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Developer Discounts: Steam Sales Are Changing

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?

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Adam Smith

former Deputy Editor

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