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.

Ryan Taljonick

Ryan was once the Executive Editor of GamesRadar, before moving into the world of games development. He worked as a Brand Manager at EA, and then at Bethesda Softworks, before moving to 2K. He briefly went back to EA and is now the Director of Global Marketing Strategy at 2K.