Published on July 12th, 2013 | by Donnie McLohon0
First: The One Where I Break Open the Piggy Bank
As a PC gamer, my credentials are pretty poor. Save for a two-year, on-again-off-again relationship with World of Warcraft, the only previous experience I’ve had with PC games was playing Backyard Baseball as a kid. In high school, I played consoles almost exclusively, and never gave much thought to PC gaming after I was through with WoW. That all changed nine months ago, however, when I bought a custom-built PC, goaded on by my friends who had already been PC gaming for years.
Of course, the words “Steam” and “PC” are usually always mentioned in the same breath. When I first heard about Steam, it was because of the Steam Summer Sale. A couple of years ago, before I had my custom rig, a friend of mine who had just built his own PC was lecturing me on the benefits (and superiority, in his opinion) of PC gaming, trying to proselytize me into the ranks of the PC elite. A subject that came up again and again was how cheap games can be on PC, particularly on Steam. He spoke in reverent tones as he recited his purchases for that day, intoning a list of games with steady, religious fervor.
The name “Gaben” was mentioned several times. In total, he claimed to have bought six or seven games for under $30, and I had to admit I was impressed. Over the years, similar instances have occurred during each Summer Sale, and I became increasingly jealous as a result. Now that I finally have a viable gaming computer at my disposal and I’ve become more familiar with PC gaming and the Steam community, my expectations were high for this year’s Summer Sale.
The first day was no disappointment. Savings ranged from 30-75% off on titles large and small, from indie games like Don’t Starve and Bastion to huge titles like Bioshock: Infinite and Skyrim. Steam’s system of daily deals, revolving flash sales, and community voting ensure that consumers are involved in the sale from start to finish. It’s an ingenious psychological tactic, as the way the sale is organized leaves the consumer with the slightest bit of doubt. Games that are on sale one day could show up again for less the next day if they’re included in the coveted daily deal slot.
As I browsed the vast selection of reduced games, my index finger straining to remain upraised, I grappled mentally with questions I’m sure most Steam users have faced: do I buy now and play the games I want, or wait to see if they’ll be cheaper later in the sale? What if I wait and the price actually goes up? How can I possibly afford all these games? What are my chances of successfully robbing a bank? I’m not a money-minded person, but watching and debating on what games will rise or fall in price is the closest I’ve come to trading on the stock market.
However, as a newcomer to Steam without the undying love to Gaben and all things Valve that could potentially distort a healthy perspective on life, I have to admit that the Steam Summer Sale is no longer the pinnacle of PC gaming and digital distribution. Amazon, with its Gold Box Deals and recently launched Indie Games store , has provided some amazing deals on PC downloads as well as console titles. Green Man Gaming just had an enormous sale featuring prices that matched or rivaled ones found on the Steam Summer Sale. GOG has also proven to be a reliable source of cheap, fantastic games, many of which aren’t found on Steam. Even the console market has realized that people don’t want to pay full price for digital titles: Microsoft and Sony are having summer sales of their own, with some truly impressive discounts on major titles. Although Steam certainly pioneered the method of selling games digitally, recent innovations by competitors has significantly closed the gap between them.
But I wouldn’t say Steam is an old dog that can’t learn new tricks. The newly-launched Trading Card system is yet another way to interact within the Steam community, and adds a new layer of meta-game in addition to achievements. Hunting for these trading cards and crafting badges is a nice incentive to empty your wallet, as the sale itself has its own trading cards that you receive for simply buying games, crafting badges, or voting for the community-chosen sales. It seems that Valve wants to keep consumers invested in the Steam community, and these trading cards are a significant way to provide them with something they can’t find at competing websites, retailers, and services.
So as I sit and gawk helplessly at all these amazingly priced games, I try to retain a solid dose of realism. I know I can’t buy and play everything, and I’m aware that I still have a hefty backlog of games, some of which I’ve bought from competing sales. Something about the mythos of the Summer Sale has me transfixed, however, and I’m waiting for something truly spectacular—a real wild-card of a sale—to come out and overwhelm me. I’m not ready to empty my wallet just yet, but I have a feeling that over the next ten days it’ll be a constant struggle not to do so.