Are Amazing Sales Putting You in a Game Rut?

Posted on August 1, 2013 8:45 AM by Rob Williams

It goes without saying that one of the biggest events to go down for PC gamers is a Steam sale, and it’s for good reason. That blockbuster title that cost $50 just six months ago? It’s probably $10~15 during a Steam sale. Even older titles can dip into the single digits. Heck – Just Cause was being sold for $0.27 during the Steam summer sale that just passed. Sales like these, along with Humble Bundle, Indie Royale and so forth allow you to build up a mega game collection quickly, and cheaply. And to some, that’s a major problem.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve noticed a serious trend with not just one, two or three of my friends, but a lot of them. Anytime a Steam sale takes place, I see regular updates in my activity feed showing me what many of them bought, and admittedly, a lot of the titles are fantastic. But here’s the problem: most of these games that get snatched simply won’t get played – ever. When a deal seems too amazing to pass up, resisting that purchase button is hard. You might try to convince yourself, “I’ll play it soon.”, but let’s face it: you have a lot of games on the go, more are coming out all of the time, another sale will be here before you manage to get to it, and you also have a little thing called “life”.¬†

Steam Summer Sale 2013

Yesterday, a friend of mine pointed me to a post over at Reddit from user ruteqube who spills the beans about the problem laid-out above that they fell victim to. In many words, ruteqube explains why it can happen, what’d it’d take to actually play through all of the games you’ve purchased, and how Steam itself is like a game.

With Steam’s cumulative counters for every game you’ve played, I feel like playing any Steam game fuels into some metagame because it’s ‘accounted for’.

I can relate to this statement to some degree. I admittedly like the fact that I can track my gameplay, and I never play a game or simply run it idle in order to inflate the recorded gametime. But it can act as a bit of an e-peen measure to some. If I put 50 hours into Secrets of the Magic Crystals, then of course I want people to see that. If I own 500 games, I of course want people to see that. 50 badges? Ditto.

Peter Griffin Do Not Push Button

Badges in particular are a bit of a sore spot for me, because the end-goal for Valve is to get people to spend money not on games, but services and profile upgrades, and an arbitrary level. By its design, Steam gives you half the number of cards in a set from a respective game you own; you have to either buy the cards you’re missing from other people, or trade cards from another game to get what you need. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there are 5 levels to each set of cards, meaning you need to construct five sets total to “max” that particular set. And then it gets even¬†better: there are “Foil” sets, which have card values that tend to go 4x+ higher than normal cards. You could technically spend hundreds of dollars on this mechanic if you wanted, simply to level up your Steam profile and inflate your ego.

Don’t believe people would actually buy games and cards just for the sake of that? Believe it.

ruteqube’s post is quite lengthy, but it’s well worth a read if this sort of thing intrigues you. There are of course many people who do exercise moderation when it comes to Steam sales and Steam mechanics itself, along with similar urges elsewhere. Those are the lucky ones. While I’d like to think I play every single game I’ve purchased, there are some that have sat on the backburner for far too long. I’ll be making an effort soon to tackle those. My biggest excuse is also my vice: MMOs. Oh, how those can drain your time and make you forget about every other game you own…

  • Marfig

    It’s worth pointing out that, compulsive hoarding issues aside, the reason we may have trouble playing games from a large collection we own, has a lot to do with what Barry Schwartz calls the paradox of choice. His TED talk is worth checking out.

    Steam is largely responsible for making available to the masses a consumerist approach to video games. It’s both the reason behind its huge success as it is its own downfall. For, like the ruteqube user above, many are starting to look at Steam as another evil entity getting into into our lives. And this feeling will only increase as one grows older or more aware of their consumer habits. I also appreciated how such an obvious Steam user started to realize the real dangers behind this company service (particularly the problem that we really are always one step away from loosing all our collection and retaining NOTHING). It’s good to see these issue being discussed openly and consumers becoming more aware that Steam isn’t really something we wish to keep praising, but criticize and hopefully force into a service more oriented toward our consumer rights.

    • Rob Williams

      Good insight. It’s funny you mention Steam as being “another evil entity”, because about a year ago, it seemed Steam could do no wrong. But with sales like these, and other things, you can really get sucked in and begin to hate some things about it. This trading card thing really bugs me, as I mentioned in the post, because it -encourages- spending money quite literally to upgrade your Steam profile and e-peen. There is no possible way to complete every card set for games you own without spending money. That says it all.

      • DarkStarr

        But…. no one said you have to collect them. You can just keep selling them and take the money.

        • Rob Williams

          Yup, that’s true. I am just crafting badges for games I -love-, and selling the cards for games I don’t care about THAT much.

          • DarkStarr

            I dunno how to sell them lol I should probably look into these set things as well….

          • Rob Williams

            You need to go into your inventory in order to sell a card. You can easily see see pricing trends and price yours accordingly. I’ve made like $25 selling cards I don’t want, but it’s gone right back into getting cards I do want.

  • JD Kane

    I bought two games during this last sale. And I bought one other game during the last sale.

    So what have I been playing?

    GTA IV, which I bought a few years ago on another Steam sale.

    Which means I’ll play the last three games I bought probably two or three years from now.

    • Rob Williams

      You are the stark opposite of this problem :D

  • Kayden

    I can’t say this is much of problem for me. Mainly because I do get around to playing everything I buy one way or another, not completing the game is dependent on the game it self not the other games I have waiting to be played.

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