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Steam sale likely to hit today - but is it damaging for games? EA man says yes, Valve man says no...

Rumours abound that Steam's fabled Summer Sale will kick off later today, mainly thanks to a hastily retracted developer comment pounced upon by the Steam community. Whether it's today or any other day soon, it's obviously great news for us gamers as there's almost always a metric shedload of games on offer for ridiculously cheap prices. But where there's a winner, EA reckons there's a loser too. And definitely not because Steam's stranglehold on the market is making it hard for EA's rival Origin to take off. Nosiree.

David Demartini is the head of EA's Origin service. And he's most certainly not going to be announcing any 75%-off sales on his service any time soon. Why? Because he says it damages publishers' intellectual properties (the value of their brands), cheapening them and giving customers a huge reason not to buy new games at launch. He told GamesIndustry:

“We won’t be doing that. Obviously [Steam] thinks it’s the right thing to do after a certain amount of time. I just think it cheapens your intellectual property. I know both sides of it, I understand it. If you want to sell a whole bunch of units, that is certainly a way to do that, to sell a whole bunch of stuff at a low price. The game makers work incredibly hard to make this intellectual property, and we’re not trying to be Target. We’re trying to be Nordstrom.

“When I say that, I mean good value, we’re trying to give you a fair price point, and occasionally there will be things that are on sale you could look for a discount, just don’t look for 75 per cent off going-out-of-business sales.

“What Steam does might be teaching the customer: ‘I might not want it in the first month, but if I look at it in four or five months, I’ll get one of those weekend sales and I’ll buy it at that time at 75% off. It’s an approach, and I’m not going to say it’s not working for Valve. It certainly works for Valve; I don’t know if it works as well for the publishing partners who take on the majority of that haircut.”

Above: The Origin homepage. No '75% off' sales banners to be found here, folks

It's a fair point, but one that Valve was having none of when the point was made to them at Develop. Valve's Business Development Chief, Jason Holtman, reportedly told Eurogamer:

"If this were all about a cheapening and somehow lessening the money out there or somehow customers don’t want to pay any more, they think everything should be like a used car lot – sticker price is not the real price – you’d feel that and you’d get real reinforcement of that. We don’t see any of that. We see people buying a lot and enjoying it and playing a lot.

"For instance, if all that were true, nobody would ever pre-purchase a game ever on Steam, ever again. You just wouldn’t. In the back of your mind be like, okay, in six months to a year, maybe it’ll be 50% 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. Tons 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."

Above: The Steam homepage, immediately showing you an offer in a third of the screen

Steam has some 40 million users and it's worth noting that digital sales are not counted in the UKIE sales charts so it's always difficult to tell exactly how many sales there are when a new game launches. Nonetheless, the excitement around new games on the service is clearly massive. You've probably heard people say 'I've got it pre-loaded on Steam', so we don't doubt he's correct. Holtman continued:

“That points out that what’s happened with those sales is, you’ve probably caught somebody and introduced them to a game when they haven’t had it, and they’ve played it, and the next time the franchise comes out or the next move from that publisher, the next move from the partner, they’ve just become more avid gamers."

"Discounting is one small function of what we do. It's one small function of our market and our store. It certainly doesn't seem to be anything that cheapens IP. "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."

So who's right? Obviously the consumer is going to side with the service with the cheapest games, but surely even developers can benefit from the promotion that comes from a price cut on Steam. It's extra publicity on a global platform, a lower price could encourage people to impulse buy and perhaps even secure future full-price sales as a result. Either Steam's actually doing the games industry a huge favour with its promotional price-cuts, or everyone should use Origin because... it's not having any big price cuts any time soon. Hmmm...

Topics

Steam

43 comments

  • usrevenge - July 14, 2012 4:38 p.m.

    steam is doing it right. EA is being stupid again.. the more people to play your games the more they will want the next one. if I never played battlefield, then went oh well BF3 is on sale for $10 with all the DLC then I like it... wouldn't I have a good chance of getting BF4? yes.
  • SchwartzEdithh - July 13, 2012 7:43 a.m.

    as Steve implied I'm stunned that a student able to earn $4716 in 4 weeks on the internet. did you read this site link (Click on menu Home more information) http://goo.gl/vJrQ9
  • TheVoid - July 12, 2012 9:25 p.m.

    Man am I goddamn tired of EA. And they never seem to know when to shut the fuck up. While there's plenty wrong with Demartini's entire statement, I'm just going to focus on one thing: "We’re not trying to be Target. We’re trying to be Nordstrom." Ok...how's that exactly? Nordstrom has built a reputation on top-of-class customer service. Sure, they tend to be pricer than most with (arguably) finer merchandise, but at the end of the day they are a department store just like all the rest. As such they've learned that in order to separate themselves from the rest - and therefore survive - they need to excel in at least one regard, and service is where Nordstrom blows the competition away. I admire them for that, even if I'm not a frequent customer. Origin, on the other hand, has nothing to boast other than exclusive titles, which themselves were a result of a hasty and divisive decision to yank all future EA games from Steam (even going as far as to allow Steam users to pre-purchase Crysis 2, only to yank it just prior to release). I love the Battlefield series but refuse to buy BF3 because of Origin. Likewise with Mass Effect 3. There is no shortage of good games these days so I can do without either (and future installments of those franchises should they continue to be Origin exclusives, provided Origin continues to shit the bed, which I think is a safe bet at this point). Of course, if EA admits defeat and puts those games on Steam, those purchases will be made instantly. Because Steam has proven themselves over and over again, which is why I'm a loyal customer. Sorry EA - your "take your ball and go home" tactic hasn't warmed me up at all. And I'd say Origin has been around long enough that if there was some competitive edge on their end, we would have seen it by now. Instead they just continue to tread water atop their exclusive content under the assumption that enough gamers won't be able to do without (all the while beating their chest to no effect). And it shouldn't be forgotten that Steam wasn't a hit out of the gates. I for one was borderline offended by it's required install and (albeit brief) internet connection to get Half Life 2 underway. But Steam had what EA fails to see: a long term plan. I've bought so many games during Steam's mega sales that I'm almost embarrassed to admit how backlogged I've become. Titles I didn't even know existed I scooped up for dirt cheap. Often I'd buy a "bigger ticket" item (themselves dirt cheap in their own right, ala Arkham City for $25 mere weeks after release) and then "round out" the sale with a $5 game for an even $30 purchase. And then I'd fall in love with said $5 game and chase down sequels or other games by that developer for regular price. But even if I bought those sequels and other games for sale price, those are still sales that would not have happened otherwise. Not to mention the word-of-mouth that springs out of some of those purchases. I bought Defense Grid for cheap and turned at least two friends on to it, who in turn picked it up for full price (not to mention us all jumping on every bit of DLC released since). Similarly, a friend turned me on to Frozen Synapse - he bought it for dirt cheap whereas I didn't mind scooping it up for full price. How on earth is anything "cheapened" in those scenarios? Brand awareness has increased. Overall sales have increased. A slight hit might have been taken on that initial "impulse buy" sale but look at all the down-stream revenue to be had as a result. EA also fails to realize the sense of community that Steam has fostered. When a new Steam sale hits my friends and I get all worked up. And in the end a dizzying amount of games are purchased for a very attractive price even if few of us ever intended to buy half those games to begin with. If I see a game pop up on a weekend sale I'll text a buddy if I know he'll love it, and usually they'll bite. So even if we're not utilizing Steam's built-in community features (i.e. IM and such), we're all talking about Steam when it's full-tilt. Meanwhile Origin continues to do nothing to foster the same. Nothing. And it's not like EA can't - they have an incredible back catalog of games that time has all but forgotten. If they wanted to make a splash on the scene why not offer a bundle to new users of 10-20 old games that they wouldn't make a dime off of these days anyway? Sort of a "your instant Origin library", ala PSPlus. If they don't want to go the super sale route I can respect that but only if they offered some other "carrot" instead. As it stands, nothing. Sorry Origin, you are no Nordstrom, nor are you Target (and what's wrong with Target, btw?). Ultimately Origin offers nothing more than choked access to precious games developed by talented studios that could be making a lot more money if EA weren't so fucking selfish. EA's attitude and Origin's fiendish EULA have cost you those sales. You're welcome.
  • Mumb00 - July 13, 2012 8:34 a.m.

    And of course, Nordstrom doesn't insist on snooping through your closet and sock drawers just to allow the privilege of being serviced by them. For the uninitiated, what that means is that signing on with Origin means that you will allow the contents of your hard drive(s) to be viewed by EA so that they can more effectively... I never understood WTF they want to do more effectively by seeing anything and everything on your disks. Valve FTW.
  • tehtimeisnow - July 12, 2012 3:33 p.m.

    i argree with ea cuz steem is not only a horrable servece that sucks but they is ruining the industy with big sales like that and putting compenies out of buziness cuz we need full price new games cuz then the game makers can make enough money to get by but steem dosent care all they want is the money for themselfs
  • usmovers_02 - July 12, 2012 5:17 p.m.

    Is this sarcasm? I can't tell. If it's not sarcasm, you are the exact type of person EA loves.
  • Ballsinacan - July 12, 2012 5:39 p.m.

    How, I look at it is video game companies give price breaks to the vendors aka retail stores and online stores for buying bulk of a video game. The reason why steam can cut prices, is just to do with common sense meeting on steam the game company's don't need to pay for shipping, packaging, and adverting (since the steam store already does this). Also EA is mad because they can't push their "premium service" because people are looking the other way. Which I feel wronged by them doing it but that's a debated for another time. Also it's up to the game company's to offer a cheaper rate for a game not steam. I mean you really think on black Friday the retail stores are taking a hit with low prices? No they are not; I know because I worked in retail for 5 years. I just believe it's fare competition which meets it's better for us. And steam gets a percentage;yes but EA gets a 100% since they are the games studio for all the origin games. I would just recommend to get the facts before speaking although the U.S has freedom of speech, does not mean the facts are true. As I say ignorance is bliss in the U.S and that is why we are where we are now.
  • TheVoid - July 12, 2012 8:20 p.m.

    Either you are totally joking or you are a complete idiot.
  • Craxi - July 12, 2012 11:33 p.m.

    This guy is trolling. Have seen him in many comments always saying things he knows will get a reaction.
  • Child Of Death - July 12, 2012 12:57 p.m.

    EA is just upset that Steam is raking in 10 times more profits than their pathetic service Origin will ever make. The way I see it is if the person is really wanting to play a game like Halo 4 they arent going to wait 6 months AFTER the game comes out to get a discount on it. They are goin to want the game as soon as it comes out! EA's argument is just full of fail and they are more than likely just jealous because of Steam right now.
  • FoxdenRacing - July 12, 2012 11:25 a.m.

    EA: High prices makes things exclusive, exclusive things are seen as valuable! Valve: Get the **** over yourselves, we're talking about games here, not Ferraris! Besides...Ferraris are valuable because they're high quality, high performance, and have an incredible reputation, not because of their price tag! Personally, I side with Valve. As far as I'm concerned, a game's value is based on how well loved it is, how well it's made, and how well its reputation holds up over time...not how much it costs.
  • KainStrider - July 19, 2012 3:26 p.m.

    Amen to that. I picked up E.Y.E. for like $4 and it's easily one of the most fun and interesting FPS games I have ever played.
  • SentientSquidMachine - July 12, 2012 10:34 a.m.

    SALE'S ON NOW!
  • NanoElite666 - July 12, 2012 10:53 a.m.

    AND IT'S CRASHING THE STORE! Arg...
  • FOZ - July 12, 2012 9:54 a.m.

    I've seen Mass Effect 3 on sale for $30 on amazon and even at Gamestop. Not once on Origin. When even Gamestop is out-saling you, and you're trying to compete with Steam, the king of digital distribution sales, you need to look at your "service" again.
  • clearlight20 - July 12, 2012 9:41 a.m.

    With any anticipated game, the consumer is very rarely going to tell himself "I'll wait for it to go on sale on Steam." For instance, I am eager for Guild Wars 2. Yes, in three-four months, or longer, the price will drop. Yet, I do not care. I want Guild Wars 2 the day it comes out. More likely what happens is that the consumer does not know the game came out like say for instance S.T.A.L.K.E.R or the Overlord games and they just happen to browse through Steam Summers sales and think "Hey, that game looks cool. I think I am going to buy it." As I did (along with massive amounts of other games I did not know about). In that regard it actually gives the developers more money from a product that would have likely just sat on the bottom shelf unattended. I just believe EA is playing "the worst case scenario". It could just be there are a few money-saving junkies who would wait.
  • Lonedragon87 - July 12, 2012 5:16 p.m.

    money saving junkies it called Cheapassgamer.com theres a ton of us that wait lol. I am one of them.
  • azureguy - July 12, 2012 8:57 a.m.

    Discounts will make people wait for this and prevent them from buying a game full price... year right. In any entertainment branch, you have the choice to either wait and get it cheaper, or get it first day for full price. If EA want their 60 bucks, they have to make their games good enough so people want them the first day - and offer a discount later on so the low-budget and late-adopter guys are happy too. Origin is a SHOP, so you need a special offer once in a while to convince them to look around - these are the BASICS goddammit! How stupid can one company be? The sales are the #1 reason why people stick with Steam. That, and being able to use PaySaveCard/Gamestop caards so I don't need to use my credit card or PayPal all the time. This is especially helpful for people who don't have that much money or don't have a job and therefore no card yet (see Bloodstorm's comment, for instance).
  • christian-shaffer - July 12, 2012 8:43 a.m.

    The question, itself,is a stupid one. If it didn't work and was bad for gaming, companies would be speaking out against Valve and they would more than likely end up going bankrupt. However, the only person to question Valve's tactics is the one directly competing with them and they are far from bankruptcy. The fact that so many people are taking the comments made by EA seriously is ridiculous. Also, if it doesn't work, why are others following suit? (for example, Amazon)
  • ParagonT - July 12, 2012 7:41 a.m.

    Heaven forbid that customers wants to pay less! Its called the market, people will tend to buy things where/when they are cheaper, welcome to the real world EA. People will pay what they think a game is worth. If not many people are buying your product on day one because they think they could get it cheaper some other time, then that means your starting price is too high. It's too high because the price should be worth the idea of having it sooner than later, or the content should be so amazing. Consumers are supposed to control the market, and I like steam because they allow us to. EA and other are just fuming because they want to control the price and distribution point of every product they sell, then hold the mindset of "If you don't pay 60 dollars, your never going to have it, so tough s**t." Games get older and lose value all the time, so whats their point exactly? Just because it's new doesn't mean it's worth sixty-dollars does it? I hope this model of sales continues so us the gamers can fluctuate the digital market, since its one of the hardest things to pin down law wise, regulation wise, and value wise.

Showing 1-20 of 43 comments

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