How to Score the Best Gaming Deals During Steam Sales
Oh, the glorious Steam sale. It pops up a few times a year to empty the wallets of anyone who plays PC games. It’s gotten so popular that competing digital services like Amazon and Gamefly run similar sales during the same time period in order to pull sales away from Steam. Even EA’s Origin gets into the mix, but I wouldn’t recommend using that service to my worst enemy. (Be sure to check the section on Steam’s new Trading Cards below!)
If you are new to the process, here’s the skinny. Steam, Valve’s PC game distribution platform, cranks up a massive sale on nearly all items in the store. The next one just started and will run through December 3, 2013. Another large sale usually hits during winter around Christmas time. The sale period usually lasts for about 10 days and discounts range from 25 percent to 90 percent depending on the type of sale.
There are four types of discounts that you want to keep an eye out for:
- The Standard: This discount starts on the first date of the sale and lasts the entire sale period. It’s usually 25 to 40 percent off the normal price of the game.
- The Daily: Daily Deals, as they are called, are launched each day of the sale and typically last for 24 to 36 hours. Valve has also extended the daily deal sale an additional 12 hours recently. You really have to check every day to see what’s on sale. Discounts can be anywhere from 40 to 85 percent off the normal price.
- The Flash: Offering similar discounts to the Daily Deal, the Flash Deal only lasts 6 to 18 hours. It also requires checking Steam over and over to see the latest offering. There are tools / sites to help you keep track of all these sales, but more on that below.
- The Bundle: If you are new to PC gaming, this is really where you can get the most bang for your buck. Valve bundles games from the same publisher all together and adds an additional discount on top of the standard discount. Bundles will also pop up on daily deals from time to time. It’s a great way to purchase a ton of games at once, typically for $50 to $75 depending on the bundle.
Patience is Key
The key to getting the best value out of Steam sale purchases is patience. Specifically, you can pick up any game at the standard discount price on day 10 of the sale. That’s exactly why you shouldn’t purchase it on day one.
A 33 percent discount on Bioshock Infinite may be extremely attractive, but wouldn’t you rather pick it up for 50 percent or 66 percent off during a Daily Deal? However, on the final day of the sale, feel free to purchase any standard discount games.
In preparation for a sale, I usually make a list of games that I want to add to my collection. You can use the Wishlist feature within Steam after you register for an account or simply type it out in Excel or Notepad. I’ll also come up with a budget of what I want to spend for each game.
While it’s highly unlikely that you won’t be able to purchase a specific game before a discount expires, you can also add funds to your Steam account prior to starting in order to cut one step out of the purchase process. Be aware that purchasing a game within seconds of closing could be problematic. Also, new games won’t appear immediately. Give the site a few minutes to refresh before reloading the page.
The Right Tools for the Job
If you are using Google Chrome or Firefox, I recommend checking out the Enhanced Steam extension. It provides a plethora of added features like color coding games you already own to avoid duplicate purchases, identifying 3rd party DRM, showing DLC categories and providing a pricing history to see if you are really getting a great deal.
If you are stuck at work or on a PC that you can’t make purchases on, be sure to download the Steam app for iOS or Android phones. This will help you keep up to date on the latest deals and make purchases that you can download later on your gaming PC.
Steam Trading Cards
New to the sale this year, Steam had added a feature called Steam Trading Cards that can be earned by playing games on Steam. Basically, Valve is attempting to bring a new level of gamification to the Steam interface; thus rewarding heavy users with additional benefits. Cards can be collected and crafted into badges as well as items that can be traded within the Steam community.
After crafting a set of cards into a badge, that allows the Steam user to earn coupons on new games or DLC, emoticons used within Steam chat, game backgrounds and other fun add-ons. In addition, a badge can be leveled up which can lead to earning non-tradable items such as extra friend list slots, profile showcases and more. You can also feature a badge you are particularly proud of at the top of your profile page.
If you are looking for information on a game and standard reviews just don’t cut it, pop over to r/gaming in Reddit and look for the thread on each day’s deals. There’s usually a solid discussion on both the quality of the deals as well as the quality of the games.
You should also be sure to check out r/steamdeals and r/patientgamers for alerts on newly listed Flash and Daily deals as well as tips on cheap prices on competing services. Amazon, for instance, competes heavily with Steam and will discount games even more aggressively sometimes. Those games can also be downloaded directly within Steam, assuming it’s a digital version with a Steam key.
If you have a little extra money to invest in heavily discounted Steam games, consider purchasing a popular game at a 50 to 75 percent discount and hanging onto it rather than installing it. Beyond trading with friends in the Steam community, sites like SteamTrades and r/SteamGameSwap allow you to trade game keys with others. When something comes out that you really want to play, someone may consider trading that game for a key or keys that you own. If you are creative with trades, you could come away with a new release for the discounted price that you paid during the last Steam sale. You can also trade away duplicate games from a Bundle pack as well.
Steam It Up!
Those are the basics to taking advantage of the big Steam sales. Go forth and hand over your paycheck to the Mighty Gabe during the next Steam sale. If you are interested in beefing up your gaming PC in preparation of the next major Steam sale, check out our Build-a-Gaming-PC guide here.