The following video game article is provided by our cousin site (twice removed and remarried!), True Game Truths. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Atomic Moo, even though they should.
It happens every year. A few times a year, in fact. The Mighty Lord Gaben rises from the Orange Throne and bestows upon us the gift of Savings.
Steam Sales are frequent and legendary, but none more so than the Big Two: the Summer Sale and the Winter Sale. During these celebrated, highly-anticipated periods, more than two thousand (and counting) games are priced to move. It’s easy to lose your head and go overboard, but luckily for you, your friends at True Game Truths are here to help. Many of you already know how to, but for those who don’t, here is HOW TO STEAM SALES.
Other download services pretend that saving 20% is some kind of killer deal. Far from it! On Steam, 25% off is not a deal. 33% off is not a deal. 50% off is not a deal. If you didn’t buy it for at least 75% off, you’re doing it wrong. Keep that in mind as a general Steam rule. (There are some exceptions, such as if you’re buying a gift for a friend.)
With that general rule out of the way, let’s look at the anatomy of Steam Sales. In this case study, we are focusing on the Steam Holiday Sale 2013, the annual winter sale, one of the Big Two.
During the two weeks of the Sale, more than 2000 games are discounted, but there are different categories of sales. Daily Deals are at the top of Steam’s front page. As the name implies, these offers change every 24 hours. Generally speaking, Daily Deals are hefty discounts (75% off or more) and/or big-name titles, but not always. Just because it’s a Daily Deal does not mean you’re getting a good deal. The previous day’s Daily Deals appear lower on the front page as “Yesterday’s Big Deals.” Flash Sales are presented below Daily Deals and offer four different offers which change every 8 hours. Community’s Choice sales are on the front page, below the Flash Sales. Steam users vote for which of three game sales they would like to see happen, and, during the 2013 Winter sale, you get a Trading Card for every three votes you make. More on Trading Cards later.
For the purposes of this guide, Daily Deals, Flash Sales, and Community’s Choices will be collectively referred to as Front Page Deals.
Base Sale Prices are the prices of games that are not currently on sale, but are not Front Page Deals. Their Base Sale Price is lower than their regular price, but not nearly as low as they would be if they were on the front page. Now onto the meat of this guide: survival. Again, apologies if any/all of this sounds obvious.
- Set a budget. It’s all too easy to overspend during Steam Sales. So, set a limit for yourself and stay within in. Don’t use buying gifts for friends as an excuse to go overboard.
- Are you really going to play it? You’re probably playing a game or five right now, and have a sizable backlog. If you buy a game right now, are you going to install it and play it within the next few weeks? Or will it sit in your Steam library until the Summer Sale, when it’ll be available for 75% off again? If you don’t plan on playing it now-ish, don’t buy it.
- WAIT! Are you dead-set on buying a particular game? During the two-week event, that game you want will have many chances to appear as a front page deal. And if it doesn’t, you can get it on the last day of the Sale, when it’ll still be available for its base sale price. Of course, if you don’t need it right-smegging-now, it’ll be cheaper than its base sale price eventually, as you’ll see below.
- Don’t worry if you miss it. Publisher Weeks. Midweek Madness. Free Weekends. Seasonal sales. Sales on Steam are frequent, so if you missed buying the game you want for 75% off, don’t worry. It’ll be 75% off later on in the year. Just keep checking Steam and be patient.
- Don’t buy stuff just to get Trading Cards. During the Holiday Sale 2013, you can get Steam digital Trading Cards whenever you vote three times on the Community’s Choice poll and every time you spend at least $10 during the sale. The Trading Cards can be used to craft Steam Badges and some in-game items. Do not buy games just to get Steam Trading Cards and Badges. If you really, really must get that Card, drop the dollar it takes to get one on the Marketplace, rather than $10 on a game you don’t really want, and probably won’t play.
- Praise Gaben. Gaben is Love. Gaben is Life.
So, basically, in a single run-on sentence, here’s how to Steam Sales: Buy a game you intend to play in the near future if it is at least 75% off as a Daily Deal, Flash Sale, or Community’s Choice; otherwise keep waiting until it is inevitably is 75% off when you are actually going to play it. Remember, you’re not buying games. You’re paying for non-tangible non-transferrable non-returnable non-exchangeable licenses to access games’ data, with DRM, while agreeing that the terms of the aforementioned licenses are subject to change. You wouldn’t pay full retail price for that, but when you’re only dropping five bucks, that pill’s easier to swallow.