volgarr the Viking.

    Another really interesting thing is how consumers on Steam consume. For instance, if I buy a game and I like it. I'll wait fr a steam sale, grab a 4 pack and gift to my friends. $20 for six copies of Killing Floor? Hell yes! That's SEVEN (including myself) new fans of a game.

    A game that never goes in sale will never get that.

    He is making a presumption. I could, with equal merit, argue that the people who bought your game on sale would have never bought your game at any other time, so sales are actually better for many games. Let's also face the facts, most of us are not rolling in money, would you rather have Activision take my $60 I have to spend on games that month, or have that money go to five different publishers/developers who would otherwise have not gotten a dime.

    Sales also give gamers an avenue to try games they otherwise would have and, if your game is good enough, we may just buy the DLC or sequel on the day of release for full price. Sales are only toxic for the big games in my opinion, which are generally released on console without any discounts for months, or even years. These console sales would, if what he is saying is in fact true (it is simply impossible to positively conclude) easily make up for lost revenue from steam sales.

    And the difference between this and someone shopping around for the best deal is what exactly? Oh right. There is no difference.

    But I agree. I tend to wait until something is on sale before buying it. That being said, if the game is going to be awesome, I'm on it straight at launch. Metal a Gear Solid is one such game. I always buy it day 1. So his argument isn't really that valid. Not so valid as to rant about it and pull all his games from all Steam sales in the future.

    On the other hand, Steam sales make thousands of people entirely uninterested in a certain game, to purchase because "what the hell, it's just a few bucks." That's dozens of thousands that the developer would never see otherwise, Steam-sales culture or not.

    Last edited 19/01/14 12:20 am

    Economics.demand and supply.
    People not buying, you drop the price.

    From my personal experience the smaller game communities seem to be the better ones. Large communities like dota, cod and wow are littered with psycotics. That and it's not oftern developers create something I feel is worth release price.

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