It’s that time of year once again. The time when all of our wallets are at the mercy of the holidays, and, most notable, the annual Steam Winter Sale which kicked off yesterday. And per my Guide to Game Deals, this is the time to pick up the titles you’ve been sitting on.
But this year’s sale is a little different from past years, and the changes could be considered positive or negative.
Community Events Have Been Eliminated
Previously, Steam Sales were accompanied by some kind of community event. This previously included mini games done within Steam, achievements from within games, and playing/buying titles themselves.
These events were in decline after the Coal event, where players could amass coal with purchases to have a shot at winning free games. With Humble Bundle keys, players were able to abuse the system and gain high amounts of coal for a low cost. After this exploit, Valve moved away from granting any outright free games.
The latest community event was the war versus robots, which granted experience and bonuses, redeemable for new Steam skins and special discount coupons. No such event is playable this Holiday Sale.
While certainly not critical to the Steam sale experience, the community events gave a broader purpose to each sale. Players were incentivized to keep checking in to Steam (more on that later), and also work together to get unique aesthetic bonuses. Without the overriding event, the sale is simply that – a sale – and less an event that had such a unique flavor.
Daily Deals, Flash Sales, and Community Picks Have Been Eliminated
Steam Holiday Sales differed from the litany of other holiday sales due to the limited time super-sales that occurred every eight hours. Daily Deals and Flash Sales would put select titles at the highest discounts, normally 75% off.
These special sales are no longer part of the holiday sale experience. Nowadays, what you see is what you get. Before, you always waited to see if the title you wanted would be in a Flash or Daily sale, and then pounced. Now, you log in to see if the sale catches your fancy and if it doesn’t, its not getting any better.
Why has Valve eliminated its unique sale system? Most people point to the inclusion of the refund policy, whereby players can refund any purchase within a certain window, no questions asked. So if you get burned in buying a new game before a Flash sale, you could refund it and just get the Flash sale price.
The other reason people point to is the need to constantly check Steam every 8 hours just to make sure you don’t miss a sale. If you missed a Daily Deal on Day 2, you might be out of luck if that game didn’t come back through as a Flash Sale. The new system reduces this micromanagement.
Both points are valid reasons to eliminate Flash and Daily Deals. However, last summer sale had the refund policy alongside the Flash deals without too much of a problem. Further, the requirement to check and “catch” deals was a big draw to the whole Steam sale persona. Even if you didn’t have time to catch the sale, the last days normally had an Encore sale where all the best prices came back for the last 48 hours.
With the loss of community events and the special sales, the Steam Holiday Sale has lost a lot of its luster. There is no more daily ritual of checking the sale and any hidden deals Reddit may have uncovered. It is now checking my wishlist and simply deciding which ones I should get. Not that its all bad, it just lacks the gusto of previous sales.
Of course, who can complain when Witcher 3 is on sale for $29.99? Yea, go get it now (although nowadays you have the whole sale).
What are your thoughts about the new sale format? What are you picking up this year?