Tobold's Blog
Friday, November 23, 2012
The subjective perception of value

It is Black Friday today, with Cyber Monday coming up. Of course there is a sale on Steam. Before Steam I used to buy games when they came out, because it was often difficult to get hold of a copy a year later in a brick-and-mortar shop. But these days I only buy games at release when I really can't wait to play them, for example XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Games that are released where I just think "oh, I might want to play that one day" go on my wishlist instead. And when Steam does a sale, I check my wishlist and usually buy some games for cheap. This time I got Port Royale 3, Endless Space, and Darksiders II, all of which were heavily discounted so that for the 3 games together I paid only as much as I had paid for XCOM. Even more tellingly two games are still left on my wishlist, Borderlands 2 and Dishonored, because they "only" had a 25% discount, and I'll get them at the next sale for even cheaper.

I find the psychology behind that interesting. I could perfectly well afford to buy Borderlands 2 or any other game on release for full price. But something in my mind makes some sort of really strange calculation and comes up with a result of "$50? Naaaaaah, not worth it!". And the day I can buy the game for less than half that, I buy it. It might then still sit in my Steam library for months before I actually play the game, but I don't mind. At a certain price level I perceive the game to be worth it.

I wonder if other people work like that as well, just with a different subjective valuation. Steam tells me a lot of people who didn't buy XCOM when it came out did buy it during the current sale. I can well imagine that for somebody else a shooter game is an immediate must-buy, while a turn-based game can wait for the next sale, while my priorities are the other way around.

Do you have different price points for different games, where the game suddenly appears to be worth buying during a sale?

If there is something that I really like/want... then I take buy it as soon as it goes live on Steam, no matter if at full cost or not. That said, I also put a maximum price in my head (usually around 30$-40$). I almost never buy triple A games at full 60$ price.

Steam also offers good options when you prepurchase stuff. Preordering discount, 4packs, ... I mean you can cash out some money few weeks in advance and get a 10, 15 or 20% discounted price to play your title as soon as it comes out.

As for XCOM, I'll wait for a MASSIVE discount. Right now I'm deeply hoocked with Borderlands 2 and its DLC's.

Yeah I know what you mean. I would love to get my hands on Borderlands 2 and I could do it anytime. But right now I don't feel like spending $50 when I know that it will be massively discounted on Steam at some point in the future. In any case, I've got a couple of other games which I'm playing like crazy now so I have plenty of time to wait for that Steam sale.
I think the last time I bought a game at full price it was Skyrim. And the funny thing was that it was more of an impulse buy. I watched a couple of videos the day before it went on sale and decided I really wanted to try it out.

I have 94 games in my steam library and I've probably only ever played a quarter of them. I've picked up the vast majority of them when they were on sale for $5 or $10, if not less. They just sit there waiting for my interest to wane in some other game before I install them.
Dunno about anyone else but sometimes its only when I see a game in a sale that I remember it even existed. There are plenty of games I vaguely remember as sounding interesting that I pass over on release because I don't have time.

Maybe in a couple of years time I'll pick up XCOM.
Judging by emails that I get EVERY Friday, discounts of 50% are a good start.

Of course, GOG games are mostly old classics and you are talking about new releases. The point is that 50% seems to be the psychological threshold.

Come to think of it, I only buy Leagoe of Legends skins when they are in the 50% off promo. I bought Karthus, Teemo, Maokai and Rammus, Anivia... I can't think of any skin for which I paid full price, unless it was already 260 RP (i.e. 70% off).
Ha, I was just having a similar conversation to a friend yesterday. As we went back and forth over whether to buy X game, I said:

"Full price is always too expensive, no matter what that price is."

And that is true to me. I don't care if it is a $9.99 indie game, I have simply stopped purchasing anything unless it is 33% off at a minimum. I understand that companies can mark games up before discounting them so it ends up a wash, but the mere illusion of a sale increases my enjoyment of the game (or at least the purchase thereof).
I just impuls buy anything i might possibly like. I probably should have a better (more economically sound) strategy..
Because I know that many video games I have purchased fail to hold my interest for long, I generally do not buy any games at full price. I wait until they are cheap enough that if they fail to entertain me, I don't feel like I wasted much money.

It's a callous attitude perhaps, but after paying for games that I really disliked, or ones that give me migraines after an hour of play, I find that I'd rather deny the new shiny and spread my money around to get the best chance at finding one I really enjoy.

The last several games I paid full price for I felt like I wasted my moment. The only exception was Minecraft.
I'll pay full price if it's a developer I support. Skyrim, XCOM, Borderlands, Torchlight were all full price purchases for me. Because Bethesda, Firaxis, Gearbox, and Runic are 4 dev's that seem genuinely interested in creating fun mechanics first and monetization later.

I call it "Irony Consumerism"

It's as true on Steam now as it was in the markets of Zaitun in 1312: one can't resist a bargain!
I think multiplayer might be the bigger driver for buying on release. If all of your friends are playing the latest Call of Duty game at release, you need to buy it now in order to play with them, not 4 months from now when it is on sale, but your friends are tired of it.
BL2 just has a 50% discount ... $25? Bought!
My price point is 10 Euro. That is the day 1 price of a Russian steam key. I only buy AAA games if they are below that price point. Indies are case by case basis.
Steam sales have affected my buying behavior.
I deliberately held off buying Borderlands 2 when it was at 22GBP as I correct guessed it would be sold at a lower price later in the sale (some credit goes to Totalbiscuit for reminding me of that).

So I guess I too factor Steam sales into my buying decisions. I still buy the games I "really want" at launch though.

The crazy thing about Borderlands 2 was that it has a lower value in my mind because the game is long.

The chances are I will play for a few hours and then give up when I realise the task ahead requires too much of a time commitment.

On the other hand I paid full price for Max Payne 3 as I knew I could potentially finish it and did indeed spend more time playing this far shorter game than I will likely spend in Borderlands 2.
I'm amazed that you are complaining about $60 for a game. I had to pay up to $120 (in shops) for new releases in Australia.
And our dollar is stronger than US!
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