Saturday, July 13, 2013

More Bang for Your Buck - Steam Sales

At the time of this post the 2013 Summer Steam Sale is already in full swing, and if the "heavy load" errors are any indication, a lot of wallets are already feeling the sting.

" if millions of wallets suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened."

All those shiny discounts ranging anywhere from 10% - 90% off... They lure gamers in like a Siren's song of savings, but after the dust settles and the purchases are tallied, bank accounts the world over are singing a different song of lament and regret. Wallets find themselves battered and broken, and gamers are resorting to three square meals of ramen a day for a month afterwards. While crying into their top ramen they take solace in knowing they have enough of a backlog to hold them over until the next Steam sale, when the cycle begins anew. However the aftermath doesn't need to be so bleak. While I may still be a relative n00b to Steam, thrifty gaming is nothing new to this gal, so I want to help.

One of the worst things a gamer can do is dive in blindly. You need to approach Steam sales with a plan of attack, and the tactics I'll outline are rather simple and painless. Well, mostly.

  • Don't blow your full load on day one.
For some of you gents, this may be a new concept, but bear with me. Steam sales last about two weeks with a rotation of Daily Deals, Flash Sales, and Community Choice deals in addition to the standard discounts that span the duration of the sale. Going full tilt from the starting line is one of the stupidest mistakes you can make, much like in other aspects of your life. Not only do you spread your finances thin for the rest of the sale, you may miss out on some great deals later. Which brings me to my next point;

  • Patience is a virtue.
We live in a society that thrives on instant gratification, but if you're able to slow your roll for just a day or two, you may be handsomely rewarded for your efforts, and your wallet may breathe a sigh of relief. As stated earlier there are discounts that span the entirety of the sale, however these are not necessarily the bottom line for those particular titles. While 25%, 50%, or even 66% may be tempting, don't pull the trigger just yet. There's still a chance that 50% discount you have your eye on may become 75% or even higher for a limited amount of time. Also don't worry if you miss it the first time around, because it is not unheard of for the same titles to become further discounted several times over before the end of the sale. Not to mention most of the best selling titles on any given day will see their discounts extended to the following day as well.

Honestly though, if you wait until the end of the sale to pick up the standard sale titles, what are you really missing out on?

  • Adhere to a budget.
Now this one may be one of the more difficult ones for gamers to follow. Drastically discounted titles are like crack to most gamers, yours truly not withstanding, however "all things in moderation." Give yourself a budget, and stick to it. Whatever that budget may be is up to you, but make sure it's something you can live with. You need to remember all those $2.49, $3.39, and $4.99 purchases add up, especially when coupled with the $10 or $20+ purchases as well. Since the deals are ever-changing, and you're making numerous separate transactions over the course of the sale, it can be rather easy to lose track of how much you're actually spending.

There are a few ways to go about it;
  1. Keep a list/spreadsheet of all the games you've purchased and what you paid for each. This will give you a visual representation that you can refer back to.
  2. Buy Steam gift cards in the amount of your budget. If your budget is $50, buy a $50 gift card, and then apply it to your account. I'll also elaborate on this a bit more later.
  3. Remove any saved card info from your account. Doing this in conjunction with the above is a pretty foolproof way to keep within your budget. You can't spend money that isn't there, and it's all too easy to go "well... just this once..." and checkout using your saved card.

  • Utilize your wishlist.
If you're one of those people that just buys any and every cheap game that looks interesting, you may want to start using your wishlist as a way to keep yourself in check. This can serve two purposes--first you can stick to only buying games that are on your wishlist that you have shown a prior interest in, and second some of your Steam friends may actually buy games for you. While I wouldn't bank on the latter too much, it is a nice surprise when someone sends you a Steam gift.

  • Split multi-packs with friends
Some games offer the option to buy multiple copies at a discounted bulk rate, which further discounts the title. I'll use Defiance as an example. The regular price for Defiance is $39.99, but a 66% discount brings that price down to $13.59. The regular price for a Defiance four-pack is $117.97, but that same 66% discount then brings that price down to $40.09. Consulting your handy-dandy calculator, you can divide 40.09 four ways amongst yourself and three friends, and it will give you an answer of 10.0225. For the sake of simplicity, just round it to an even $10 and call it good. Congratulations, you just saved yourself about $3.50, which you can easily use towards another game, and you have a game you can play with your buddies. It's a win-win situation all around, assuming you have some friends that want to go in on the purchase with you. If not, just stick the extra copies in your inventory, which brings me to my next point...

  • Don't add every purchase to your library right away.
The great thing about Steam is you're given the option to buy a game for yourself and add it directly to your library, buy a game for a friend and send it directly to them, or buy a game and save it in your inventory for later which you can then either add it to your library or send it someone else. This is a great feature if you don't plan on going the route where you only purchase games from your wishlist. If you find a cheap game that you find yourself going "well it looks interesting, but I'm not too sure about it or if I'll even play it, though it's only $2.49 so why the hell not?" Stick it in your inventory. If you later decide you want to give it a spin, great, you can add it to your library and go from there. The opposite also applies, if you decide you're just never going to play it, you can keep it as an emergency birthday, Christmas, Winter-een-mas, or I-totally-screwed-up-please-forgive-me present. It's also great for facebook page admins to stock up on goodies to give away on their pages. *cough*

  • Shop around
Yes, I am actually suggesting you look somewhere other than Steam. Sometimes those deals look pretty good, but you may be able to find something better with only a few clicks. A lot of online retailers have seen how popular the Steam sales are, so they've jumped on the digital summer/holiday sales bandwagon as well. During the 2012 Steam Holiday sale, the Bioshock bundle of the first two games was $9.99 at its cheapest, though at the same time Amazon actually had that same bundle, but for only $4.99 instead. When it comes to Steam sales, $5 is a pretty significant amount. and are two of my other go-to sites for digital content. Hell, Amazon is my go-to for just about anything, but that's a post for another time.

  • "A penny saved is a penny earned."
"What the hell does that even mean?!" To put it plainly, it means the best way to save money is to simply not spend it. Look at your library, how many games do you have? Now how many of those games have you actually played? If the answer to the first question is over 200 and the answer to the second is less than 10% of those, you can probably afford to sit out this Steam sale. Not only will your wallet thank you, but your backlog will as well.


Though the Summer Sale has already started, it doesn't mean you can't start planning ahead for the holiday sale. The easiest and least painful way to prepare yourself for the next Steam sale is to merely put aside a little bit of money at a time. Let's say you get paid every other week, and you put aside a paltry $5 a paycheck, by the time December and the Holiday Sale rolls around five months from now,  you could have about $50 put aside. If you put aside $10, you could have about $100. If you're like me and don't shop on Steam much outside of major sales (remember, I'm a mainly a console gamer), you can just add the funds directly to your Steam wallet. If you're mostly a PC gamer and the majority of your games come from Steam, then you might want to invest in some physical cards instead and keep them in a place where you won't lose them, then just add them to your account all at once when the sale hits.

Also, in the name of all things fluffy, work on your backlog a bit. What good is buying a bunch of new games if you're not even going to play them?

When all is said and done, how you handle a Steam sale is entirely up to you. I can't tell you what to do, and you don't even have to take my advice to heart, but I hope that I could at least help ease a bit of the burden on your wallet. Now a lot of these suggestions may seem like total no-brainers, and they are, but sometimes people just happen to overlook the most obvious of solutions, and I can guarantee there are other ideas and solutions that I missed as well.

If any of these suggestions helped, or you even have some of your own, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you.


P.S. As I forgot to mention it when I initially wrote out this post. If you seem to be having problems completing your purchase on one platform, try another. For example if you're having issues checking out via the desktop client, try the mobile app instead. I have heard of others, as well as personally experiencing success myself, when using a different platforms.

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