Tobold's Blog
Sunday, November 22, 2015
 
Steam sales

There are people who consider Steam sales to be some sort of game. There has been some gamification of those sales with trading cards and stuff, but more importantly prices used to change every day during sales. Soon people figured out that on the last day everything was at its cheapest price, and stopped buying games on other days. So now Steam has given up on that part: In the future (and the future starts with an autumn sale on the 25th of November) prices will not fluctuate any more during a sales event. You'll get the best rebate on every single day. While that will disappoint the Steam meta-gamers, I think for the regular customer that is a far more comforting option. Who wants to buy a game at 30% off only to see it at 50% off the next day?

Having said that, the obvious next problem is that sales might actually not have any real effect any more, because they are now considered as a given. The fact that pretty much everybody except Bhagpuss has some unplayed games in his Steam library means that most people don't need a new game *right now*, but can wait for the next sale, which comes around often enough (there are still two sales on Steam from now to the end of the year). Steam sales have become completely predictable, and for most people a game next month at half price is better than the same game at full price today. (I wonder if you can make a net present value calculation of that.)

So these days if I visit Steam, I don't purchase games any more, I put them on my wishlist and wait for them to drop in price by at least half. That is not because I couldn't afford full price, but because there are a lot of games where I am not 100% convinced that I will like them. I am currently enjoying Shadows of Mordor a lot, but that was a surprise. I wouldn't have bought the game at full price, but was willing to take the risk at half price and see for myself. And now I am glad I did. Steam sales are widening my gaming horizon.

[EDIT: After writing this I came upon a blog mentioning Star Wars: Battlefront (the 2015 version). And I realized that this is one of those games I would be willing to buy for half price. But probably I won't, because the game isn't on Steam. I'm not checking other platforms for sales. So I think EA might be better off to ditch Origins and move their games over to Steam, even if that means giving another company a cut.]

Comments:
My biggest problem with games these days is that I don't enjoy single player games anymore.
I can't think of the last one that I have finished, although there have been some that I played for a few more hours.
I know that I played Skyrim and Oblivion for a longer stretch as well as Fallout 3 and New Vegas, yet I have never seen the conclusion of the stories.
For that reason I tend to pirate them, play the few hours until I don't start the game anymore.
I got 65 games on Steam, most from some kind of free give-away, nine have more than 10 hours played, three of them at 10 to 20 hours, three at 40 to 60 hours and the other three at 250 and more (although two are heavily based on idling, so it is actually just one). So my most played game is Terraria at 274 hours - and I played that with friends.
Sometimes I browse the sales, but since I will most likely never get the played hours out of even the discounted games, I don't really care.
 
So, basically, their strategy is to put them out at 200% normal price (a price more akin to when new games were rare and special birds.) and then switch them to the normal price when the scheduled game selling period occurs. Sort of like what other retailers do at Christmas, but with game selling periods all year.

And, I'm with Camo. I just don't want to play single player games anymore. In reality, unless I'm raiding, I don't even play MMOs like they were MMOs... (I don't seek group play.) There's just something about the dynamic background noise of the other players that makes the solo play aspect that much more interesting.
 
I have 43 games on my wishlist right now, any of which I would buy for the right price. So overall, games companies might be collectively screwing themselves by allowing me to pay less than I would if I ran out of games, but individual games have no real choice. Any game that never goes on sale, I'm just never going to buy. There are too many other games, too many other sales.

I'm not sure they are giving up too much money. Fallout 4 made $750 million in the first 48 hours, the latest Call of Duty game made over $500 million. So someone is buying games at full price on release (a lot of someones actually), even if it isn't us.
 
I just don't want to play single player games anymore.

Strange, my experience with multi-player games has been that I don't want to play any game any more in which another player has the option to ruin my game. So I prefer single-player games, and asynchronous multi-player with minimal communication.

Fallout 4 made $750 million in the first 48 hours, the latest Call of Duty game made over $500 million.

That's not the PC version. These games make that kind of money over all platforms, and I'm pretty certain that most of it is on consoles. Console games don't decrease in price all that fast.
 
Tobold says:
"Strange, my experience with multi-player games has been that I don't want to play any game any more in which another player has the option to ruin my game."

No argument there. I tried "Eve online" for 3 months, then cancelled my accounts and quit. I liked the "multi-boxable" aspect of it in that you could approach it as a strategy game where the accounts operated symbiotically with each other, but the game is "by gankers, for gankers" to the point where ganking drives the mechanics.

In WoW, my SOP is that if a custom group I've joined lands on a PvP server, I'm out.
 
Well Fallout 4 is currently the #3 most played game on Steam with 278k players right now, Team Fortress 2 is #4 with 70k. The latest Call of Duty game is #9 with 40k. You may be right about Call of Duty, but it looks like there are more than a few people who bought Fallout 4 in PC.
 
I've been doing the wishlist thing for a long time. Looking through the discovery queue from time to time, read user reviews, put some games on wishlist and buy a game or two when I feel like a new one and the price is ok. Advertisement done right.

EA has at least one game on steam and I ended up requesting a refund. I bought "Alice Madness Returns" remembering the tremendous fun I had with Amercian McGees Alice a decade ago. But not only does EA require to register an account with them to play it, you really have to get an EA account not even Origin account to play that single player game on steam. Really EA? And steam doesn't even tell you that straight away, but only lists a required third party EULA within which on page two or whatever the account is mentioned. Yeah well, should have read that before buying.

But the refund was hassle free. Requested it, a couple hours later it was granted via email, a couple days later the money was given back. Not exactly instant but for a process that involves actual people looking into it fast enough.
 
There's definitely two pools of gamers out there: the group which for whatever reason prefers single player mode or a more controlled range of experiences (i.e. gank-free mode), and the other group which sees gaming as a sort of general social, competitive or interactive experience. I used to think the single-player crowd was shrinking sufficiently that it was going to become niche, but it's pretty clear that the AAA market tries to really aim for both markets simultaneously....leading to a WoW experience that can let one ignore most all of the inter-player activities, and a Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 that lets you play all of the multiplayer options in offline bot-supported mode that's pretty decent. Something like Fallout 4 proves that single-player experiences are still valued....but dedicated multiplayer titles like Titanfall (and Star Wars Battlefront) have their place, too....albeit with the caveat that as soon as the multiplayer crowd moves on to the next shiny thing the game will suffer.

Anyway, to the original blog post....Steam has reaped what it sewed on the sales, and has taught us all to stop valuing games at the price point the publishers want us to. I'm okay with this, actually.
 
"There's definitely two pools of gamers out there: the group which for whatever reason prefers single player mode or a more controlled range of experiences (i.e. gank-free mode), and the other group which sees gaming as a sort of general social, competitive or interactive experience."

I fall into both categories, as I perceive the vast majority of gamers do. These are not two separate markets at all. Apparently, it just seems that way to hardcore players who appear completely unable to conceive of an interactive experience that doesn't involve griefing. "Oh, you don't want a gank-a-thon? So you want nothing but solo? I can see no other possible ways of playing."

If there were fewer developers who thought this way, I think we'd see a lot fewer flops.
 
So I think EA might be better off to ditch Origins and move their games over to Steam, even if that means giving another company a cut.

I think it's worth pointing out that this "race to the bottom, never buy anything at full price" mentality on Steam is exactly why EA (or any other publisher big enough to have their own store, E.G. Blizzard) won't be going anywhere near it.
 
"I think it's worth pointing out that this "race to the bottom, never buy anything at full price" mentality on Steam is exactly why EA (or any other publisher big enough to have their own store, E.G. Blizzard) won't be going anywhere near it."

Except this doesn't really happen. Fallout 4, at full price, broke the record on Steam for simultaneous users (keep in mind Steam has 120m+ active users), and has been the best seller on Steam since release. And more generally, the top seller list is almost always a mix of full price recent titles and older titles on sale.

The "I only buy games on sale" crowd is the minority, not the other way around, and developers (both big and small) that make quality titles are very well served by Steam.
 
I've bought Fallout 4 through a CD Key site. €45 instead of €60. I expect Fallout 4 to be 10% off in the sames which would be €54. It'll probably be half a year from now when you can buy it on steam for €45.

Still, quite a few games that I will buy at a good bargain price. Hoping to pick up Far Cray 4 for under $10 for example.
 
I think the guys at Steam know quite well what they're doing. The constant churns of games on various sales keeps all the titles in front of the viewers.

Sometimes you aren't ready to buy a game, sometimes you'd like to but you don't have the money until Friday, etc. Each customer has a different story about where they are in relation to any given game. New games go full price to get the people who really love the title. The sales get people like Tobold. People are are not that into it, or money conscious, or whatever. People who love feeling like they got a deal. It covers the spread really efficiently and essentially removes overhead from the equation. The excited people up front who want the game NOW don't care that it'll eventually be on sale, anymore than they cared that a month from now they'll be able to pick up a used copy at Gamestop for $45 bucks.

After the initial cash rush, any additional money is just gravy, and Steam is really good at generating the gravy. Hell, people buying dozens of games that they never bother to play is a stereotype. That's a lot of gravy when the cost of goods sold is an infinitesimal amount of bandwidth.
 
It's so weird to see people saying they don't play single-player anymore. I'm the exact opposite. MP-only is not worth my time or money.

I don't play MP anymore, where I used to be quite interested. The early days of Doom-clones after Quake Live, then onto Counter-Strike, TF2, the Battlefield phenomenon, the truly outstanding Half-Life mods like Natural Selection...

I loved them all, but now it doesn't matter how good they look, I won't touch them with a ten foot pole unless they have single-player bots and a campaign.

Steam is a figurative graveyard of brave little indie MP-only titles that had gorgeous art and interesting mechanics, but which turned into ghost towns either immediately on release or within a couple months, rendering them completely unplayable because there were no other players to play against. Or WORSE, the only players left to play against are the die-hard ultra-invested who are light-speed meth-fueled cyborg ninjas incapable of shooting you anywhere other than the head, making the game utterly impenetrable for a new-comer.

This problem is only compounded if the game in question bought into the whole persistent progression thing, meaning that more experienced players also have more powerful arsenals to choose from.

MP-only games have no shelf-life. No longevity.

They are basically best regarded as temporary 'events'. Everyone's playing Battlefront now, so who's playing Splatoon, Rocket League, Titanfall, Evolve, Brink, or any of the literally HUNDREDS of indie 2D arena-battlers who are all languishing in the 'mostly negative' reviews bin with the predominant complaint being: "Empty servers."

I'm not on board with games that I can only play when the stars align in such a way that I can get into a server with reasonable latency (ie: NOT A U.S. ONE), with a reasonable number of players (so, only around dinner time and a few hours afterward), with dwindling populations of mercilessly unforgiving 'pay your dues, scrub' veterans.
Fuck. That.

Always-Online publisher bullshit aside, at least single player titles will offer me their full experience no matter when I choose to experience it.

 
I've been playing a lot of Star Wars Battlefront...I did not expect this. It's both fun and (here's the weird part) I don't automatically suck at it...yet. I'm sure the hypermonkies will come to dominate soon. That said, Origin matches all the Steam sales, often excessively. You can usually get their games for a fraction of the cost a few months after release on sale events. Origin's only failing is not being Steam....otherwise I find the two indistinguishable, for practical purposes. Just another intermediary step to playing a game.
 
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