You Aren’t Wrong: The Steam Summer Sale Sucks Now

You Aren’t Wrong: The Steam Summer Sale Sucks Now

The Steam Summer Sale doesn’t feel like it hits the way it used to.

The Summer Sale used to be one of only a few sales that Steam would run across the entire year. Players would save their pennies and wait for the Summer Sale because it always offered huge discounts on major titles. Yesterday, Reddit users expressed frustration with the current shape of the Steam Summer Sale. Their gripe is that the significant discounts they expected have not materialised.

The post drew over 31,000 upvotes and a load of comments expressing agreement. A primary complaint is that desirable titles were only discounted by 20% to 50%. Steam users don’t consider these amounts different enough from Valve’s now-regular monthly sales to warrant paying attention to them. Where did all the 75%, 80%, and 90% discounts go? What happened to the deep discounts that made the Steam Summer Sale such an anticipated event?

For what it’s worth, Valve has a Featured Deep Discounts box out on the Steam Store page. There are some solid discounts in that section, but they’re all three years old or older. Disco Elysium: The Final Cut is 90% off, down to $5.69. Frost Punk is also 90% off, down to $4.39. Jurassic World Evolution 2, was $85, now $8.45. But the list is relatively short, a far cry from the days of loading up 12 months’ worth of new releases for dirt cheap.

Even the excitement has dwindled, commenters say. Because Steam no longer runs strictly timed flash sales, there’s no chance of any surprise discounts. The contents of the sale are set in stone. You can inspect the whole thing on day one, and there’s no reason to return if nothing takes your fancy.

Why would the publishers do this?

As far as Steam is concerned, it’s ultimately on the publishers to discount their wares. There are, of course, many reasons a major publisher might not be interested in offering deep discounts. One reason we’ve already mentioned is that Steam now runs regular monthly sales. Discounts are a way for publishers to drive further sales at the cost of reduced revenue. With so many Steam sales on the go each month, it’s conceivable the willingness to offer larger discounts is limited. Essentially, you can have it one of two ways: fewer sale periods with deeper discounts or more regular sales with lighter discounts. Steam, which once favoured the former, has long since chosen the latter.

Then there’s the cost of doing business. It’s harder and more expensive to make video games than ever in 2024. The expenses that must be recouped on any major launch are eyewatering, and any major discount can slow the long march to profitability. And that’s before you take platform fees into account; Valve famously takes an aggressive 30% cut of every transaction on the Steam Store — which includes discounted transactions. Add all of these factors up and it suddenly becomes pretty clear where all the discounts went.

One important thing to remember in all of this: there are plenty of smaller publishers and developers that do slash their prices by huge amounts when the sales roll around. But because these games are smaller and don’t stir the blood the way “Cyberpunk 2077 now 85% off” does, they don’t seem to factor into the thinking very often. They should! There are loads of better, more interesting games you could be playing right now that don’t come from major publishers, and you can easily walk away with a stack of them for under fifty bucks. There’s a larger conversation to be had about what constitutes ‘value’ when it comes to a sale like this, and perhaps it’s time we started having it.

If you’re a game developer reading this story, I’d love to hear from you. My email’s in the thing at the bottom of this yarn, or you can get in the comments. Tell us about your experiences of discounting your games during major Steam sales. Shed some light on the topic.

The rest of you, remember the good times. Remember the carts full of Steam Summer Sale games added in a breathless rush. The gathering around work computers to see what would pop in the next flash sale. The memes. The anticipation.

Like the Steam Summer Sale itself, nothing lasts forever.

Image: Valve, Kotaku Australia

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