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Confessions of a Steam summer sale addict

I have a problem. In the course of seven days, I've spent $227.54 on Steam sales. Just to put that sum in perspective, we're talking about August's car payment--or, for those more motivated by food than bills (as I often am), well over 200 McDoubles. 200 glorious McDoubles. Hold up, Dirt 3 for $8.49? Sign me up! Tropico 4 for $5.99? Why not? Oh, by the way, I'll never play either of those games. But at least I have them, right?

There's been an article floating around the Internet the past couple days that digs into the psychology behind Steam's summer sale. The basic gist is that Valve's employing a few clever tactics to keep people coming back and spending money. Flash sales, daily bargains, trading cards--they're all cogs in a well-oiled machine meant to separate you from that hard-earned cash you prize so dearly. And it's working wonders, at least on me. I'm $242.02 in the rabbit hole.

How can I say no when I can get Euro Truck Simulator 2 for $9.99? I don't know much about Europe--even less about its trucks--and I have absolutely zero interest in simulating anything related to the two. But I'll be damned if that game doesn't look fantastic in my Steam library, where it'll spend an eternity grayed out and uninstalled. Really, when it comes down to it, I just can't resist what my brain perceives to be a good deal.

I mean, it's bad. I'm on a spending spree, blowing money like I got it, which is hilariously inaccurate. Seriously, I'm out $252.01. More than once I've tried to buy a game upon seeing its price slashed by half only to discover I already own it. Thankfully, Steam has buyer protections in place to ensure that I don't buy a fourth copy of Dark Souls--because, for whatever reason, I couldn't resist nabbing a third one for $7.49 despite already having a PS3 and Xbox 360 copy sitting on my media stand at home.

Maybe there are deeper psychological reasons why I just purchased Sang-Froid - Tales of Werewolves for $5.09, reasons that transcend the attractive nature of a sales tag (perhaps perceived lost choice is to blame?), but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that I was able to buy the blood, sweat, and tears of a fledgling developer for less than the cost of a combo meal at Taco Bell. Dark Souls, though--that was definitely an impulse buy brought about by random reward schedules.

If nothing else, Steam's summer sales have incentivized me to support development teams I've never even heard of, because the barrier of entry is practically non-existent. Those purchases do, however, add up pretty quickly, hence that $264.59 missing from my bank account. I have only myself to blame.

There is a plus side to unexpectedly spending a lot of money on a bunch of games I'll never touch. It's something I've gained besides Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes for $13.59 and Evoland for $4.99: the ability to adhere to a budget. For the past few days, my diet has consisted primarily of rice, soy sauce, and eggs. I've initiated a spending freeze (video games don't count), and have successfully saved a few dollars on things like groceries, beer, and other miscellaneous expenses. (As an aside, I'd like to apologize to my co-workers who lent me money, as I am on a spending freeze.)

I have no doubt that psychological reactance, artificial scarcity, and an endowed progress effect have played a role in my irrational need to buy up Steam games as though they'll never be available again. If you'd told me ten years ago that I could get almost every Grand Theft Auto game ever made for $12.49, or Deus Ex: Human Revolution for less than the price of a high school hot lunch, I would've called you a liar. I would've told you that you must be living in some make-believe fantasy world, man, because here in the real world PC games cost at least $50. Instead, I'm down $298.65 from buying more games than I could ever hope to play.

And, wouldn't you know it, I'm looking forward to my dinner of rice, soy sauce, and--holy hell, SimCity 4 for $4.99? Better skip the eggs.

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24 comments

  • kekalot - June 23, 2014 8:10 p.m.

    I support Swedish_Chef's comment, as someone with now 1394 games owned on his Steam account, I didn't spend all that much however, I can't even remember the last time I paid more than $20 for a game.. I remember buying Borderlands 2 at that price (however not from Steam directly, got it from someone who had a voucher from a video card) and a few times I paid back small amounts money I owed via buying my brother or my friends games. to be honest, I'd be VERY surprised if all those games cost me over $3000.. last time I've seen the amount it was showing $1388 spent on Steam. I did buy quite a bit of them bundles, which sometimes adds up to 10-15 games to your account for 1-5 dollars. for me 3k (and its not even 2.5k, I'm sure) is about 3 weeks worth of pay spent for 5 years of entertainment. this year, I have bought Dead Rising 3 for $20, Planetary Annihilation for $10 and the Walking Dead Season 2 for about $4 (I spent 5$ on Steam balance to buy 2 TF2 keys and used one i had to trade for it) I spent two times about $100 before on some amount of TF2 or Dota2 keys (55 or so) and traded those keys worth $100 for 30 or so games that i wanted. if any of you wonder how this works.. well here it is Saints Row IV is on sale now, 75% off at US: $9.99, however it is on sale in Russia for 149 pуб. (4.37 USD) (56% off that 75% off price. ) you might pay 6$ for it with markup from some russian guy buying it for you ;P Dead Rising 3, not even out.. $49.99 game, Historical Lowest Price: $37.49 at Steam on Thu Jun 19 2014. paid $20 via paypal. Dispenser.tf is your best friend. (yes its a web address) and I do understand I am not helping, but this might just save you monies :P
  • Little_Miss_Sin - April 20, 2014 4:10 a.m.

    I need help. This sums me up. Its not even funny, I really need help...lol..(sigh)
  • Little_Miss_Sin - April 19, 2014 8:22 p.m.

    I need help. This sums me up. Its not even funny, I really need help...lol..(sigh)
  • matt-fletcher - July 22, 2013 9:05 a.m.

    absolutely hilarious... sums up my last week for sure.
  • winner2 - July 21, 2013 10:43 a.m.

    Ryan you've got a serious problem when you get games you've already played and have, and when you buy games you know you'll never play. That is literally knowingly wasting money. Like, I thought about getting the legendary edition skyrim but I've already done tons in skyrim on console. Thinking about it makes you really come to terms with how much of a waste the money would be.
  • Fireninjastar - July 20, 2013 1:05 p.m.

    I just bought Terraria for 2.50$.
  • PatHan-bHai - July 20, 2013 8:26 a.m.

    Good thing I don't like Steam and am broke....and just lost my PC................
  • sandplasma - July 19, 2013 10:22 p.m.

    Its sick, stop spending money if you're not going to play the games. If you have no interest especially.
  • GOD - July 19, 2013 9:52 p.m.

    The worst part about a spending problem, is that you can't afford the help! It's so tragic, yet you make it so funny.
  • Craza - July 19, 2013 9:36 p.m.

    Oh, and I wanted to say, if there's a game you don't know for sure you'll play or, should you be the type of person who always thinks, "But I COULD want to play it in the future!"; if it's not one you've already been waiting for or wanting to play, purchase it as a gift and then have it sent to your inventory. That way, if you end up not wanting to play it or never install it, you can gift it to a friend who does want it or resell it. And, of course, if you do want to play it after all, you can easily add it to your library. (I got this from a Good Advice Duck meme, so I don't take credit for it, ha)
  • Craza - July 19, 2013 9:30 p.m.

    I definitely understand the psychological drive behind "Must-buy-bargains", as this is the same tactic employed by movie theaters and fast food chains decades ago. People buy and eat that shit up. It's a subconscious urge to get the most out of our money and effort, so when you can buy a super-sized meal or popcorn--twice the food--for only 50 cents more, who in their right mind would pass that up!? That is essentially FREE food you are NOT taking if you say no to that! It's the same with Steam sales and Black Friday specials. People see an exceptional "deal" that can't be ignored and a lot of times, end up feeling guilty if they DON'T buy it, or feel guilty after they DO because they realize they don't need it or won't really use it. I mean, it's okay every once in a while, and sometimes, it can work out in your favor if you go about it wisely. Other times, you might just feel overstuffed or even sick after eating that meal large enough for 4 people, or you might have to cut down a few expenses for a month after splurging on a sale. However, when it's done too often, it becomes an extreme problem that can lead to obesity or poor health (in the case of food) and debt. It's a very interesting subject, and I could go on forever about it. Anyways, I've done pretty good. I did buy Sang-Froid, but it was because I had never heard of it and it sounded/looked genuinely good. It reminded me a bit of Orcs Must Die, which I liked. I have already bought more games than I usually do on these sales, but it's because they are all games I will definitely play or were ones I have been wanting for some time now. Dishonored for $10? Hallelujah, I can finally play it! Tomb Raider!? Holy shit, yes! I'd say the only games I've taken more of a chance on are LEGO LoTR and the Sang-Froid, but I don't think they're going to disappoint me.
  • Rub3z - July 19, 2013 6:46 p.m.

    First paragraph: $227.54 Last paragraph: $298.65 Lol, over the course of writing this article you set yourself back $71.11. Well, this is only the first step in resolving your problem... you've only just admitted it, right? No need to rush yourself on resolving it for a day or two... ... Especially since the sale ends in three. :D
  • Jokercell - July 19, 2013 4:09 p.m.

    I've found that the Steam sales during Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Years, have had better sales than the summer sale. So far this summer I have only dropped $21 on five games.
  • meatMAN - July 19, 2013 4:04 p.m.

    When you see that something is 90% off, you have to buy it. I still have games from last years sale that I haven't played.
  • MeanwhileGuy - July 19, 2013 1:16 p.m.

    In all honesty, I have around 6 games in my Steam library. Portal 2, Crysis, Medieval 2 Total War, Medieval 2 Kingdoms, Left 4 Dead and Garrys Mod. I'd buy more but I generally tend to favour my console collection, plus my PC ... Isn't the greatest. I can totally see myself getting into stuff like Hawken, Civ V and Day Z, once I have a decent rig, and thanks to GR's excellent guide, that'll probably be sooner rather than later. Though I still don't understand why you'd buy a game that you'll maybe play someday, even if it's ultra cheap.
  • freeden - July 19, 2013 1:15 p.m.

    I've spent probably about $75 on the Steam sale, but they've been games I've only been interested in. They're games I was either interested in playing a year ago or games I looked at on Steam but never wanted to pay the asking price for. I am kind of amazed that some people will just buy a game they have absolutely no interest in, but I have to applaud Valve. They know how to please gamers and make money at the same time. And I have been pretty happy with my purchases so far.
  • Wibbles - July 19, 2013 12:53 p.m.

    I've spent $227.54 on Steam sales. I'm down $298.65 from buying more games than I could ever hope to play. Oh dear.
  • zymn - July 19, 2013 12:32 p.m.

    You see, before the sale started, I had picked out all the games I wanted in my wishlist and waited for them to drop to 5 bucks or less. There's been a few exceptions on that, but I've only bought 7 games so far and I still haven't broke a hundred bucks.
  • CoruptAI125 - July 19, 2013 12:31 p.m.

    I appreciate how you increased the amount you spent every paragraph, nice touch!
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - July 19, 2013 11:24 a.m.

    I've bought Civ 5 and Terraria. Not having played either ever and not knowing much about Civ apart from its a strategy masterpiece. Civ 5 is still uninstalled. I'm too intimidated to try and get into it!

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