Seasonal Steam sales haven’t been the same since Valve did away with flashes and dailies. Some publishers might change their prices during the sale, but for the most part what you see now is what you’re going to get until Jan 2nd.
Being in dire financial straits, I was hoping to make my $8 on Steam count for something during the winter sale. I wanted Rimworld or Stranger of Sword City to be heavily discounted, or to pick up a few of my top wishlist prospects that were on the older side of the spectrum. Neither wish came to pass. Stranger of Sword City still costs more than I’d pay even if I could afford it and Rimworld wasn’t discounted at all! (Hell, I might’ve squeezed a few pennies together to make the difference if it at least dropped 50%!)
Verdict – Meh to Pretty Poor
If you’re new to Steam seasonal sales then I’m sure you’re happy with this year’s Winter Sale but, as someone who’s seen more than a few of these, this year’s final sale is pretty lackluster. Most of the games the majority of gamers might care about are only discounted by 50% or less.
Hotly discussed and sought-after titles like Rimworld and Icey aren’t discounted at all. Some of the better PC games of the year, like Hyper Light Drifter and Stardew Valley only received a 40% and 33% discount respectively. Even ancient titles like Beyond Good & Evil and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind only received a 50% discount.
Is this because Steam is feeling the financial pressure from grey market sites like Kinguin and G2A? Despite Gamestop’s bemoaning of AAA sales this year, the games industry as a whole continues to generate more revenue each year. (It’s about to surpass $100 billion.) You’d think Steam could afford deeper discounts each year, not constant cutbacks. Hell, the Humble Store is giving away Grid for free right now! (Update: The free steam key of Grid is no longer available.)
Steam Seasonal Sale Basics
That being said, Steam’s 2016 Winter Sale isn’t worthless. There are still plenty of games worth getting depending on your tastes and current predicament. While I intend to comb through multiple genres and highlight deals in separate articles later, let’s cover some of the Steam seasonal sale basics to ensure you get the deals that are best for you.
- 75% Off or More is Ideal
To a Steam newbie 50% off on a title seems like a great deal, especially if you used to be a console gamer enslaved to Gamestop’s whims. Only getting half off on PC is for suckers and people with something called “disposable income”. For broke gamers and the financially shrewd, the general rule of thumb is to wait until you find the game 75% off or more.
Of course, this rule also changes on a case-by-case basis. Indie titles that are reasonably priced, like Stardew Valley and Icey, aren’t likely going to be so heavily discounted because they’re already relatively cheap. Popular titles that were also recently released won’t be discounted much, if at all, for quite some time. (Hence why Icey wasn’t discounted at all.) In these cases, 40 – 50% off would be a really good deal.
- Get Your Free Steam Trading Cards
Did you know you can get game discounts by completing Steam badges? Every day you can collect three free Steam trading cards – two for going through your queue and one for voting on Steam Awards. These cards can help you buy games in one of two ways.
- You can collect the cards and complete The Steam Awards badge to get game discounts, sellable Steam emotes and wallpapers.
- You can sell the cards and make some Steam credit to use towards games.
Right now each card sells for $0.10 or more, but throughout the sale you’ll probably average $0.07 per card. That works out to roughly $2.30 in cards over the course of the sale, which take only a couple minutes to obtain and sell. Although completing the badge and getting a random discount would probably save you more money overall.
The point is it’s free money either way.
- Check Your Wishlist Often
Steam’s wishlist is one of its best features. It’s an easy way to keep an organized list of the games you want, and you’ll even get email notifications whenever a game on your wishlist goes on sale. The system’s known for dropping the ball though, so it’s best to check on your wishlist daily. This is doubly important during a seasonal sale because sometimes publishers adjust their prices, creating their own flash sales of sorts. It’s rare, but it does happen, and checking your wishlist is the best way not to miss out.
I hope the sale works out better for you than it has for me. (I’ll have you in my library eventually Rimworld!) While Steam sales have undoubtedly been getting worse, they’re still a great time to pick up games you either missed out on or didn’t want to pay full price for. Just remember to check other outlets, like the Humble Store, to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck.
Good luck and happy hunting.