Surviving the Steam Summer Sale: A Beginner’s Guide

The Steam summer sale is here at last. How are everybody’s wallets holding up? Whether this is your first time experiencing Valve’s massive annual tidal wave of discounts or you’re a seasoned veteran who knows all too well the pains of a poorly-prepared budget, the summer sale can be quite a stressful time. Fear not, frugal gamer! We at GameKoop have been around the digital deal block more than once or twice, and are prepared to share some priceless insight with you to help you live to see another month’s rent. Here’s some great tips to keep your wallet in check this time time around.

1) Wait for the dailies and flash sales!

The utmost important rule to keep in mind during the frenzy of the summer sale is to never settle for an average discount. You worked hard for your money! You deserve at least 75% off! When the summer sale hits, almost every title available for purchase from Steam’s colossal library receives some kind of discount, which generally pale in comparison to the heavy discounts awarded to the sale’s daily deals and even more timely flash sales (which reset with new games every 24 and 8 hours, respectively.) If a game you’re eyeing is not currently featured as a daily or flash sale, DO NOT PURCHASE IT YET. The same game is guaranteed to remain at its current discounted price until the end of the sale, so it’s crucial to hold off until the absolute last day of the sale to purchase it to ensure you don’t miss out on hooking a bigger discount. You never know if or when it’ll pop up as a daily deal or flash sale for even sweeter savings.

Below is an always helpful diagram commonly passed around the internet to help newcomers understand the routine.

steam sale 2014 should I buy diagram

2) Trading cards are free money. Don’t be tempted to hoard them.

Last year Steam debuted the ability to craft summer badges out of digital Steam summer sale exclusive trading cards. Cards were awarded for things like spending money in the store, voting on community choice deals, and trading items with other Steam users. The badge was crafted by collecting and sacrificing all eight of the different cards, and awarded things like experience added to your overall Steam level, profile backgrounds, and Steam chat emoticons. While most Steam gamers trade away their awarded trading cards immediately for Steam pocket change during the other 11 months out of the year, Valve tries to sweeten the deal during their sale with digital goodies for those who don’t trade their cards to other users for money.  DON’T BUY IN. 

You waited all year for some cheap ass games, so snag as much as you can comfortably afford and make every penny count! If you sell your cards regularly as you receive them, you’ll likely rack up at least a few dollars in Steam credit by the end of the sale. Keep consistent with voting for community choice deals and you’ll be given more cards and rack up even more dough. What’ll it be: a new profile background, or a chance to catch a flash sale with your earnings and buy that awesome indie game you didn’t think you’d be able to afford? Do the right thing.

3) Build up your wishlist. Stick to your wishlist.

steam wishlist dead rising 3 skullgirls

This one might seem unnecessary, but it’s one of the best tips any Steam veteran will give to first time summer salers. Not only does Steam’s wishlist feature notify you by email if a game you have registered goes on a daily or flash sale, but more importantly it also helps to prevent you from making immediately regretful impulse purchases. If you put everything you’re interested in purchasing on your wishlist beforehand, it makes it infinitely easier to realize there’s no justifiable reason to purchase Franchise Hockey Manager 2014, right? Right?

secret of the magic crystals steam gift

(Well, maybe if the price is right…)

4) Don’t assume it’s too good to be true!

A situational but great tip to keep in mind is to pounce on impossibly cheap listings immediately. That copy of Portal 2 for $0.50 staring you in the face isn’t just a typo you’re seeing; it’s a genuine pricing mistake that you should capitalize on! Due to the frantic nature of the summer sale where Valve’s servers and employees are constantly under more pressure than Queen and Bowie, it’s not at all uncommon for a game to be accidentally thrown into the frenzy for a fraction of its intended price. Valve will honor the colossal price slash if you pay for it, but only if you manage to secure the deal before they fix their mistake (which usually occurs within minutes.) Even if the title you snatch up doesn’t hold much interest to you, hit the forums to trade with other users for something that better tickles your fancy.

just cause summer sale 96% discount

Keep your wits sharp this summer sale and you may win big.

5) Brush up on past deals. Put in some research. If the discount’s nothing new, move along

This one is undoubtedly the hardest tip to abide to. Did you pass on that copy of Dark Souls 2 for 20% off two months ago only to see the same measly discount as a featured summer sale daily deal? It might tug at every one of your temptation-driven strings and beg you to believe that now is the time to buy, but if you want to live to see another summer sale you’ve got to let ‘er go.

While recurring discounts can be a big annoyance for the impatient gamer, they usually mark the sign of a greater discount in the near future. If you can hold off until Valve’s smaller autumn sale or gigantic winter sale, you’re likely to be rewarded for your patience with a tastier price cut. Consider picking up a cheaper title with a bigger discount that you might have otherwise looked over if it helps fill the void. Your wallet will thank you.

6) Be responsible

Alright, time to break character and offer you some genuine, heartfelt advice from someone who has experienced the pains of Phantom Wallet Steam Sale Syndrome (PWSSS.) If this is your first sale, it’s a lot to take in and it can be very difficult to remind yourself that this sale, and that one extra game you’ve been eyeing, will come again. Have fun, grab some great games, have some laughs with friends, master the market, and most importantly know your limits. We’ve all got bills to pay, and you know damn well that collector’s edition of Devil May Cry you should have skipped on isn’t going to pay them. Be smart and don’t starve snatching up more than you can or even want to play.

Have a happy game-filled summer, everyone.

steam summer sale 2013 artwork logo

Any summer sale horror stories or tips of your own? Let us know in the comments!

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