Steam Sales Are Getting Kinda Boring

Steam Sales Are Getting Kinda Boring

If you check Steam, you’ll notice that the big Steam winter sale kicked off today. It’s got a couple good deals, a bunch more alright ones, and… that’s kinda it. No big event, no real frills, no surprises. Just like the autumn sale before it. Is it just me, or are Steam sales getting kinda boring?

To an extent, I think this feeling is unavoidable, given that Valve has been slashing prices like so many extraneous branches from Christmas trees for such a long time. The first time you see 75 per cent of a price tag dangling from Skyrim or XCOM or whatever, it’s goddamn revelatory. After a year or two of it, though, the sheen starts to slough away, revealing the whole event’s rote capitalistic bones — the mundanely humming gears of Valve’s machine. You’ve probably already picked up the stuff you want the most in other big sales or daily sales or weekend sales, and the biggest new games — stuff like Fallout 4, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Just Cause 3, and Rainbow Six Siege — only slash their prices a little or not at all.

It goes deeper than that, though. During this year’s summer sale, there was a big, fairly exciting game — the Monster Game — that didn’t work perfectly but at least added some eventfulness to the proceedings. It tied to the sale together and gave it a sense of momentum and excitement. No sale since has had anything of the sort, unfortunately. Maybe Valve will create another game for the next summer sale, but for now all we get is a dripfeed of comic pages.

Meanwhile, Valve recently did away with two longtime Steam sale traditions: daily deals and flash sales. The move was probably for the best in terms of making Steam sales more accessible and convenient, but it also took away some of the thrill, the Christmas-morning-like glee of “What’s gonna be under the tree today?” As a result of the aforementioned things, Steam sales have become less game-like (and, some would say, less manipulative), but also less fun.

I don’t 100 per cent know Valve’s intentions here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all of this is intentional. In the short term, creating this sort of “sale culture” — turning big seasonal sales into Steam’s ice sculpture swan or Gabe Newell knife chandelier, a centrepiece among centerpieces — makes good business sense, but it could be hurtful in the long run. The conversation around Steam has distinctly shifted toward, “A cool new game is out? Eh, I’ll just wait until it’s on sale” for all except the biggest new releases.

Sales have become this massive cloud of inevitability, silently hovering over every conversation. While they draw attention, they also put people who create games in a position to make less money if that’s how most people choose to buy their games. And of course, Valve loses out too. So it makes sense to shift away from that, and Valve seems to be doing so in a way that actually benefits its users for the most part (unless you’re purely in the market for games at dirt cheap prices, consequences be damned).

Don’t get me wrong: big Steam sales still come with a certain amount of excitement. It’s just a diet portion rather than the glorious feast of The Olden Years. In many ways, that’s for the better. Due to changes in the Steam sales’ structure, people don’t feel as pressured by limited time offers, their friends, and their old frenemy The Zeitgeist to buy, buy, buy (even if it’s stuff they will never get around to playing). On top of that, it’s easier for them to buy the stuff they want when they want to — not when some arbitrary clock says it’s finally time.

I do feel, though, that some kind of game-like event that doesn’t necessarily interlock with a sale but does coincide with it could be cool. Something to make Steam sales feel a bit more like a Big Occasion again — to recapture the feeling of fun, if not the same form. Or, you know, Valve could just let sales be sales. There are worse fates, after all, than getting a whole mess of Star Wars games for the price of a new Han Solo action figure, or The Witcher 3 for the amount you’d spend on a fancy beard grooming.

Illustration by Tara Jacoby.


  • Felt the same about the Sony PSN sales this Christmas. Most of the digital sales even 50% off are usually more than what I can find the physical game for. Nothing really of interest.

    • I grabbed witcher 3 and GTA V when they went up. That was it though. So sick of using discs but you’re right. They’re almost always cheaper.

      • The PSN has a deal at the moment where you can get two games for the price of one, except they’ve bumped up the prices of all eligible games to $70, many of these games weren’t even $70 on release and have been around the $40 mark for months (eg. TLoU). It’s still a deal, but not a very good one with a lot of trickery involved..

          • Not just uncool, it’s illegal in this country.



            Businesses should be particularly careful of the use of the word ‘free’. The idea of getting goods or services without charge can create keen interest in consumers. Consumers will usually think of ‘free’ as absolutely free – a justifiable expectation.

            Simply put, businesses may get into trouble with free offers if they do not reveal the complete truth, including any conditions that the consumer must comply with.

            Example: A business uses the phrase ’10 per cent free’ – meaning the price to the consumer is the same but they receive an additional ‘free’ volume of the product. If the price of the product has been increased this could be misleading, because the additional volume is not actually free.

            Example: A business makes a ‘buy one, get one free’ offer, but raises the price of the first item to largely cover the cost of the second (free) item. This is likely to be misleading or deceptive.

  • Thats cause everyone has now got everything.
    There is nothing new. I looked this morning and everything that I might want I already have….

    • Haha. I did the same thing. Went to EB and thought “what am I doing here??” and left. I have too many games.

  • Steam can’t do flash sales and daily deals anymore after they introduce the steam refund. People can abuse the refund system and refund the game they bought that was higher price before flash sales and buy it again during flash sales.

    Well majority people keep pushing valve for the refund thing so I guess you reap what you sow?

    • The refund should be based on the invoiced price not the current system price. Even without people exploiting the loophole it’d be an accounting nightmare to do it that way.

      [Edit; Sorry, I misread that.]

      • Maybe it should be the other way around.
        Then if you buy something for $10 and the price drops to $5 there would be no incentive to refund/rebuy.

        • Don’t know about other countries, but it’s illegal to do that in Australia. If you’re refunded a price for an item in Australia, it has to be the amount you paid initially.

  • Im glad the flash sales are over, im sick of camping the store every day to save a few $$

    Picked up;
    Life is strange 1-5
    Tombraider collection
    dying light.

    most were cheap, but once i hit the check out it hurt.
    No regrets (except for the 100GB worth of downloads)

  • Not a fan of having to click through 30+ games just to obtain the trading cards each day. Waste of time and they don’t inspire me to buy anything.

    • I don’t see it as inspiring you to buy so much as it is about just creating awareness. I wasn’t particularly inclined to buy the stuff in my queue, many being Early Access, but it did show me a few games I’ll be keeping my eye on.

      • Plus you get some cards you’ll be able to flog for about $0.10 each. Do it every day and you might score a free cheap game by the end.

  • Steam sales never really effected me. I’d buy any game I wanted when it launched or Torrent one I was curious but would never have bought it otherwise.

  • With my backlog I’m not really keen on buying much at the moment. I did the typical “got it….got it….finished it….sitting in the backlog ” mantra as soon as I logged into steam today.
    New years resolution? Finish most of what I have, start putting games into my wishlist for next years steam sale for the end of the year.

  • BigW is cheaper anyway on a lot of these titles, Fallout 4 is still $68 on PC, GTAV is sitting there at $38, and I already have more games than I have time to play anyway.

    • Yip, Target and BigW are keeping JB and EB honest at the moment. I trade-in my old games with EB and get them to price match the other stores (as they are usually RRP otherwise). Keeps my gaming costs down. You get none of those benefits from the PSN or Xbox stores that are running basically as a monopoly.

    • My local Big W doesn’t even stock PC games anymore. I went looking for Fallout 4 there as a gift, yeah nope. Likewise my local Kmart has basically stopped selling video games apart from that copy of some shitty 360 & PS3 game that no one ever wants.

  • Only reason to get excited about Steam sales these days is the prospect of other retailers also bringing their decent prices down to compete, such as G2play, G2A etc. Steam has ceased being the best price for games by far…

  • I’m not fussed one way or the other, but given there were a couple of games I missed out on with the November sale, I’ll get something in the next week or so.

  • I don’t take part in sales anymore; I used to use them to pick up games I was interested in but couldn’t afford to purchase at full price. Nowadays I don’t even have the time to check out games I’m interested in so my budget just focuses on the few that I genuinely know I can invest my time AND money into.

  • I’ve been running Idle Master when I watch internet TV in preparation for this sale, currently have $20 in credit. Not sure what to spend it on yet.

    Will probably get Her Story but that still leaves me with $16.

  • Steam Sales have been boring for a few years now. The mini-games were just gimmicks to encourage people to spend more and all the sales really boil down to is the time of year when you buy the titles you’ve been keeping in your wishlist until the sale happened. Once that’s over and done with there’s not really much more to do.

  • What they should do now is make sales a little more personal, the sale starts up and:

    – you get some sweet coupons to use how you wish (additive or bonus style) you know, to create real value beyond the now already tired % off sales.

    – games that have been in your Wishlist for X amount of time are now on offer to you for a real nice discount, wait no more!

    – special deals specifically on DLC for games you already own. I never see specials advertised for these things.

    – will whip customers up into a buying frenzy without forcing them to check in each day for daily and flash sales.

    – customers will be much less likely to refund on a special price ‘only for you’

  • Steam Flash Sales and Daily Deals had to be abolished to fit in with Steam’s new refund policy. Having prices fluctuate mid sale opened consumers up to buying a game and then refunding it when a better price came up, and made things complicated for Steam. Ironically, the refund policy was implemented to fall in line with Australia’s (and several other country’s) fair trade legislation. But yeah, I agree, Steam sales are more boring because of all this. Also, I don’t know if I’m imagining it, but some of the discounts don’t seem as big as they were a few years ago. Or maybe I’m just more aware of the crazy AUD to USD exchange rate. X.x

  • I honestly think the new approach to sales will lessen the overall amount people buy. Having a measly day to decide whether to buy a heavily discounted game before the time ran out caused me to buy many a game that I otherwise would not have touched.

    Now that everything is up at once, there’s no sense of urgency, and seeing all the other games in their discounted state makes it hard to justify getting a certain game when there are others available that you might desire more. Whereas before, you might buy a game that you liked simply because you weren’t sure if ones you want more would pop up later or not.

    I want the old system back.

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