Monday, 16 July 2012

Valve - Steam Sales Actually Strengthen Products

"Everything we've seen, PC games and IP and all those franchises are more valuable today than they were four or five years ago"
It's hardly been a month since EA made the dismissal of Steam type super sales for it's own online service, Origin. The statements behind the decision amounted to the idea that such radical discounts hurt IPs and stop people from buying new. At the very moment I'm writing this article the annual Steam summer sale has begun, again offering discounts for sometimes pennies on the dollar. With this tradition though, comes a rebuttal from Valve business development chief Brian Holtman.

Now, going into this it's obvious that Valve will of course have its own bias towards defending it's position, but there are a couple of different factors that lead me to believe that Holtman isn't just talking out of his ass on this topic.

"We do it with our own games. If we thought having a 75 per cent sale on Portal 2 would cheapen Portal 2, we wouldn't do it. We know there are all kinds of ways customers consume things, get value, come back, build franchises. We think lots of those things strengthen it." 

Now I would imagine that it's easy enough for Valve to defend the choices regarding the way that it handles its own games. Valve has raised eyebrows in the past with moves such as making Team Fortress 2 free-to-play, so it's not incredibly surprising that it would be willing to discount its own products as deeply as it wants. However, although it puts on the sale, Valve actually has fairly little to offer during it, all things consider, most of the sales come from the various companies that have games on Steam: developers like Rockstar, Bethesda, THQ, Square Enix, and multitudes more.

I'm not sure if putting your games on Steam means that you have to include them in sales when Valve chooses to have them. It's worth noting that in their FAQ for submitting games for potential release over Steam that Valve states that "Pricing is very title specific, and we've got a lot of data and experience to help you decide on what the best price is for your title. We'll work with you to figure out pricing." I'm not sure if this extends to prices or participation in sales. Despite this though, if participation in sales were forced and unpopular, then doubtless you'd see a lot of publishers withdraw from the Steam client, this hasn't been the case.

"If we were somehow on a cycle where you could see it, you wouldn't see us repeating it. We wouldn't repeat it with our own games. We wouldn't repeat it with partner games. Partners wouldn't want to repeat it.

"Actually everything we see is to the contrary. It's funny, when you look at the data, things come out and they make you scratch your head for a little bit, and then you're like, that kind of makes sense

"For instance, if all that were true, nobody would ever pre-purchase a game ever on Steam, ever again. You just wouldn't. You would in the back of your mind be like, okay, in six months to a year, maybe it'll be 50 per cent off on a day or a weekend or during one of our seasonal promotions. Probably true. But our pre-orders are bigger than they used to be. Tonnes of people, right? And our day one sales are bigger than they used to be. Our first week, second week, third week, all those are bigger" 

It's not really mystifying when you think about it. I've commented before that if people are undecided on trying out a title that a price drop might encourage a purchase where one otherwise wouldn't have happened. The more people that get access to games, especially the first games in what become long-running series, the more people spread the word, and the larger and more eager the fanbase becomes. Also, the risk/reward of such transactions becomes heavily weighted towards the reward side: you spend less, so if it turns out not to meet your expectations then it's not as big of a deal as if you'd paid full price. The fact that people often use these sales to pick up games they already had interest in also means that most purchases are at the very least semi-informed.

All in all, there's a lot of encouragement to be found in Steam Sales, and that goes as much for developers as well as gamers.

1 comment:

  1. Not to mention the fact that people can gift games to others for the discount price. So if someone really enjoyed a game and feels that someone else would also enjoy it, they can wait for the sale and dump it on their buddy. I don't see why Valve is getting so much flack for this other than sheer jealousy.

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