Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Steamed under

There is currently a Steam sale going on, and I couldn't help but buy some games. That brings my total of games bought this year to 11 games, for an average of 14.16€ per game. The problem with that is that I only played one of those games, Pillars of Eternity. Which is also the only game I paid full price for (you can now get it for 33% off). The rest was all much cheaper, usually at some big discount of 50% or more. But even the cheapest game is too expensive if you don't actually play it.

The chief culprit here is World of Warcraft. I am still having fun playing that, since the WoW Token was introduced I get to play for free, and when I decide each evening what I want to do, WoW has the lowest barrier to entry. It's a bit like a comfortable old slipper. The fact that I am buying other games shows that I am still interested in other games, but it takes a certain amount of activation energy to actually do so. With every new game you have to put in some effort to learn how to play it, and after a long day at work that energy isn't always there. A secondary problem is that I have this huge new Dungeons & Dragons campaign to prepare. So whenever I have energy, I rather make progress with that campaign than starting a new video game.

The good news is that I do expect things to change in the summer. Patch 6.2 is expected for next week, and after a few weeks of toying around with the new features and doing dailies to get flying in Draenor, I expect my motivation to play WoW to decrease. And my D&D campaign is starting with a pre-adventure next week, and in earnest after the summer holidays. Once that gets going the preparation work is getting less.

The whole Steam Sale thing mystifies me. I have looked at it a few times but I can hardly see anything I'd even look at for a few minutes for free, let alone pay money for. I guess I'm just not very interested in video games.

Leaving tastes aside, though, what is the motivation that keeps people buying things they have no immediate intention of playing? These games will always be there to buy when someone is actually ready to play them and even if that meant buying them at full price (which it almost certainly wouldn't) the overall spend would likely be less if people only bought those games they actually wanted to play at the time they bought them.

I guess it's a psychological thing. I'd much rather pay full-price for something I need when I need it and not spend any money on anything I don't need right now. Something you buy for 10% of the full price and never use is not a bargain. It's a waste of money.
There is a simple solution for your problem: Don't buy any games that you aren't going to play on the evening of the purchase.

It's cheaper to buy a game at full price, than buying 3 at 50% discount and playing only one of them.
I'm in a similar rut right now with Destiny. There are several games I want to play or replay but every time I decided to play something I end up playing Destiny. I don't game as much as I used to so it feels daunting to start a big game like dragon age because I know it will take me forever to best it. In destiny I can go in and do a quick activity and that's it.
I guess it's a psychological thing.

Well... yes, of course. The same psychology behind all advertisements, sales, discounts, and so on. Do you really need two tubs of peanut butter right now? No... but it's "buy one, get one 50% off" today only. I mean, the behavior around Steam sales is downright rational compared to the real crazies preordering games or "buying" things on Kickstarter which don't even exist yet. At least you have the product in hand, even if you choose not to consume it.

It's cheaper to buy a game at full price, than buying 3 at 50% discount and playing only one of them.

That's only true if you never, ever play them. Until you die or lose your Steam account, the opportunity to play those games still exists, so you haven't really lost anything. Well, unless you purchase a game during a sale and then it gets discounted further by the time you get around to actually playing it, I suppose.

As for the topic at large, I too have picked up a few more games this Steam sale I don't necessarily intend to play right away. All of them were at or below their historical low price, with little chance of being discounted further (unless bundled). I do this because I have been burned in the past in getting the urge to play a game after a sale has completed. It is not cheaper for me to wait until I get the urge to play the game, as the price of the game directly correlates with my willingness to pay for it. People pay a lot of money to avoid being miserable (e.g. buying alcohol, drugs, other distractions, etc), and paying full price for something I want after realizing I had every opportunity to purchase it for less makes me miserable. It is money well-spent, IMO.
Indeed, if you like peanut butter, you have storage, and the stuff will not go off before you are ready to eat it, it is irrational not to buy the extra tub. Unless for some reason your discount rate is very high.
I've bought about 10 games on this Steam Sale and committed to playing each of them for 1-2 hours immediately, primarily so I could determine whether or not I wanted to request a refund if the game didn't grab me in that time period. The Steam Refund deal has been a huge motivaor to at least get some initial time in the game. As it turns out I have so far returned 4 of the games I purchased....and Steam has happily refunded all of them, so I am most impressed now.

WoW is the great killer of the "well rounded gamer" though. When I played WoW from 2005-2008 I think I finished maybe 4 or 5 other games in that entire time. When I formally quit WoW, I subsequently have completed close to 100 games from 2008 to present. Also, I have to say I feel much, much richer for it (in experience, if not cash). WoW is and always will be akin to a persistent substance abuse/addiction problem.
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