Developer Discounts: Steam Sales Are Changing

By Adam Smith on February 27th, 2014 at 11:00 am.

How many types of Steam sale are there? The huge seasonal ones, midweek discounts, daily reductions and bundled packs all vie for the attention of your eyes whenever they crop up on the front page. It’s almost impossible to buy a game that isn’t subject to price cuts so low that I’m beginning to suspect that Crazy Eddie has taken over Valve HQ.

Apparently, the current sales cannot sate the clawing hands of the hungry public. Developers will now be able to set discounts on their own releases, in what Valve describe as “another effort to shorten the distance between developers and customers”. There are rules to prevent an apocalyptic salesplosion and I have listed them below.

You almost certainly haven’t noticed yet but this system is already live. Unlike curated sales, developer discounts won’t cause a game to jump to Steam’s frontpage, for obvious reasons. A wall of DLC and five year old time management games with a 2% reduction would intimidate anybody who dared to peer at the storefront.

That means Steam users won’t see the discount unless they’re looking through the archives or searching for a particular game. Of course, developers can help to spread the word themselves and I’ve been gathering sandbags in the RPS inbox to stem back the tide of emails containing requests to highlight discounts.

Sales can be set up to two months in advance and can last a maximum of two weeks. A single game can’t have a second developer discount within the same two month period, to prevent the dreaded Sales Spam, but the reduction percentage is entirely up to the developer.

This seems like a good thing, broadly speaking, giving developers more power to control their products. I’ve spoken to small publishers and development teams who crave inclusion in a Steam discount for the sales spike that follows. That spike is due to visibility as well as pricing though and it’ll fall to those same devs and publishers to spread the word when a game is on sale.

It sounds like there will be opt-in week-long sales, which will presumably have some form of front-page presence, but inclusion in one would likely prevent setting up a personal discount for a couple of months.

As with Greenlight, it’ll be interesting to see how this does (or doesn’t) evolve over time. Speaking to Ars Technica, Valve’s Alden Kroll offered some guidance as to how the system might be best used:

As with the addition of a ‘Recently Updated’ section to Steam, this is another effort to shorten the distance between developers and customers. This new Steamworks tool allows developers to configure discounts for their own products, on their own schedules. They can define custom sale periods or opt in to regularly scheduled sales. This will enable developers to better coordinate their promotions with events, announcements, or major updates they are planning for their products.

Am I the only one who expects all the games to be on sale by the weekend, as every developer on Steam rushes to play with the new discount widget?

__________________

« | »

, , , .

70 Comments »

  1. hypercrisis says:

    Yet with the clunky interface still in play it’s a nightmare to browse the specials section. Valve really needs to make the store easier to navigate.

    • bstard says:

      Agreed. Make DLC buying more accesable, filter the Early Pre orders. But it seems it’s more important to bring us the wonderful politburo tagging system ;)

      • Baines says:

        Make DLC easier to buy? I wish they’d show you what DLC you already owned when browsing a game’s page, instead of having to click on each piece of DLC to check its own page. That can become a pretty big annoyance when a game has 5-20 pieces of DLC. The other DLC thing that I’d like to see is a better arrangement/indication when one piece of DLC contains another piece of DLC, like the compilation DLC bits for a game like Saints Row.

        • PegasusOrgans says:

          Triple agreed. With the amount of extreme sales. most of us end up with more games than we can keep track of. Knowing this, they really could add simple indicators for these things. The worst is you aren’t always told when you have something owned in your basket. I’ve had this happen several times. I go to purchase and it tells me I can’t because I own one or more items. It could just tell me which item right there, but you are forced to remove items one by one in order to find the culprit.

          Another annoying this is the inability to gift extra game codes. Sure, you can just send the code to a friend, but Steam, in its bizarre attempt to wring even more money, requires you to mark a code “gift” at the time of purchase. So if you buy a bundle, and don’t mark it as gift, you can forget about just gifting that extra code. Steam even has a policy that states you shouldn’t send these extra codes to friends!!

        • Challenger2uk says:

          You can, go to your library find your game right click on it and select “View Download Content” it shows you what download content you have with the game and how to got it.

          • Baines says:

            Yes, you can “View Download Content” and match the items to the DLC listings, but I find that is slower and more error prone than clicking each individual DLC page link. At least that is true when using the web interface, if not the Steam client. But the Steam client is so slow and less functional in comparison that I can’t see myself ever trying to shop within it again.

            I’ve not tried Enhanced Steam. It may be quite useful, and I should check it out. But the existence of a third-party solution to fix issues with Steam doesn’t negate the existence of issues with Steam (nor gives Valve excuse to have and continued to ignore said issues.)

        • keimevo says:

          Check out Enhanced Steam, http://www.enhancedsteam.com/

          I really can’t remember how I browsed Steam without that extension.

        • SillyWizard says:

          Fuck yes.

          To be fair, this is also Paradox’s fault for making so much fucking DLC that I must haveses, yessss hobbitsesssss…..

    • VileThings says:

      Agreed. Additionally: the ‘Recently Updated’ section is pretty much useless, as it features games I don’t even own nor have any interest in. I mean, we are already logged in with our accounts, so why not show us updates to games that we own or have on our wishlist, instead of game that aren’t even on on our ‘recommended’ page.

    • Teovald says:

      The desktop client (well, the mobile one as well but that’s another matter) is a complete UX disaster.
      I stick with the website (the app is just a very poor html wrapper anyway) and juggling with tabs allows to have a decent navigation in Steam.
      IMO, they should ditch this web-based app nonsense and implement a solid native one.

      • Prolar Bear says:

        Agreed, it’s terrible. I certainly hope a non-html application is coming soon.

    • Tinotoin says:

      I must be some sort of weirdo, but I find the interface fine. I can easily find what I want quickly – what am I missing?

      • Horg says:

        It could be improved is all. Personally i’d settle for the specials list remembering your place in the list when you navigate to a new page and then hit back. Or maybe just grouping all games with their DLC and special editions in the list together.

      • Lemming says:

        It is fine, it can be improved, as everything can. Just ignore the fact that people are using words like ‘terrible’ and ‘nightmare’. They’ve lost all meaning.

    • dmoe says:

      I have zero issue finding anything on the Steam store. I especially have no problems with the Steam overly and the client UI.

      • LegendaryTeeth says:

        Main thing I find difficult is figuring out which DLC I already own for a game when it all goes on sale. There should be a “Add All unowned DLC to cart” button, that would be perfect.

        Well, perfect would also be a “add all unowned DLC for to cart”, to make it easier to buy presents for my wife as well.

        • Sharlie Shaplin says:

          Easiset way I know of, right click the game in the library tab and select view downloadable content. They could make it easier by showing it in the actual store page.

        • Recurve says:

          Use the Enhanced Steam plugin for your browser and it’ll highlight any games, including DLC that you own. It also does a lot more besides. It really is an excellent addon.

  2. Tritagonist says:

    This sounds good, and might actually make the Steam Wishlist more than a group of glorified bookmarks.

  3. Bury The Hammer says:

    Browsing deals like this is fine if you use a site like isthereanydeal.com. Like the steam wishlist, except customisable alerts and tracks all other websites too.

    (actually grabbed this off another RPS user about a month ago, thanks, good sir!)

  4. The Dark One says:

    Valve has also been working on a notification system that can alert people in asynchronous multiplayer games like Frozen Synapse that it’s their turn. Like a less-bad version of Play-by-email.

  5. TWChristine says:

    I always preferred Crazy Ernie’s Amazing Emporium of Total Bargain Madness instead..
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UfsEj7AOGI
    That song always used to make me cry!

    • Svack says:

      When I think Crazy Eddie I always think the Crazy Eddie advert in UHF

  6. golem09 says:

    I’m not a native english speaker, so I was wondering if this is correct:

    “Sales can be set up to two months in advance”

    Shouldn’t this be “Sales can be set up up to two months…”? Just asking to improve my language skills.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      No, “in advance” just means ‘before’. The sale maximum duration is two weeks, but it can be scheduled two months earlier.

      • golem09 says:

        sry Jim, I should have been more precise, it was about the set / set up the others talked about. Just “set” sounded weird to me, now I’m a tiny bit wiser.

      • SillyWizard says:

        Your best option to avoid confusion would probably have been something along the lines of “sales can be set as far as two months….”

    • Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

      No – ‘to set’ conveys all the information here. So you can, for example, set an alarm (on a clock), set the position of something… Similarly, in this case it’s fine to say that “the sale has been set” to describe that the sale’s details have been fixed. “The sale has been set up”, as you’ve written, would also be fine, but Adam’s sentence conveys the same meaning without having to repeat the word “up”.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, I had to read that twice, but in this case it’s the verb “set”, not the phrase “set up”. I blame running installers as a child.

    • agreed says:

      I think both ways are acceptable

      “Sales can be set
      up to two months in advance”

      “Sales can be set up
      up to two months…”?

      but the first is easier to read.

      • SillyWizard says:

        The first has a natural stumble because the eye will assume that the “up” there pairs with the “set.” A different approach entirely would be the easiest to read!

  7. voodoojedizin says:

    Steam is doing a little too much for the developers and maybe not enough control for the game buyers. Selling unfinished games right along with AAA game, I know people are supposed to read but that’s just wrong. If you try to search reviews you’re only allowed to look for positive ones? The fourms are in control of the developers, anyone sees that as a good thing is crazy. Allowing games like Godus and a few others two totally rip off people and not creating a red light for gamers to put a stop to the sleazy unfinished game developers. It’s a great place to sell games but not necessarily for the game buyer after he made his purchase.

    • derbefrier says:

      For one if you look at the store page for any game you will see you can filter reviews by positive or negative only. Secondly forums are controlled by the games devs yes but even games that don’t use steam control their own forums I don’t see your point there. Basically your whole rant is just a bunch of nonsense.

      • Vardas says:

        Tell that to people who buy the games when they first come out. Tell that to the people who bought Game Tycoon, and paid 7£ for it, only to find it had a missing executable file and couldn’t run. At all. As a complete game. Or maybe noone should buy new games, until magical reviews pop up?

        His point which you failed to see is that Steam has made it so easy for anyone to put their games up there, while blatantly refusing to do the slightest bit of quality control. And this in the end and in examples like the above (of which there are many), hurts the users because they end up paying money for broken or even unplayable (see above) games.

        I love Steam to the death and buy most if not all of my gmes from them, but they need some quality control BAD. Anyone who’s not a blind fanboy and buys more than AAA titles will be able to see that.

        • TechnicalBen says:

          Mistakes happen. CDs/DVDs have gone to stores blank, or with EXEs missing. In a store, there is little you can do, even with a refund it requires a trek back home.
          With digital distribution, it can be fixed relatively quickly (and I think it was here).
          It’s not never making a mistake, it’s fixing it quickly. As no one is perfect, but we can take action to improve.

          Finally, I’m not sure how we can help those who make wrong purchase decisions at the level Steam operates. We would either need ALL distribution/sales/stores to act or all customers to act. Picking on just Steam seems futile. Unless we can change/influence/delegate with them.

          We need more demos. We need more ways to preview purchases that we cannot go back on. But most places put the research in the lap of the purchaser, and the safety/guarantee of “fit for purpose” with the seller/producers. While the gameplay of a sim may be poor, the refund is only due for actual failure to function.

    • Frank says:

      Caveat emptor. I tend to do my research when spending more than $5 on a game. Why don’t you (and the people you are talking about)?

      If I want to know that the games will work before paying, I’ll go to GOG. Not every sales platform has to have the same model. In this case, not everyone needs to have a small, quality-controlled entryway.

      On the other hand, I don’t like seeing the salespeople controlling the forums, either. I think Valve are shooting themselves in the foot by crippling their forums in that way. Now that I’ve heard/seen what that scifi guy (who made “something 3000 ad”) does with impunity, I know to look elsewhere for unbiased conversation.

    • voodoojedizin says:

      I have 197 games I’ve purchased from steam over nine years.
      What I have been seen in the last few years starting with the green light and early access games I can’t even believe it’s not illegal in some way. I’m afraid valve is hiring too many of the wrong business suits, and they’re going to end up pulling a EA on every one. Steam got its start because gamers believed valve was honest and had their gaming backs. But that’s changed, now the developers runs the whole show, we cant say anything our we get kicked from their fourms,

  8. Kinch says:

    Hasn’t this been live for a while already? Usually there had been just a few discounted games, but for a few weeks the list has been getting longer and longer – there were tens or hundreds of ‘cheaper’ games. At the moment I’m seeing 133 discounted games, with no major sale going on. They’re mostly smaller games that are begging for everyone’s attention for sure, but still. Don’t think this will be any kind of a ‘sale changer’.

  9. Gap Gen says:

    One day I’ll get to tell my grandkids about the time we actually had to pay for games.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Don’t forget that part about owning them, instead of lending.

      • Gap Gen says:

        And they’ll scoff as they continue to play Candy Birdsville Quest Saga without looking up.

    • TWChristine says:

      Surely by “tell” you mean /tell, as by then I don’t think there’ll be such thing as verbal communication. And then they’ll complain that the pop-up ruined their combo streak in Candy Birdsville Quest Saga.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Skyping in on my kid as they’re masturbating. “DAD! DON’T YOU EVER IM BEFORE YOU OPEN THE VIDEO CHAT?”

  10. mandrill says:

    This is all well and good, but I’d love it if the store homepage I get wasn’t full of ads for DLC for games I don’t own.

    • drewdupe says:

      Am I the only person who doesn’t log onto steam looking for a game to buy? I don’t think I ever even see the home page any more. I set steam to open up to my library by default and if I ever want to buy a game I will search for it and buy it.

      • The Random One says:

        You’re not the only one, but there must be like five of us left.

      • Sharlie Shaplin says:

        I also have library as default. I avoid the store section as much as possible, especially around holidays.

      • subedii says:

        Library as default. For that matter, simply right-clicking on the pinned taskbar allows me to start straight into the most recent games I’ve been playing.

    • captain nemo says:

      Seconded. I have zero interest in the tons of DLC crap for games that I do not own and do not care about.
      Show me the DLC for games I own. End of story.

  11. Talksintext says:

    If only I didn’t have constant issues with purchasing through Steam and their non-support, I’d care. Funny how I use steam primarily and my entire library was basically bought at other retailers.

  12. Freud says:

    I don’t really think of it as sales of digital downloads anymore. It’s just sound pricing over the lifetime of a product. It’s planned from day 1 and satisfies the demands of the market.

  13. Commander Gun says:

    Not too surprised. In the past, steam sales were the thing to look forward too. However, the last half year or so, Humble Bundle deals beat the Steam sales so hard, they had to do something i guess.

  14. waltC says:

    What’s happening is great although it took long enough to get here. Developers and publishers–some of them–are finally understanding why it’s better to sell 1,000 copies of a game @ $15 than it is to sell 150 copies @ $60. They are discovering that the market is large enough today to drastically reduce the per-copy selling price and still make substantially more money than they ever did using the old *$60 per copy* MSRP mantra. It’s economies of scale, and it’s a different way of thinking for most traditional publishers who have always shot themselves in the foot by caring more about the price per copy sold than the number of copies sold. Except Valve, that is. Steam has long noted how sales skyrocket into the stratosphere whenever they drastically reduce the selling price–noting increases upwards of 7000 (thousand) % in sales versus the standard “everyday” MSRP’s of $50-$60. Back in 1990 when the entire world market for personal computers was ~6M machines a year, that sort of thinking made a kind of sense. In todays’ climate with nearly 400M PCs sold annually and a base market worldwide of 1.5B(!) machines in daily use, economies-of-scale sales are the *only* way to go these days if you want to rake in the dough.

  15. NathanMates says:

    One thing that might help me buy more: actual working emails when a game on my wishlist is on sale. I’ve signed up for that, but right now, it seems to only occasionally send an email. I seem to get emails most reliably when it’s a single daily sale, but for a general sale (weeklong, publisher catalogs, summer/Christmas), nothing is sent. Yes, I’ve looked in my spam traps, etc. Nothing there.

    And yes, this might be potentially abusable, in that developers keep putting something on 10% sales. To which, my counter is this: annoy me with too many, and you’re off my wishlist.

  16. RobF says:

    Obviously the smart thing for a developer to do, given the sales don’t bounce your game up anywhere than on the specials list, is to time sales alongside substantial updates rather than slapping the button because they can.

    I suspect this is precisely the sort of behaviour that Valve would prefer also.

  17. The Random One says:

    So Steam made an update that benefits developers, doesn’t screw customers, works as intended and has safeguards to prevent abuse? I’m speechless.

  18. MadTinkerer says:

    “There are rules to prevent an apocalyptic salesplosion”

    Oh thank goodness. I need to pay rent this month!

  19. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Dunno if anyone said it yet, but make sure the games you want are in your wishlist. If its gors on sale you will get an email

  20. jrodman says:

    I think we bought some atari 2600 games from Crazy Eddie in the mid-80s. Flaaaashbacks.

    • billyphuz says:

      Oh yeah, this always gives me flashbacks to growing up in the 80s in Brooklyn. It’s one of those things that I thought only I noticed as a kid, and it turns out it’s a cultural touchstone for just about everybody.

  21. Darth Gangrel says:

    I think there are so many sales nowadays that the anticipation and joy of seeing a sale has greatly decreased. That and my backlog has grown so large that it’ll will take a great game for a ridiculously low price to even make me consider buying it. I like however that this gives devs more options, without having them become attention whores by having sales all the time (Look at me! Look at me! I’m discounted!).

  22. thedosbox says:

    I’m guessing this weekends bargain bucket is going to take a lot more work than usual.

  23. Philotic Symmetrist says:

    As far as not putting the developer sales on the front page I reckon if it’s a 75% off sale then that could be alright as you can’t really abuse that.

  24. Darth Gangrel says:

    In Sweden we had Galne Gunnar (crazy Gunnar), so I guess this idea of calling yourself crazy, because of the low prices you offer is something universal.

  25. Gvaz says:

    What’s the point in decreasing visibility of sales? Do they want sales that no one buys?

    99% of the sales I’ve bought into are because they’ve been advertised. I wouldn’t have spent a penny on most of them if not for that case because I would never have heard about them. I’m sure there’s tons of others who feel the same.