Steam Summer Sale Psychology

Every year the Steam Summer Sale brings in to question a handful of troubling ideas:

  • Do I want to spend money on a bunch of games I might not play simply because I like to buy games on sale?
  • Why do I ever pay full price for a PC game?
  • What type of games do I really enjoy?

The first one is something I know many of you share. I think we can all identify with buying several games during a Steam Sale thinking, “aw heck yeah I’m going to play this one finally!” … then we never even remember we bought it.  Happens to me every year.  Not this time!  Not 2014! This year I proudly declared:


That lasted until 20 minutes after the sale began.

I bought Game Dev Tycoon and Don’t Starve + DLC 2 pack (me and Graev).  But that’s it! I swear! I’m not spending … who am I kidding?

Game Dev Tycoon seems pretty fun so far.  I’m currently in the 3rd building you can get with about 5 million in cash.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong because sometimes I’ll make a game and get a great review, but I make it again (not twice in a row) and critics hate the game.  I think this whole experience is some kind of message from an indie dev studio on the state of the gaming industry.  It’s like one big documentary on the sad state of affairs.  Regardless, it’s addicting and I find myself wanting to start over with the hoe that I do better each time.  I’m still proud of making WarCraft 2 in my garage and making 2 million on it.

Don’t Starve has to be one of my favorite types of games ever.  I can’t believe I went this long without playing.  It’s like Island Troll Tribes, the custom map from WarCraft 3.  I love these survival games! Something about getting wood to make a fire and having to eat before you die; So pure.  Add the depth that Don’t Starve has and suddenly this is a game I can lose hours to in tiny sittings.  Graev and I are REALLY looking forward to ‘Don’t Starve Together’ which is the co-op experience coming this summer free to those who own the game.

The second point is just life.  Things drop in price.  Understanding that point doesn’t make it any less bitter.

The third point is really what brought me to the blog this evening.  I think I have more ‘fun’ playing little games in bursts.  Games like Don’t Starve, Game Dev Tycoon, etc., are starting to be more fun than these massive games like MMOs.  That’s not because I’m changing, etc., etc.  turning into a filthy casual blah blah.  I truly believe game developers are forgetting what it means to make fun games.  It’s not just MMOs either.  A lot of “AAA” games just aren’t fun.  They aren’t games.  They feel more like “projects” or “work.”  Some also like to hide the fun and make the player hunt for it or wait until later.  HORRIBLE IDEA! I should be having fun the second I boot up the game or else I already have one foot out the door.

  • Day 3 and still the only thing I have pulled the trigger on is Divinity Original Sin. I was going to pick it up anyway after release so it was great timing. Pretty interesting game though I honestly am still getting comfortable with it and its AP based combat system. I do not want to spend much time with it since it is still about a week from launch and I want to start fresh without having experienced the story.

    Keep an eye out for Marvel Heroes packs to hit daily or flash sales. They are currently on a 50% discount but always a chance they could hit a little lower.

  • Some Don’t Starve Advice:

    Set up your base-camp near a bunch of rabbit holes and one of the pig villages. Then build a bunch of the meat racks to hang rabbit morsels and pig meat on. You can use the meat on multiple racks to make surviving winter much easier. Jerky doesn’t decay quickly.

    Oh, and don’t shave wilson’s beard. It helps with the cold in the winter.

  • I think one thing game sales and free-to-play games have done is made me very intolerant of grindy timesinks, where you’re not having actual fun in the moment but doing it as a chore to enable something else ‘in the future,’ whose real purpose is simply to extend the length of time you continue to be hooked and subscribed to a game.

    (Weirdly enough, some people think that this investment of time equates to “effort” and that you have “earned” the reward at the end as a result. I personally kind of prefer getting smarter and better at mastering the game’s tactics and strategies to “earn” a victory.)

    When one can get a complete, polished game experience for $5 or less, one cannot help but start to cross-compare things and think about value-for-money. It’s, after all, always a toss-up between “shall I spend my time playing this game, or that game? Which am I having more fun with?”

    P.S. Don’t Starve is awesome. I caved in and got the Reign of Giants DLC for the same discount it was going for, when it first released. Going to try and work on finishing an XCOM campaign before losing all my time to navigating extra seasons in Don’t Starve though.

  • I find this whole “Steam Sale” thing utterly mystifying. Far from feeling compelled to buy things just because they are “cheap” I don’t even feel compelled (or even curious) to look at them even to see how cheap they are.

    Part of that is that I’m just not a “Gamer” in the way a lot of other bloggers and commenters seem to define themselves: I have played video games for over 35 years, yes, but it’s something I do, not something I am. A much bigger part, though, is that, while I love a bargain, I define a bargain precisely as “Something I would be buy now at full price but that I’ve been lucky enough to find at less than that”.

    Yes, there is a scale. There are some things I might buy at $20 that I wouldn’t buy at $40. That just means I think they are overpriced in the first place, though, and I have a certain resistance to being ripped off. In the main, I know immediately if I want something and I am happy to pay the going rate to get it.

    That’s rarely a problem because there are very few things that I actually want and nowadays most of the things I do want come free. And anyway, even if I did buy all these bargains, when would I ever find the time to consume/use/enjoy them? If Steam sold extra hours in the day so I could get to the stuff I already have but don’t have time to enjoy, then I’d be interested!

  • Point #3 A+.

    I’ve decided it’s pointless to try to figure out what types of games I like to play. A couple of times a year the Steam Sale lets me play scratch off tickets with what came out. 1 out of 10 is a winner.

  • I have almost 400 games on Steam now (thank you humble bundle!). On the one hand I’ll never have time to play them all in depth. On the other hand, every 5-10 games there is a gem that I enjoy immensely which I would never have thought to purchase without a sale or bundle.

    I actually prefer “bit size” gaming now. There are very few games that pull off longevity without padding the experience with dull, uninteresting “gameplay” loops. A lot of games go open world to add 20 hours of boring crap when they would have been better off having a focused 10 hour experience ( watchdogs and the newer batman games are recent offenders).

    The cheap indie games usually offer a focused experience with a tight gameplay loop that you can finish in under 10 hours. They usually allow you to play more if you enjoy that particular loop.

  • I really enjoyed playing Don’t Starve. I have 141 hours on the vanilla version. I have however avoided buying the DLC because a number of the new mechanics don’t appeal to me and my base building habits. So far as advice I would second the idea to build your camp among a bunch of rabbit holes, and establish a pig village nearby as soon as possible. I would add though that you should avoid setting up camp too close to Beefalo, they tend to wander and you really don’t want an in heat herd stampeding your camp.

  • I add all games to my wishlist I have an interest in.
    Those that pass on daily flash or community sales I look at the price.

    But!! i also first check the forums to see if there are any annoying bugs or balance issues.
    Yes? Ill get it next winter sale, when its cheaper and fixed by then.

    I’ve turned down quite some games already during the current steam sales.
    I need to be sure I get an experience without things that annoy me later on.

    So what did I buy thus far? Only king’s bounty dark side. (early access, no game breaking or annoying bugs)
    Played all parts in the king’s bounty series, so yeah good buy.

    Still I am feeling that steam sales craving… NEED MOREE

  • Oh and here is some nice advice I read somewhere else.

    Buy games as a gift and keep it in your inventory until you actually decide to play it.
    Changed your mind and think your not gonna play it at all?

    Instead of a wasted game you can now gift it to a friend or sell it,

  • So far…

    …Witcher 2.
    …Dawn of Fantasy: Kingdom Wars.
    …Seven Days to Die.
    …Project Zomboid.
    …The Walking Dead Season 2.
    …Borderlands 2 Game of the Year.
    …Planetary Annihilation Early Access.

  • As a sign that I still haven’t played most of the games I bought from the winter sale, I have unexpectedly received the “You already own…” message 3 times. 😉

  • I bought Skyrim: Legendary Edition for 10 euro :). In my opinion, this is the way to fight pirate games. If prices of games were at 5-10 euro, no one would bother to pirate/crack games…While I understand that it costs lot of money to make a game, from the other hand the digital product you sell has very little to non cost. And if they manage to sell x3 than what they sell now, they will still make profit.

    As I see it now, is like: We will sell 50-70 euro/dollar to the impatient/hyped people and then after some time we will give it away in a normal/low price. I will never spend more than 10-15 euro for a single player game.

  • Game Dev Tycoon is a fantastic idea and had a lot of promise behind it, but the underlying math kills it. The reason you’re getting average scores and reviews is because you’re a victim of your own success. In order to put out a hit, you have to exceed your previous “points” from your last hit by a certain percentage. So if you get a great game going that is made with a massive amount of dev points, until you exceed that again by a certain amount, you’re stuck making mediocre games. In order to game the system and continue earning high reviews, you have to throttle the points you earn in development (across both types of points) to only barely exceed your last game or you set the bar too high for yourself on your next few games. It kills the fun of the experience when I just wanted to make fun genre combinations, experiment with things, and have that nervous excitement every time the review scores start coming in. Getting that perfect 10 was awesome the first time it happened, knowing that I can hamstring myself for the next couple games because the stars aligned perfectly for a hit though is a downer.