January 6th, 2010

I bought these.$119.01USD — that’s what I spent during Steam’s holiday sale. For less than the price of two new console games, I bought nineteen PC games, all from Steam. Although I was aware of sales at other stores, I bought nothing from them. Steam demanded my undivided attention; its two week store-wide sale grabbed me, and its daily sales held me tightly. Just as a clumsy analogy reinforcing a simple point, Steam’s sale refused to go unnoticed, and it refused to be forgotten. No other digital distributor’s sales accomplished this; apart from some festively redesigned websites, they were unremarkable.

Impulse could have sold me some games, but for every attractive offer they had (Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals, And Yet It Moves), Steam had the same game at a deeper discount. Impulse had no daily sales, so once I finished comparing deals, I had no reason to revisit them. GamersGate held daily sales, but they were mainly composed of games from Meridian4, 1C Company, and Paradox Interactive — it’s peculiar when their games aren’t discounted. I almost bought King’s Bounty: Armored Princess for $20, but Steam had it for $26 along with the promise of more daily sales, so I decided to wait. Two days later, I bought Armored Princess from Steam for $7.49.

Good Old Games did all right by discounting their catalogue by up to 40%, but I still didn’t buy anything. I was tempted, but their games are always inexpensive. It’s difficult to get excited about 25% off when Sanitarium is already $9.99; if I’d wanted it, I’d probably have already bought it at its regular price.

Despite their dominance, Steam’s holiday sale will benefit the entire industry, including their competitors. Valve — Gabe Newell specifically — likes sharing data, and I have no doubt that statistics from the sale will be shared at D.I.C.E. or GDC, if not sooner. I’d like to know how the sale has affected Steam’s market share; how far does such a massive promotion reach? How many new accounts were made? How many purchases were people’s first since creating their account with their CD-key for Modern Warfare 2, Dawn of War II, or Empire: Total War? How many new accounts were made whose initial action was to send or receive a gift?

Just a few months ago, I examined Impulse, GamersGate and Direct 2 Drive and concluded that, while Direct 2 Drive is altogether unpleasant to buy from, I should do more to support Impulse and GamersGate. The benefits of altruism are blurring, however, as Steam’s service continues to satisfy, and as Impulse and GamersGate’s continues to underwhelm.

  1. I tried to look at Impulse to buy things too and sadly they didn’t even have some of the titles much less able to compete on price. Steam killed it this holiday season, and my bank account pays the ultimate price.

  2. I buy roughly two games a year on average, feeding off mods, multiplayer and free games to otherwise sustain me. However, this sale has resulted in SIX new games in a week: Braid, Max Payne 1 & 2, Indigo Prophecy, Bioshock, and Trials 2 — all for $17.10. In addition, Sokkratez gifted to me the adventure pack of “Ben There, Dan That!” and “Time Gentlemen, Please!”

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