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The Sale Happened, and We Barely Noticed

Discussion & Analysis Steam

This is an editorial piece written by Jon “Tyk-Tok”, one of our new writers and editors (you might remember hearing him in many episodes of the recently hiatus’d Podcast 17). It focuses on last year’s Steam Holiday Sale, which just came to a close earlier this month; and the criticisms aimed squarely towards it, by some of the Steam userbase.

With tongue firmly in cheek (and wallet trapped in a state of existential chaos), Tyk-Tok looks at the 2012 Holiday Sale, and offers some of his thoughts.

I remember my first handful of Steam Holiday Sales, and just how magical the whole experience felt. Right on down the line of your friends, acquaintances, and who-is-this-persons, you would see their green-highlighted avatars playing the new daily deal, which they had been craving all-year round. I remember taking my holiday bonus and just going on a virtual rampage of five and ten dollar steals. But that was a good few years ago.

Looking at the experience nowadays, I might see something very different.

The Sale Happened, and We Barely Noticed

I might see my Steam friends list barely active, and playing standby-ish games such as TF2 or DOTA 2 (Saints Row: The Third was played by a few, but that’s as far as it goes with anything that was on sale). I might see the games that I bought with that holiday bonus last year still uninstalled, and by and large, I’m not excited by those choices in the slightest, aiming to make much more practical and significant purchases in general (and not just games, either).

Now, I’m not saying that everyone is experiencing the feelings that I am, cuz I don’t know you all. I’m sure you’re nice people, and I’m also sure that your mileage may vary. Overall, though, everything about the 2012 Holiday Sale just seemed pretty lackluster.

Was it because the Thanksgiving Sale sapped our cash beforehand? Was it the lack of any meaningful metagame to keep us distracted from all the money we were whizzing down our leg (the Badge challenges were more than a bit blasé)? Was 2012 just a slow enough year that we had all the games we had wanted already? Or, as the mongrels in the media are so apt to remind us, are the times just that tough?

It might be a combination of all these, to be honest. These were all personal considerations for me, for the most part. Money was scarce due to previous purchases, and the choices were pretty lackluster in comparison. I was never into the metagames, but I know that they were a pretty big drive for a lot of people, especially during the 2011 Holiday Sale.

Overall, this Sale seemed to be a bit more diamond-in-the-rough than others, with precision buys for single titles that pique one’s interest. My purchases have been restricted to Arkane’s “Thief-meets-Shocklike” critical darling Dishonored, indie hit-or-miss HOME, Telltale’s moral dilemmariffic The Walking Dead, and the suspiciously block-based multiplayer shooter Ace of Spades. It’s a relatively paltry haul, and from what I can tell, it’s been like this for many people.

We’re all like big game hunters out on the veldt, with our grapeshot loaded and our finger twitching over the hair-trigger of that big green “PURCHASE” button. We see an abundant ecosystem of games around us, just begging to be bagged. We show restraint, knowing that there are far more promising trophies awaiting us and that it would be foolish to waste ammunition. The moment our prize peers through the tall grasses of the savannah, our hearts skip a beat and we let the muzzle of our bank accounts roar.

Alright, that may have gotten a little ornate there, but you get the picture. Now, we’re just waiting around for the really hot-ticket items to show themselves, and we snatch ‘em up without so much as a second thought.

Wait a minute…

That’s what I did the last few years. Exactly.

And it was all still exciting then.

Now that I think about it, maybe it isn’t the sale that’s changed. Maybe (pause) it’s us.

Perhaps the whole event has just become so regimented in our minds that it has become banal. The time where we should become most excited about consuming games for a reasonable price is now standard and boring due to the sheer repetition, simply because it’s become a great big tradition.

It’s happening now because it’s always happened, and it’s an excuse to buy the things we were a spendthrift about earlier. We knew we’d get a shot at the end of the year, and it finally turned up. Period. C’est finis. “THE END” written in friendly letters across a dazzling sunset.

If this is the case, then what can we do when the love is gone? Is there a way that Steam or Valve can reignite the excitement? A metagame might have helped some, but who can say how much of a help it would have actually been. To be honest, I think we all need to remember just how exciting the whole thing can be, and that might involve the introduction of a very dirty word: scarcity.

It’s like the kid who wants nothing else but pizza and ice cream for dinner every single night. Those things become special in moderation, and boring (if not outright unhealthy) in routine. All year, we’ve had sales of all shapes and sizes, to the point where it was an exact routine. Maybe the sales need to become the exception again, rather than the absolute rule (especially since Amazon and Green Man Gaming are quickly emerging as valiant competitors in the art of the holiday sale).

But who knows what the future may hold for Steam and its arbitrary markdowns? One thing’s for sure, I’m quitting Steam and abandoning my library for good after this truly abject controversy. I have HAD IT. UP TO HERE. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, VALVE.

So I don’t know about you guys, but I’m packing up and heading for Origin. It’s looking pretty exciting over there! Apparently, they have the last Mass Effect game (its ending was ALL the rage a few months back) available for a staggeringly affordable $50; and that they have 2002’s biggest and baddest multiplayer hit, Battlefield 1942, up for… check this: absolutely free?

Now that’s a service that’ll go places.


  1. I feel like this year I didn’t buy very many games, not because the sale was bad or because I have too many games, it’s because I didn’t feel like there was very many truly great games this year. Borderlands, BLOPs, and torchlight were all disappointing as were many other AAA titles.

    Personally I’m waiting for Starbound, I can’t wait! But I can’t think of any other games that came out last year that I REALLY wanted.

  2. For me too, at first, the sale was kinda disapointing and then i’ve figured out something :

    The sale wasn’t as magical as before because, at my first sale, i had only 5 games in my library (and a ton of cracked games aside)

    Now that i’ve almost 170+ games, the sale felt not so magical because there wasn’t something interesting ; i already have the game i want.

    I think the sales are still interesting for newcomer who only have 10+ games and are really looking for new games and IP.

    Sales for 170+ owners are simply “Yeah… 15$ i’ll buy it and maybe play it…”

    We have evolved, not the sale, IMO.

  3. I bought Far cry 3 30% off thx for the steam winter sale

  4. I actually enjoyed the holiday sales this year. I got a lot of really great deals. I’m making a concious effort since mid 2012 to actually play games in my library and I think I’m doing a pretty good job. Mostly I’ve been sticking to tripple A titles I haven’t visited yet, but every now and then I break out a new indie title.

    Being a game collector I will always love sales only to boost my count.

  5. I bought several games during the 2011 sale. This year I bought nothing despite the fact that I had more to spend this year than last year.

    Last year’s sale was more exciting, in my opinion, because of the whole achievement quest thing. It was great fun and I ended up playing a whole bunch of games that I’d never even touched.

    I just wasn’t “into” this year’s sale. There was no hook.

  6. I figured it’s because I have quite a lot of game installed already, and there was very little new game to pick up from this year.

    I did get Sleeping Dogs and Witcher 2 for $5 and $7.50, so I’m happy.

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