Monday, July 16, 2012

Surviving the Steam Summer Sale

Way back when I started this blog, one of my first articles with any significant content was talking about how great Steam is for unemployed gamers. You don't have much money, but man, have you got some free time. Even looking for a job as hard as you can, there's still more time for gaming than the average working person has, and sales, especially of the deep price cut variety, can help with the "not a whole lot of disposable income" end of the equation. As a veteran now of Steam Sales, I can share my learned strategies and talk a little about my purchases this sale week, and how they revisit both the Piracy and the DRM issues.

I've never been so excited about online shopping before. Twice a year, this is actually a legit event.
 I sometimes spend more time shopping for games during this than I do playing them.

Steam Sale Strategy Guide:.

1. Be patient.  Whatever the game you want is, it is probably on sale starting the first day of the sale. However, that first-day price might not be the lowest it'll go for the duration of the sale. In general, until the sale is over, you should wait until whatever you want is a featured item, whether that means the Daily Deal or, this Summer, the Flash Deal.  The Daily/Flash deal price is the lowest it'll go during the sale, and if it is never a featured item, you can still buy it at the normal sale price on the last day of the sale. Patience is rewarded.

2. Participate in the activities when you can. Whether you are completing achievements for tickets or presents, working on a Badge, or voting on the next Community Choice Sale, in general, there is some level of reward for the customer in being a part of the event. It is a simple deal, Valve wants you to be tempted as often as possible by looking at the store, so you are rewarded for doing so. Effective on all counts.

3. Watch for DRM, and decide if the deal is worth the hassle. Even though Steam itself is effectively an anti-piracy scheme, some publishers just won't let their own measures go.  SecuROM, Games for Windows Live, both... personally, if the game is good enough and the price is low enough, I'll deal with it, but be aware before you buy.

4. Check Package Deals and Individual Game Prices. Always. Sometimes, even when a game is on Daily Deal, buying it as part of a package saves money, or for a small amount more gets more games or DLC (Downloadable Content) by the publisher. Conversely, sometimes the package is featured, and you only want one item from it, but while the package is on special, each item within it is also cheaper.

My haul from this year was pretty good. I bought a lot in the first few days, as almost everything I really wanted on Steam was a featured item very early in the sale. I bought the Arkham City complete pack (Arkham Asylum GOTY, Arkham City + all DLC and Gotham City Impostors,) The digital deluxe editions of both the Witcher 1 and 2, Back to the Future by Telltale Games, and Crusader Kings 2. With this, I got  a little bit of everything I enjoy in terms of genre, and picked up games I'd rented or even pirated in the past with additional content.  Not only did Steam get me to virtually stop pirating games, but even the little piracy I've done in the last few years, I've evened the accounts at least in my own conscience by purchasing the titles in question.

I started playing this when I got it, and 10 hours vanished. Politics, assassinations,
birth and death and succession and war... and there is a Game of Thrones total conversion mod.

What is interesting to me is that all the intrusive DRM didn't stop me from getting a pirated copy of a game within a few days of launch.  A reasonably priced service from a company I like quite a bit got me to eventually buy those same titles, and endure the copy-protection hassles as a legit customer. That seems backwards. It tells me something that developers should take to heart, though.  Price motivates ethical behavior in a way that even the world's best DRM cannot, and treating your customers well means that the loyalty you've built up in that relationship will even make some of the most shameless pirates into good customers.  Don't punish the honest with expensive and ineffective means to fight piracy, translate the lack of licensing fees for that garbage into a lower price-point and build a rapport with your customer, and they'll stop pirating on their own.

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Jay said...

So many titles have you bought over the past years that have been left dormant and unplayed? ;)

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