It’s that time again… Steam Summer Sale time! This year the sale is starting even earlier than it did last year and will run from June 11-21, 2015. With E3 just around the corner it’s going to be a busy time for gaming. For the past 2 years I’ve made posts about tips on saving money through these sales. And while my advice largely stays the same, things change year to year and there are some other considerations that need to be taken. One of the biggest changes to Steam happened very recently with the addition of their refund policy. And of course, every year Steam has something different up their sleeve for the community with fun events. So, let’s get started!
In the words of Scar, “Be prepared!”
- To avoid going on a ridiculous spending spree, create a short list of the games you really want. Obviously this will change from last year’s list as new games are released and added to Steam’s catalog. I use the Steam Wishlist since it’s readily available and you can reorganize it to put your most wanted games at the top. This will also help you to figure out how much money you should budget for the sale.
- Buy Steam cards or use the Steam Wallet to stay on budget. Another way to reduce impulse buying is only purchase with Steam Wallet funds as it makes it easier to track how much money you’ve spent. This is also good if you’re in a country that has an unfavourable exchange rate. I’m in Canada where the $CDN isn’t ideal for $USD pricing, so it’s cheaper for me to buy Steam cards locally than to go through the hiked up currency exchange rates on Paypal or credit cards.
- Get Steam Enhanced for your browser. I honestly can’t talk enough about how incredibly useful this tool is. It will highlight the games and DLCs you already own, show you historical lowest prices, tell you if the game is currently or recently was part of a bundle deal, calculate how much you’ve spent and saved, etc.
- Optional, but recommended is to sync your Steam account with IsThereAnyDeal.com. I use this site for notifications on deals. The Steam Wishlist is supposed to send you an email about deals, but I find that it’s way too slow. ITAD also keeps track of the price history of a game across multiple platforms, so you can easily see if you’re getting the best deal. I also use it to watch for sale trends of competitors. There are other similar sites, but this is my preference.
Let’s Get Shopping!
- Value is created by each individual, so I’d suggest that you decide what good value means to you. My personal rule for a good deal is anything that is $5 and under or over 75% off. That doesn’t mean I’ll purchase every game that falls under that rule, but it’s a good base when I’m deciding to pick up games I’m interested in.
- Keep in mind that newer released games don’t usually get deep discounts so soon, BUT they will get them eventually. Almost every game goes down in price eventually. It might not be this sale, but patience may reward you later. That being said, don’t wait out on ridiculously low prices either as the publishers need to make some money. Generally, AAA games stagnant around $15-20 unless they’re over 4 years old, then they don’t usually go lower than $5. You’re more likely to find them in a bundle with 3 for $10 or something like that. The older the game is, the cheaper it’ll be.
- During the sale, only buy games that are Daily Deals, Flash sales, and/or Community Event deals. Basically the deals that are featured on the front page each day. The reason for this that even though the entire catalog is on sale, there is a chance when the featured sales rotate that some of those games will get even deeper discounts. And don’t think that just because a game is old, not popular, or obscure that it won’t get picked. Stranger things have happened. Now, I know you might be thinking this shouldn’t apply since the new Refund Policy is in affect. I’ll talk more about this later, but I’ll just say this for now… it’s very new, so don’t expect it to be working perfectly right out the gate.
- For games that don’t get featured deals, wait until the last day of the sale before purchasing. On the last day the featured deals will be over, but there will still be time to buy the regular sale games. Again, the new Refund Policy is available, but it takes time and you may not get your money refunded before the sale ends. Also, pay attention to ending deal times (you can find the countdown on any game page during the sale that’s not a featured sale). Steam hasn’t been consistent with when deals actually end as the last sale day is usually reserved for Encore Sales.
- If you can, refresh the store just as it updates. This year it looks like new deals will happen every 12 hours, so the times are (in EDT): 1pm and 1am. Steam’s site is notorious for not updating correctly and creating price errors. This is where you’ll find those amazing $0.01 deals and best of all, if you manage to purchase it Steam will honour the sale. So, if you happen to refresh and see a price that looks too good to be true, jump on it and count yourself one of the lucky few. Keep in mind that prices can fluctuate the other way as well. More often than not you’ll see games get discounts for –20% or –10% off, when in reality they’re –50% or –60% off and just haven’t updated properly yet. All prices should adjust to their proper prices in a few minutes.
Other Things to Consider
- The last day of the sale is usually reserved for Encore Deals. These deals in the past have consisted of the most popular deals that were featured throughout the sale. So, not all featured deals will come back, but it’s more likely that popular big games will. Also, since the last day is Encore deals only, that usually means no other new featured deals will happen.
- Be aware of other online retailers’ prices. Usually when Steam announces their Summer Sale other retailers will have their big summer sale around the same time. Sometimes they get better discounts on certain games for various reasons. Like Humble Bundle sometimes has better deals on indie games. Other times they price match deals after Steam’s feature deal has expired. Just be aware that if you do purchase from another retailer, to make sure you budget for them if you want to save money and check if they have Steam keys if you prefer to have everything on the same platform.
- Steam’s Refund Policy isn’t perfect. This is a rather new policy that went live just last week. The policy states that you can request a refund for any game within 2 weeks of purchase or under 2 hours of gameplay. They do say that abuse of the refund policy can result in a ban, but they also state, “We do not consider it abuse to request a refund on a title that was purchased just before a sale and then immediately rebuying that title for the sale price.” That being said, there have been reports that refunds can take 2-3 days. However, this was BEFORE the sale. I would double or even triple that wait time during the sale. If you make a big mistake during the sale, then the refund policy is there to help you out, but I would not rely on it or even expect to get your money back quickly.
- Check if lower priced games have Steam Trading Cards. This is riskier and takes up more time, so it’s optional. I won’t go into the details of buying/selling cards as there’s been quite a few changes since the last Winter Sale, but the basic idea is if a game comes with cards that you can sell them off and get a “hidden” discount. It’s usually a small amount, but sometimes you can make enough for an extra game or 2 during the sale. You can also sell cards from games you already own as older games get cards added constantly. Keep in mind that your cards will go for less during the sale as a lot of people jump in on this and up the supply, but the positives are you’ll probably sell them quicker than in off-times. You can check which games have cards at Steam Card Exchange.
- If you’re on the go, the Steam mobile app is helpful with staying up to date on sales. Since this year it seems Steam has replaced the Community Voting with their Cookie Clicker-like game, there isn’t much reason to be constantly checking the site for things like voting. So, this isn’t as useful as it once was. But if your phone, tablet, or other devices have trouble loading the Steam website, SteamDB is good site with a simplistic design for checking all the deals. This is especially useful if you want to see the entire Summer sale catalog. They also offer other information about games, such as regional pricing, region locking, past and current Steam bundles, DLCs associated with it, and store update history.
- Lastly, Steam can (and has) changed the rules. This guide is based on what Steam has done for past sales, but they’ve been known to throw a curve ball here and there. Like last Winter Sale the trading card market went crazy. The lasting impression of that carries over to this sale where users are still able to create booster packs which can affect the price and amount of trading cards. So, don’t think of these tips as the end all, be all as Steam could change something during the sale that could make something I say here obsolete.
Good luck and happy hunting!