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Latest Steam sale sees devs slashing prices remarkably deep
Latest Steam sale sees devs slashing prices remarkably deep
June 19, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

Valve initiated its latest Steam Summer Sale today, and a cursory glance at the Steam Database list of discounted games suggests that developers are slapping discounts of 80 percent or more on roughly 175 titles.

That number is closer to 250 if you count DLC, and includes recent releases -- the first episode of Steam Greenlit horror game Coma: Mortuary is being sold for a tenth of its full price, for example, despite only being released last month.

Developers, take note: for better or worse, the number of games being sold at a deep discount and the rate they're discounted at seem to be increasing as the digital games market grows accustomed to regular sales.

Selling your games at a steep discount during these events can certainly jumpstart your sales numbers -- Polytron famously sold more copies of Fez during 48 hours on a Steam summer sale than in a whole month on XBLA -- but it might also contribute to a subtle devaluation of games as a whole.

Castle Doctrine developer Jason Rohrer wrote at length recently about why he believes selling games on a digital marketplace at a deep discount is bad for your players -- and ultimately harmful to the industry at large -- as more and more people become accustomed to waiting for games to go on sale, constricting the initial playerbase and the developer's ability to quickly recoup costs.

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SD Marlow
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Yep, "Priced to Sell" has been replaced with "Priced to Sale." I do think a lot of dev's miss the whole point of being in on the sales.. it isn't the lower (and lower) price point that matters, but the discoverability that comes from taking part. Also, people buying at close to full price are more likely to play the game and talk about it, while those getting it for chump change might never play it, which means zero word of mouth.

Nathan Mates
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"while those getting it for chump change might never play it, which means zero word of mouth."

[Citation needed]

Alan Barton
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I would guess its a reference to this...

John Flush
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I know I'm not the statistical norm or anything, but my steam account is interesting to look at and wonder how many more people look like mine.

I own 102 games are a part of it right now (this doesn't include games that I have purchased through or other retailers for PC)

I have actively played, using Steam exclusively:
48 Games total (47%)

Of those 48 games I have actually played
18 (under 1 hour)
13 (for 1-4 hours)
17 (for more than 4 hours)

Additional stats that I find interesting:
28 of those games I own multiple copies of (either on another service (such as or console) or duplicate copies in steam itself to give as gifts.

I wouldn't classify myself as a PC gamer, but I do like the fact steam puts stuff in one 'store' that when I don't know what to play I can browse through and I don't have to worry about having them all installed and such - which is another reason I own a steam copy even if I played the game more somewhere else.

That means 53% of the games I bought I shouldn't have, but I got them on the cheap or in bundles for more than I would have paid if I would have waited to play it in the first place.

Every game I own multiple copies of I actively talk about how much I like them, such as XCOM, the Thief series, Y's, Portals (1 and 2), Solar, Mark of the Ninja, KOTOR, etc.

Those that I didn't like or play much I only recall giving one instance of actively "hating it" verbally or online (Dear Ester).

It would be interesting to see what others Steam Libraries are like...

Nathan Mates
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That stat of 37% games have never been played is somewhat suspect: if you click through to the addendum to that Ars Technica piece, i.e.
-questions-and-concerns/ , they say that their sampling does NOT count any/all games played before March 2009. I would suspect I have a number of games that would be a false positive as "never played" simply because I've not launched since that date.

The citation needed is in reference to the statement that lower/sale prices correlates with never playing a game. That is where I would like to see the study and methodology behind that belief.

Maria Jayne
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@Nathan I would definitely agree that before March 2009 I played many games on Steam. By that point I'd had Steam for 4 years.

It's also worth noting that Steam is a much more convenient place to keep old games in storage. I've purchased about 20 old games on sale I have already played, loved and finished although never installed on Steam. I buy them so I can get rid of the physical media or simply so that I know they are in my collection should I want to play them again one day.

I also keep all the games I haven't played in my favorites section and gradually work through them during the year. Last year I had about 11 games in my favorites and now I'm down to 1, just in time for another sale.

Jennis Kartens
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Mhm so far it doesn't seem to be that different from any other sale.

Given that now the "competition" (price battle wise) has grown pretty strong (not to mention that a lot of people I know, almost everybody even, are getting their games on key stores at release) and there are sales on an almost daily basis, this years summer sale seems less spectacular as the topic claims.

I think it also should be taken into account, how old the games are that are on sale and where they come from. I mean Divinity is still almost at "full price" with 32 and games like DmC are comparable old.

John Flush
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In my own experience I do wait for the deep discounts to buy many of the games, I don't think it is because of a devaluation of games in general, but rather I'm not paying full price for something I don't want right now and can't wait. Most of the time the game drops off my radar and I forget I ever even wanted it until it shows up on these sales again.

I buy about 3-5 full priced games a year. This number has gone down over the years simply because the amount of games I need 'right now' don't come out very much. Franchises have been killed, or migrated to new genre types of bland 'AAA' land, or simply don't impress me much anymore. I buy a lot though on sale simply to try them out or join in later - I never bother joining in with Multiplayer based games though at a discount though as they are usually dead pretty fast after release except for CoD.

So with this whole Steam thing. Steam and Steam sales aren't devaluing the craft, it is only giving you one last chance to sell a copy, any copy, to anyone that will give you 20% of the original asking price. Take it and run...

Things that are killing killing the industry though:

The move from retail to digital has helped hurt it. Buying a game and getting it is no longer an experience. There is no manual to flip, the games are self training so who needs a manual. Storyline or backstory, we don't need a manual for that, internal codex or better... comic book spin-offs!

When everything went digital consumers all realized they aren't really getting anything but copied bits. Which are "free" to copy. Consumers are also stupid though because they don't realize that copying those bits for next to nothing is how you offset of making all those bits in the first place. But still, people were cool with paying $20 for old games because you still got a case and a manual... if you could even find the game anymore so if you mildly interested you better get it before retail stops stocking it. The internet retailers and digital killed that.

That's okay, we stopped all that second hand sale stuff and piracy. It was worth it.

Mobile also hasn't helped either. Consumers can get all the simple 'no interface / investment' games for free... They aren't going to pay you anymore anyhow. I say if you have one of those games and can get $1.00 during a steam sale it is worth it.

Steam sales serve their purpose. Get people to buy your game that have probably moved on and don't care about it anymore. Of course if that isn't your purpose you should probably not put your game on sale. Good luck with competing with those that will.

Somehow Nintendo to this day is the only one that can get away will selling a game for full price multiple years into release. If we can figure out how to bottle that magic then maybe we can push back.

Karl Schmidt
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I consistently see full-price titles on the "top sellers" list that are >= $40 USD. Without knowing how many people 'wait for extreme sales' instead of buying at full price, it's impossible to say whether this is a real problem or not. My opinion is that there are probably not that many people who fit in that category - if they really want a game right away, they will pay what is required to get it. When a sale goes on, then you are simply able to access more of your audience than before.. you get new customers to pay for a cheaper price, rather than not buying your game at all, ever.

On mobile we've seen a 'race to the bottom', but these are for normal, not-time-limited prices. This hasn't happened to Steam - it's not full of $1 - free titles.

Dane MacMahon
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High quality games still sell for full price for long periods of time. Recently Wolfenstein was in the top spot for 2 or more weeks straight, at $60. Skyrim was the number one seller at $60 for literally months. If a publisher wants to make something from nothing with a $5 sale four years after release no one can begrudge them that. This (along with other factors) makes Steam a tough market for mediocre games that cost a lot, yes. Solution: make good games people want to pay for.

I doubt the developers of The Forest are complaining about Steam sale prices right now.

Guillermo Aguilera
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Steam kill my childhood, before I liked the smell from the plastic cases, but now I only buy games with 75% discount, some of this games I dont play in months, yes sometimes I feel bad buy is soo cheap. Probably I dont play the new wolfestin until get 75%, probably on the new year sales of 2015. I do some exception with indie games but never to the full prices.

Isaac Knowles
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This might be picking nits, but its important to distinguish between devaluation of games on the one hand and the falling level of their offer prices on the other. If, through their uncoordinated actions, developers and publishers are competing on prices more and more, then those prices will fall. That doesn't mean consumers like games any less.

I also question the extent to which major, regular sales like the Steam summer sale are responsible for a falling prce trend (if indeed there is one). This is like saying that clothing retailers that have Black Friday sales are driving down prices all year round, which is probably not true. More likely is that Black Friday sales are allowing consumers to select themselves into more and less price/time sensitive groups. Those who are patient or are very sensitive to price (and don't mind crowds) will wait til the day after Thanksgiving to buy gifts (for themselves or for others). Those who can't wait, aren't price sensitive, or hate crowds will pay the higher price. I suspect the Steam summer sales serve roughly the same function.

Kyle Redd
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The two games the author chose to illustrate his point are poorly chosen. The Witcher 2 has been in at least one Humble Bundle so far, as well as several very deep discounts on both GOG and Steam before now. Not to mention that it is also a 3-year old game.

DMC is a more recent game (about a year and a half old), but it was given away for free to Playstation Plus subscribers several months ago. More importantly, it is 75% off of the retail price of $50, which is $20 more than the current retail price of both the PS3 and 360 versions. Very, very few AAA games have kept their launch price for this long.

Daniel Gutierrez
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Is anyone else really confused why pre-release/alpha games are discounting at 80%? That doesn't seem like sound business strategy to me...