It’s a magical time that comes twice a year, you guessed it; I’m talking about Steam Sales. In this short and time-tested guide I’ll explain how to navigate the labyrinth that is the Steam Sale. I’ll help you budget your time and money to optimize your savings and outline the pitfalls of extreme discounts.
This pre-sale strategy can be used year round as you will be notified via email (if you opted in to this feature) when items on your Official Wish List goes on sale.
- Make an Official Wish list – Create a wishlist using your Steam account; this list should include games you genuinely want to play. Be vigilant and do your research, especially if they are newer releases. The games that make the cut will be part of your main budget. (I’ll get to this in a second.)
- Make an Unofficial Wish list – Write down or mentally make a list of games you’re still interested in, in spite of reviews. This list can also include smaller indie games, if they aren't included in your main budget, and possibly DLC for games you already own. These games will be part of your secondary budget, if you choose to have one.
- Main & Secondary Budget? What? – With Steam Sales you will see older or smaller titles that you usually wouldn't give a second glance at low prices. If you have a strict budget, USUALLY you can resist, but it can get ugly. My suggestion? Have a secondary budget no more than $10 allotted to these impulse buys. You won’t feel as bad when you do give in and buy that lesser known game for $2.49.
Now, since that’s taken care of let’s talk about your main budget. This should be the absolute maximum that you’re willing to spend on the sale overall. It can be as little as $20 and for some as high as $100. Personally, I allow myself $40 with the $10 secondary budget for DLC. This is entirely up to you!
Let’s get down to business! The sales can generally last 11-14 days with flash deals, community voted deals and the deals of the day. This rush of sales poses a few questions.
- When should I buy? – If you’re looking to buy a newer title (one released within 6 months of the sale) if possible, I’d wait until the next sale. While it is entirely possible that the game might go on sale for 50% off, with new titles at their release price, it will still take a big chunk out of your budget. Waiting for a great deal is hard but you’ll likely have more than enough games to play in the meantime.
Speaking of percentages, during the sale we’ll see games at times go from 50%, 66% or 75%. Be picky! If you see a larger discount, take it. If you can stand to wait, you might see the same title come around a bit cheaper. This is entirely up to you.
- Bundle it? – Some of the more notable features of the Steam sale are bundles! While developer bundles, where all the popular titles from some developers are grouped together can be a great deal, they could eat your budget entirely. Keep an eye out for series bundles, it usually includes the option to buy the newer release of the series for a percentage off and it’s a great way to dive in to a series without a large investment.
- The Buddy System – If you have a friend who is also going to participate in the sale, team up! It’s entirely possible that they can catch deals that you might have overlooked; you can also tag-team the flash sales and community votes as these deals change throughout the day.
This also comes in handy if you regularly play co-op with your friend; you can easily plan ahead and get games that you could play together.
Finally, using common sense and allowing yourself to make a few "mistakes" you can easily survive the Steam Sales without going completely broke.